February Wine Club Wines

Hello wine club members! Welcome to the February edition of the newsletter and I hope this finds everyone well. We have a great line-up of wines for this month’s release, including a duo of obscure and wonderful white wines, some full bodied reds to help get you through the final pushes of winter and more! 

Your wine club is ready for pick-up at the location you’ve chosen, or if we are delivering you can expect to see your bottles later today! Thank you as always for your support and we hope you enjoy this February's picks.

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Chiusa Grande Vinosophia Passerina – Abruzzo, Italy $25.50

Where

The Italian region of Abruzzo is sandwiched between the Adriatic and the Apennines, roughly halfway down the Italian boot. From its westernmost border, it’s a quick 45 minutes by car to the center of Rome. Of the 4 million plus visitors to the capital Italian city, very few will have even heard of Abruzzo, let alone its wines. Perhaps because of its relative obscurity and historic poverty, this region remains less blemished by urban sprawl. In fact an entire ⅓ of the region is dedicated to natural parks and reserves. The majority of its 32,725 hectares of vineyards dot lush rolling hills, enjoying ample sunshine and moderate temperatures. 

What

Cooperatives make nearly 80% of all the wine bottled in Abruzzo. The lion's share will be labelled as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. An underrated workhorse variety, Montepulciano is in many ways similar to Tuscany's main grape, Sangiovese. In fact, some unscrupulous Chianti producers have in the past sneakily trucked in Montepulciano juice to blend with their wines. If Abruzzo's reds are underrated, its white wines are downright precluded all together. The principle white variety Trebbiano is exceptionally capable of complexity and ageing potential. Pecorino can be wonderfully fresh and bright. For this wine we turn our interest to the indigenous and rare Passerina grape. The “little sparrow” is known for its resilience and large grapes. Also grown in Lazio and Marche, it is ideal for the natural grower that prefers not to use chemical treatments in the vineyard. Winery Chiusa Grande source their Passerina from 10 - 35 year old vines, which are planted on predominantly clay soil. In the cellars they use only ambient yeast for fermentation, ageing the wine in stainless steel tanks for a short 6 months. 

Who

Franco D’Eusanio worked as a consultant for other wineries prior to founding Chiusa Grande in 1994. A graduate in agricultural sciences, he quickly established a reputation as a philosopher-winemaker, seeking out a sense of equilibrium with nature. In his words: “We have to understand how farming that relies on intensive use of chemicals will lead us down a blind alley. I believe it’s possible to make a good wine without bowing down to the god of profit, and with an eye to the health of the consumer’s mind and body”. His 60 hectares of vineyards are spread across 5 different plots in Nocciano, Cugnoli, Civitaquana, Loreto Aprutino, and Casacanditella. The back-label of his wines are peppered with organic designation stamps like a wine version of Nascar.

Taste

This is a snappy little number. In the glass it’s yellow straw in colour, with lively aromas of nerol and tropical fruit. There’s some debate among wine writers about whether Passerina is aromatic, but to our nose this wine has aromatics in spades. Crisp and bright, this is your new porch-pounder.    

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Bodegas Berroja Aguirrebeko Txakoli – Basque, Spain $24

Where

The semi-autonomous Basque region is located at the northwestern corner of Spain. To call a Basque person Spanish will lead to a variety of responses, not all positive. The Basque language itself is wholly distinct and unrelated to other European languages. Bilbao, a gritty waterfront town, is the regions capital. San Sebastián, located only 20 km from the French border, has almost more Michelin Stars per square meter than any city in the world (only Kyoto has more). The climate, greatly affected by the Bay of Biscay, is warm and humid. This area is called “Green Spain”. Inland areas, benefiting from a coastal mountain range, experience a drier continental/mediterranean climate. The most southern part of the region extends to include a section of Rioja, known as Rioja Alavesa. 

