Wine Club March 2018

Full Line Up

Hello wine clubbers and welcome to the March edition of our wine club newsletter. We have some great wines for you as always, and are particularly excited to be able to offer an exceptional red from Lebanon, a full bodied Pinotage, a dry rose from Campania to help you ring in the coming Spring and more. Thank you as always for your support and don’t hesitate to reach out should you have any questions or concerns. If you’re picking up, your wines are already at the location you’ve selected. If we are delivering you will see them today!

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Vignemastre Freccia Bianco IGT Toscana – Tuscany, Italy $22

Where

Tuscany requires very little introduction. Along with Piedmont and Veneto, it produces some of Italy’s best-known wines. The countries fifth largest wine region, it’s bordered to the north by Emilia-Romagna, to the east by Umbria, to the south by Lazio, and to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea. Vineyards planted at elevation on rolling hills (68% of the region is hilly) enjoy a temperate climate tempered by the Mediterranean and the Apennine Mountains. A grapevine’s playground, it’s no wonder that winemaking here goes back to the Etruscans.  

What

Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; the Tuscan three. We know them, we love them, we drink them by the gallon. Red wines are the region’s biggest export (70% of overall production), and Sangiovese is the regions signature grape. Tuscany's white wines are lesser known by comparison. Interestingly though it was a Tuscan white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, that was awarded the very first Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (a kind of gold star) in 1966. Still, Tuscan white wines have fought an uphill battle. In that battle, many winemakers have pegged Trebbiano as their main contender. The most planted white variety in Tuscany, Trebbiano accounts for 1/3 of all Italian white wines. At one point a percentage of Trebbiano was included in the traditional Chianti red blend. Trebbiano vines are generously high yielding, producing wines that are fruity and fresh. This is the case with the Trebbiano dominant (65%) Freccia Bianco. Trebbiano picked from cooler vineyards in Tuscany is blended with a mixture of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, and Moscato. No oak is used in either fermentation or maturation to maintain freshness.

Who

Vignemastre is the spinoff project of Le Uve winemakers, Filippo Artini and Dario Parenti. Founded in 2005, they make two wines, a red and a white. Their approach has from the start been about simple hands-off grape growing and winemaking. In the vineyard they don’t use fungicides, herbicides or pesticides, and farming is done according to sustainable principles. In the cellar, micro-oxygenation is used rather than ageing in oak barrels. The resulting wines benefit from oxygen, but are not flavoured by oak. Any final addition of sulphur to the wines is kept to the bare minimum. Mixed agriculture is still very much a part of them Tuscan way of farming, so the winery also produces a small amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from olive trees on the estate. 

Taste

Trebbiano with Chardonnay is a solid combination. Both are pliable and amiable varieties. They form the core of this wine, lending notes of zesty green apple and bitter almond. Vermentino and Moscato contribute notes of apricot and orange blossom. Sauvignon Blanc, crisp acidity. All together, they add up to one easy drinking wine. It would be well paired with a Tuscan Risotto di Mare, made with mussels, squid and prawns. 

Feudi di San Gregorio Rose

Feudi di San Gregorio Ros'Aura Rosato Irpinia – Campania, Italy $23

Where

Campania Felix - the “Happy Land”. The shin of the Italian boot, Campania was a prized part of Magna Græcia, an area of southern Italy settled by Greeks during the 8th century BC. To these new arrivals Italy was referred to as Onotria, “the Land of Wine”. The grape vine took well to the volcanic soil and Mediterranean climate, and still does. Modern Italy’s third most densely populated region, it has 350 kilometers of coastline punctuated by the gulfs of Naples, Salerno and Policastro. The landscape is hilly and mountainous, with a small smattering of flatlands. As the thousands of tourists that flock to the Amalfi Coast can tell you, Campania bathes in the luxurious sunshine of long, dry, and hot summers. More inland winegrowing areas benefit from cooler continental influences. Aside from the likelihood that looming Mount Vesuvius will once again blow it’s top, Campania is near perfect for growing grapes.