What

Let’s set the scene. You’re bar hopping in San Sebastián. Your belly is full of delicious pintxos (Basque tapas). That last brocheta de gambas has really struck up a thirst. You ask the bartender for a glass of white wine, something local. The bartender pours from a bottle raised high above the bar, wine cascading down into a tall glass. No need to examine the bottle. One wine is king in San Sebastián, and it goes perfectly with that next mouthful of chipiron a la plancha.

Txakoli, pronounced CHAK-o-lee, is produced exclusively near the Basque coast. It is light, crisp, and sometimes slightly sparkling. Rosé and red variants exist, but are rare. Made primarily from the Hondarribi Zuri grape (say that 5 times fast!), it is made in three areas: Getaria Txakoli, Bizkaia Txakoli and Alava Txakoli. The 2016 Aguirrebeko Txakoli in this month’s club is made from 85% Hondarribi Zuri (plus 10% Riesling and 5% Folle Blanche), solely from vineyards in Bizkaia Txakoli. 

Who

In 1995 Jose Angel Carrero planted his first 3 hectares of Hondarribi Zuri in Bizkaia Txakoli. Today the winery owns a total 15 hectares of vineyards planted on prized high altitude steep slopes, which offsets high rainfall levels. The south facing vines, exist within the protected Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve (one of the most important wetlands in Spain). In a major departure from the tradition of Txakoli being mostly a cottage industry, the winery has expanded to accept visitors to this very unique and beautiful place.

Taste

The unique method of pouring Txakoli well above the glass is designed to open up the wines aromatics of stone fruit and citrus. Crisp minerality dominates the palate. There is some roundness here, but overall this wine is meant to be consumed in big gulps rather than dissected and examined. It is an exceptional food wine, versatile enough to be paired with most seafood and vegetable based dishes.

 

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Clos de Chacras Cavas de Crianza Red Blend – Mendoza, Argentina $25

Where

It’s difficult to fathom that only a decade ago Argentina was an outlier in the wine world. Until recently Chile was the dominant player in South America. Today Argentina will be produce 5 times more wine than its neighbour, making this the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. The country’s major wine regions are found mostly nestled in the shadow of the Andes Mountains. The area of Mendoza, now a household name, accounts for 80% of all Argentine wine. Situated in a rain-shadow, vines here enjoy a sunny and dry climate. These are some of the world’s highest vineyards, located 2,000–3,600 feet above sea level. Technically a semi-arid desert, high temperatures are moderated by howling winds and cool nights. It’s as if Mendoza was conceived from the very beginning for grape growing and is only recently realizing its full potential.

What

Mendoza is Malbec, and Malbec is Mendoza. This symbiotic relationship for better or worse has come to define the very idea of Argentine wine. Originally brought from France, where it is also called Côt and Auxxerois, 75% of all the world's Malbec is from Argentina. One would expect that Malbec is an easy grape to grow, but in fact the opposite is true. It is highly susceptible to disease and hazards. It just so happens that Mendoza has the ideal climate for it to thrive. It’s particularly happy when planted at elevation, as is the case in the departments of Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco. The Uco Valley is Mendoza’s newest region, with vines planted at 3,000-3,900 feet above sea level. At the foot of Mount Tupungato in the Uco Valley, Clos de Chacras harvest the Malbec for their Red Blend. The partners in this blend are Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (30%). Fermentation is done entirely in concrete tanks, with ageing in third use French barrels for 6 months. 

Who

The story of Clos de Chacras is a tale of rebirth. Their first vintage bottled was 2004, but the roots of the winery go back to the 1920’s. The Gargantini family moved to Argentina from Switzerland in the late 1800’s. Succeeding generations established Bodegas y Viñedos Gargantini, which rode a series of peaks and valleys, eventually falling into disrepair and abandonment. In 1987 Silvia Gargantini revived the family business, restoring one of the original wineries. Her husband's family, the Genouds, were themselves instrumental in developing viticulture in Mendoza. The winery itself is located in Chacras de Coria, with vineyard holdings spread across the Maipú, Luján de Cuyo, and Valle de Uco.