What

Aglianico derives its name from the latin vitis hellenica, or “Greek vine”. Like other classical varieties such as Fiano and Greco, it is thought to have been brought to Italy by Greek settlers. When Roman generals came home after a rough day of expanding the empire, they quenched their thirst with Aglianico based Falernian, the grand cru wine of the time. Campania’s most widely planted grape, it’s capable of fantastic depth and ageing potential. Many consider the wines of Taurasi to be the peak expression of Aglianico. With lean acidity and firm tannins, Aglianico requires some breaking in. Modern winemaking, lower alcohol levels, and better equipped cellars tame its wild soul. That rustic character is what gives the Feudi di San Gregorio Ros'Aura Rosato (rosé) it’s comparatively deep color. Made from hand harvested Aglianico sourced from 10 - 20 year old vineyards in Taurasi, Pietradefusi, Castelvetere and Paternopoli; it undergoes 12 hours of skin contact followed by 4 months maturation in steel tanks.

Who

Founded in 1986 by the Capaldo family, Feudi di San Gregorio is Campania’s most prestigious winery. From the beginning they have been proud supporters of the regions native grape varieties. Situated in Sorbo Serpico, they hold around 600 hectares planted to vine. If not for their efforts, as well as a handful of like-minded growers, unheralded grapes like Fiano would very well have gone the way of the dodo. Though they give due respect to tradition, they are a thoroughly modern operation with an eye for the future. In 2004 a sleek new winery was constructed. You have to tip your hat to Feudi di San Gregorio for achieving so much in such a short amount of time.       

Taste

By rosé standards, this wine is gutsy. Cherry hued, it has spicy aromas of wild raspberries and strawberries. On the palate, it is both dry and crisp, with a heavier body than your typical Côtes de Provence rosé. Savoury with a little tannic grip, you couldn’t ask for a better partner for a board of spicy salami and bocconcini cheese.

Château Musar 'Musar Jeune' Red – Bekaa Valley, Lebanon $29.50

Château Musar 'Musar Jeune' Red – Bekaa Valley, Lebanon $29.50

Where

Once the “Switzerland of the East”, Lebanon has seen tremendous ups and downs. Beirut in the 60’s, the “Paris of the Middle East”, was a destination for luxury European travelers. A shattering civil war and regionally tension brought things crashing down. It’s that much more impressive that Lebanon’s 6,000 year old wine industry has managed to persist during such hard times. Situated on the eastern Mediterranean coast, bordered by Syria and Israel, the country enjoys a sunny and warm climate. The main grape growing areas are found in the south east of the country along the Syrian border. The Beqaa Valley, the most important region, accounts for around 70% of all Lebanese wine. 30 kilometers east of Beirut, it’s vineyards are sandwiched between Mount Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains. A reliable rain shadow keeps vines dry and healthy.

What

Lebanese wine goes back, way back! It is one of the world's oldest winemaking traditions. Modern Lebanese wine traces its roots back to a more recent time with the arrival of the French. The French, whose Jesuit missionaries planted some of the first Lebanese vineyards in the 1800’s, were instrumental in growing the industry when the Syrian civil war came to a close in 1990. It’s no surprise that Lebanese wines are often compared to the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhône. Like in France, a Lebanese winery is called a château. Of the wines made by 30 plus châteaux, the majority are red wines made from southern French varieties. In the case of the Château Musar 'Musar Jeune', the blend is 45% Cinsault, 45% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit for this wine, sourced from organically farmed old vines, is fermented and matured in concrete vats. 

Who

No other family has done more for Lebanese wine than the Hochar’s. They have literally dodged gunfire and bombshells to transform grape to wine. In 1930 the scion of the family, Gaston Hochar, established a winery north of Beirut in Ghazir. Only 20 years old, he set out to make wines in the fashion of French Bordeaux, with respectful deference to Lebanon’s winemaking traditions. His wines caught on quickly with French officers stationed in country. In 1959, his son Serge took on the mantle of winemaker. Unceremoniously he told his father: “I want to make the wine my way, I want it to be known world-wide – and I want you to quit!” Tutored at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux by Jean Riberau and Emile Peynaud, Serge understood modern winemaking. Even during the bloody civil war that ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990, grapes were transported to the winery from vineyards in the Beqaa Valley. 1976 was the only year when no Château Musar was made. 1984’s Decanter Man of the Year, Serge died prematurely in a swimming accident in 2014. It’s tough to follow such a winemaking giant, but Serge’s son Gaston has proven himself worthy of the task. Château Musar is today still exceptional.  

Taste

This blend is Château Musar’s youthful side. Bottled a short 11 months after the harvest, it retains vibrant freshness and concentration. Neither fined or filtered, it does leave a little sediment in the glass. The palate is quite fruity with blueberry and blackcurrant flavours, leading into soft tannins. For a full-bodied wine, this is very easy drinking stuff.

 

Le Soula Trigone Rouge n°15 - $30.50

Le Soula Trigone Rouge n°15 - $30.50

Where

The French wine producing region of Languedoc-Roussillon stretches from the border with Spain to the Rhône River, some 240 km. This beautiful part of France is in many ways similar to neighbouring Provence. The regions sunny Mediterranean climate is ideal for nurturing vines. Although joined together, Languedoc and Roussillon have distinct differences. The Languedoc, where vineyards are typically on coastal plains, is more classically French. The Roussillon, where vineyards sit in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains, has tinges of Catalonia and Spain. There is a sparseness to beauty here. The dry scrubland, known as garrigue, perfumes the air with aromas of wild herbs and flowers. 

What

For years the Languedoc-Roussillon has been billed as the next big thing. Previously responsible for an ocean of uninspiring wines, its vineyards were finally recognized for their untapped potential in the 1990’s. Its wines were lauded as France’s counter-punch to American and Australian fruit bombs. So-called “Flying Winemakers” from around the world swarmed on mass to exploit the regions riches. Full bodied red wines made from the “Holy-Trinity” of Syrah-Grenache-Mourvèdre have become the regions vanguard. Carignan, a grape of Spanish origin that was originally planted for its ability to produce high yields, was often pulled in favour of more fashionable Cabernet Sauvignon. Luckily some particularly old vines survived. In the case of the Trigone Rouge, 40% Carignan is blended with 55% Syrah and 5% Grenache. Uniquely this is a blend of multiple harvests (10% 2015, 55% 2014, 20% 2013, 10% 2012, and 5% 2011).  

Who

Gérard Gauby leaves quite the impression. Roussillon’s leading winemaker, his wines are as imposing as the Cathar fortresses that dot the landscape of the Agly valley. So in 2001, when Gérard joined forces with English wine importers Roy Richards and Mark Walford, you knew Le Soula would be special. The two Englishmen are themselves famous for being veritable truffle dogs at discovering excellent wineries. A charismatic man, Gérard Gauby embraces biodynamic viticulture and non-interventionist winemaking. In a thick Catalan accent, he professes: “We have the soils, the grapes and the climate to make subtle and authentic wines. But we must work very hard with the vines”. In 2008 Gérald Standley came on board to share the workload in the vineyard. It’s hard work farming 23 hectares of high altitude vineyards, which are subjected to extreme bouts of heat and gail force winds. We think the end result is worth it.

Taste

You’ll often hear that great wine will have a great sense of place. An excellent example of this, Gauby describes the Trigone as his “little wine”. There is a great sense of vibrancy and freshness to it. Primary red fruits are peppered with meaty spice and just the right amount of earthy funk. Selling the benefits of lightness, Mark Walford aptly states: “big wines are ultimately boring.” While this is not always the case, it’s easy to see what he’s talking about. This wine served with Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pork), absolute bliss!     

CARM Douro Tinto – Douro Valley, Portugal $22

CARM Douro Tinto – Douro Valley, Portugal $22

Where

Centered on the Douro River in northern Portugal, the Douro wine region is a testament to hard work and plain stubbornness. Steep terraced vineyards planted on thin, sunbaked schist soils, tower over the mosquito populated river below. For 2000+ years grape growers have trudged up and down the 60 degree slopes under the punishing Portuguese sun. Standing in the highest vineyards, everything below takes on the appearance of a topographical map. The orderly terraces built of man-made stone walls, have been recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage site. The Douro River itself is one of the longest rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, flowing from its source through some of neighbouring Spain’s most famous wine regions. Three regions comprise the Douro: the inland Douro Superior, the central Cima Corgo region, and the closer to the ocean Baixo Corgo. The further inland the vineyards go, the more continental and extreme the climate gets.

What

The Douro is the source of Portugal’s most famous wine, Port. Taking the name of the coastal city of Oporto, fortified wines have been made here since the 17th century. Barrels of wine from inland vineyards were shipped up river on flat-bottomed ships called rabelos, destined to be cellared in warehouses that line the docks of Oporto’s sister city, Vila Nova de Gaia. During the Napoleonic era, when French wine shipments were blockaded by English warships, anglo-friendly Portuguese wines filled London’s wine glasses. 