Taste

To delve into this wine is to stare into the dark abyss. Deep purple at its core, with a ruby red rim, it sits broodingly in the glass. Blackberry, plum and kirsch notes lead the way, with sweet tobacco and violet not far behind. Thanks to that high elevation fruit, this wine retains lively freshness and structure. Serve in a big glass next alongside a messy cheeseburger.

 

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Marqués de Olivara Mio de M.O. Tempranillo – Toro, Spain $24.25

Where

Not far from the Portuguese border in northwestern Spain is the wine producing region of Toro. Part of greater Castilla y León, this area is largely rural and sparsely populated. The climate of the Castilian plateau is intensely continental, with blistering hot summers and bone-chilling winters. The Cordillera Cantábrica mountain range blocks oceanic influence, with the lone meandering Duero River bringing much needed water to an otherwise sparse landscape. The regions saving grace is its high elevation, which brings reassuringly cool nights when vines can rest from the oppressive heat. A fringe winemaking region, Toro has attracted the interest of many prestigious producers who are having a go at making wine in Spain’s own Wild West.

What

Although the bull is a symbol for all of Spain, it’s in its namesake region of Toro that the comparison is most appropriate. The local form of Tempranillo, Tinto de Toro, is unflinchingly robust and bold. Tempranillo is planted across northern Spain, taking on the different characteristics of wherever it takes root. Tinto de Toro is Tempranillo at its sturdiest. Hot days bring high sugar levels and deep color-giving thick skins. Cool nights bring high acidity and elegance. You need both hot and cool for balanced Tinto de Toro. Unlike in Rioja where winemaker's blend with Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, the wine of Toro is usually a solo act. The 100% Tinto de Toro Mio de M.O. Vendimia Seleccionada perfectly illustrates the brute strength of Toro. Harvesting of the grapes is done entirely by hand, followed by a temperature controlled fermentation in inox tanks over 25 days and 14 months ageing in barrel.

Who

It’s been a bumpy decade for Marqués de Olivara. Previously part of the Nueva Rumasa group, the bodega was forced to declare bankruptcy in July 2011. The former chief-executive José-María Ruiz Mateos was accused of some “creative accounting”. Even after Mateos stepped down, passing the reins to his six children, the writing was on the wall. The wines from this time were made by consultant Bordeaux winemaker Pascal Chatonnet. Later in 2011 the company was scooped up by Ángel de Cabo, a Valenciano construction entrepreneur. Looking for a fresh start, Rui Roboredo Madeira was brought on as winemaker. Born in Lisbon, Madeira was not fated to be a winemaker from the start. Educated in economics, his career path would have been very different if not for an accident, when he was struck by some unsecured cargo that fell off a passing truck. After 2 weeks in coma and months of rehab, he decided to pursue a life between the vines and in the cellar. His CV includes stints in Spain, Argentina, South Africa, and Portugal.

Taste

At 15% alcohol, this wine is a biggie. Inky ruby in color, it has aromas of sunned cherry, dried fig, and a dollop of vanilla. Full bodied, it packs generous tannin and structure. We would suggest decanting this wine well before drinking. Fire up the grill, because Toro is barbecue country! This wine is perfect with dishes like lechazo asado (roast veal or lamb) or cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig).

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Cantina di Custoza Corvina – Veneto, Italy $20.50

Where

Overshadowed by its capital city, Venice, the Veneto is Italy’s 8th largest region. Known as the Tre Veneto, it follows the borders of the once great Repubblica di Venezia (Republic of Venice), a once dominant force that ruled this area for 1000 years. Neighbouring Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, it produces more wine than its size would suggest. Two different climatic zones exist: an eastern area close the Venetian Lagoon and a western area on the shores of Lake Garda. Grape growing would not work here without the aid of the Dolomites mountain range, whose peaks block more extreme northern weather. Three main topographys exist: northern plains, rolling hills and coastal fields.