Due to Port’s fame, the region’s still wines have often suffered from underexposure. Unfortified, these wines are made using the same varieties; most often Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cao and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). Touriga Nacional is considered the best of the bunch, although Touriga Franca is more widely planted. Starting in the 1990’s, still wine from the Douro started gaining momentum, in part based on the demand for powerful “Parkeresque” wines. Inherently robust and tannic, Douro wines can often be the “Old World” wine for “New World” wine drinkers. In the case of the CARM Douro Tinto , we have a blend of 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, and 30% Tinta Roriz. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel (50%) and a mixture of (mostly) French and American oak.

Who

The Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira, or CARM for short, is situated in the Douro Superieur. Located within a protected area inhabited by eagles, griffins and partridges, the estate also grows almond and olive trees. Not just wine alone, CARM also produces olive oil, vinegar, honey and almonds. Owned by the Roboredo Madeira family, there are a total of 6 different properties, with a total of 125 hectares of land planted to vine. Whether wine or olive oil, everything from the estate is produced using organic methods.

Taste

Compared to some Douro reds, this wine is very approachable and fruit forward. Tannins are ample, but they aren’t a “punch in the face”. Fruits on the palate are of the blue/black variety, like blackcurrant and plum. This is a great alternative to Argentinian Malbec. Open this one when your friends drop by and you need a bottle that everybody can get into.

Carrol Boyes “Elements” Pinotage - Stellenbosch, South Africa $35

Carrol Boyes “Elements” Pinotage - Stellenbosch, South Africa $35

Where

southwest coast of South Africa, only 50 kilometers east of Cape Town, this region boasts ideal ripening conditions for a wide range of grape varieties from cool climate Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, to more warm climate varieties like Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  The best parts of Stellenbosch are on the alluvial fans that spread out below the granite mountains of the area.  The soils here are over 600 million years old, and give the wines a fine, lithe backbone of structure. 

What

Pinotage, South Africa’s unique contribution to the world of wine.  The grape was developed in 1925 by Abraham Perold, the first professor of viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch.  He pollinated a Pinot Noir vine with Cinsault, a grape variety mostly found in the Languedoc of southern France, locally called Hermitage in South Africa.  He then planted the four resulting seeds in the garden of his residence and forgot about them when he left the university to go work for the KWV winery in Paarl in 1927.  The seedlings were rescued a former colleague of Perold’s who transported them to a nursery at Elsenburg Agricultural College, and were grafted on to rootstocks.  The two men decided on the name Pinotage – a contraction of its parents.  The best of the four plants was then selected to become the base material for all Pinotage vines.  Although the first commercial planting of Pinotage was in 1943, the first varietal Pinotage was not seen until 1959.  Nevertheless, the varietal gained in popularity domestically and became a bit of a curiosity from a consumer perspective outside of South Africa.  It was initially praised for its honest, bucolic charm, but fell out of favour as consumers wanted more polished, refined wines – Pinotage was always seen as being ‘rustic’.  Today it is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as quality has increased across the board, and styles have shifted toward modern, fruit-forward, soft, flavour-filled wines, away from the rustic, foursquare wines of the past. 

Who

Carrol Boyes is the sister of John Boyes.  John is a farmer & viticulturist, and his partner, Neels Barnardt is an accomplished winemaker with vast experience both internationally and in South Africa.  Carrol is a world famous artist and designer, mostly known for her illustrations and her functional art.  Each wine under the Carrol Boyes label is handcrafted, and each new vintage brings a new artistic label design. In addition of the artistic merit of Carrol Boyes’s work, there is the handcrafted nature of the wine, a tribute to the capability of Pinotage if handled correctly and made with care.  This is a great expression of modern Pinotage – hand-selected old vineyards that are bush-vine trained, giving small amounts of highly concentrated fruit.  This is aged in 85% French and 15% American oak, of which 70% of the total of those barrels is new. 

Taste

The nose of this powerful Pinotage boasts warm, custardy notes of vanilla and coconut on the nose, combined with a chocolately-caramel note like Milk Duds, along with Black Forest cake, raspberry confiture, smoke, dried tobacco, and a hint of bacon fat.  On the palate the wine is much more elegant than the nose suggests, but nevertheless is concentrated and full with Christmas cake, smooth, creamy tannins, vibrant acidity, and a long finish of dark fruits and hickory.  

Pinotage, being a medium-to-full bodied, fully-flavoured wine pairs well with a variety of dishes, but, the must-try pairing is Sosaties- South Africa’s version of shish kebabs.  A good version to make is lamb Sosaties which are flavoured with smoked paprika, clove, cumin, and coriander, skewered with fresh rosemary stems, and barbecued over charcoal.