What

The Veneto is home to some of Italy’s best-known wines: Amarone and Prosecco to name only two. With over 90,000 hectares of vines, it is Italy’s most prolific wine region. We’re talking about 1,700,000 hectolitres of quality wine. Though like much of Italy, there are some lesser known wines being made as well. Grapes such as Tocai Friulano, Refosco, and Marzemino aren’t exactly household names. Of the wine being made in the Veneto, 55% is white. Even in the case of famous wines like Amarone, the grapes are still lesser known. The leading player in the Amarone blend is a grape called Corvina, aided by sidekicks, Rondinella and Molinara. Sometimes referred to as Corvina Veronese, this grape is the most prominent red varietal of the Veneto, finding its way into other regional wines. Producing lighter bodied wines, it is known for higher acidity and a slightly bitter quality. As is the case with the Cantina di Custoza Corvina Garda, a short amount of barrel maturation adds structure and complexity. Here 40% of the wine is aged in barrel for 18 months. The fruit itself is sourced from vineyards on the southeastern shore of Lake Garda in Sona, Valeggio sul Mincio, and Sommacampagna.

Who

The Cantina di Custoza is a cooperative that was founded in 1968 by 83 growers. Bottling their first vintage in 1971, they have since grown to include 200 growers farming 1000 hectares of vines. Planted on morainic soils (a gravelly clay mixture), their vines consist mostly of Trebbiano Toscano, Garganega, Tocai Friulano, Cortese, and Manzoni Bianco. The influence of nearby Lake Garda moderates daytime and nighttime temperatures, ensuring consistent growing conditions. Given the particular difficulties of governing many different growers, it’s impressive that the cooperative has sought out and received organic certification from the ICEA (Institute for Ethical and Environmental Certification). 

Taste

This wine is similar in style to a lighter Valpolicella or Bardolino. Bright ruby-red in color, it’s quite fruity with aromas and flavours of sour cherry and almonds. A dash of savourness derives from partial barrel ageing. This is a great

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Teusner The Bilmore Shiraz – Barossa, Autralia $33

Where

Located in South Australia, the Barossa Valley is only 60 km from the center of Adelaide. An area originally settled by German migrants, it’s where you will find many of the country’s oldest and most sought after vineyards. Much of the landscape is flat with occasional rolling hills. Gnarly century old vines reach out from sandy loam and red clay soils, producing a pittance of deeply concentrated grapes. Spared the fury of phylloxera, a louse which decimated most of the worlds wine regions, the vine has flourished in the region’s sunny continental climate. Temperatures in the region tend to be hot, so grapes achieve full ripeness with little worry. Rainfall is low, so irrigation is used in drier areas, although dry-farming is the norm with older vines.

What

Without a doubt the most famous grape in the Barossa is Shiraz. It has become ubiquitous with the rise of the region. Sometimes bottled on its own, it can also be blended with Rhone counterparts Grenache and Mourvedre (also called Mataro). Sometimes it’s blended with Viognier, as is the fashion in the northern Rhone. Although this grape shares the same name as Iran’s third most populous city, which once produced its own exceptional wine, there is no relationship. Shiraz as we know it is actually the southern French varietal Syrah. It is thought to have been brought to Australia by the pioneer James Busby. French Syrah, while still bold, tends to be lighter and leaner. Australian Shiraz, tends to be richer and riper. These days winemakers can choose to label their wine with whichever name more aptly suits their style of wine. The Teusner Bilmore is a classic example of ripe, fruit driven Shiraz. The fruit for this wine is sourced from vineyards located at the western ridge of the “Valley Floor”, a lower elevation part of Barossa. Warmer, drier, with deeper soils, it is an area ideal for full-bodied Shiraz. This wine experiences 12 months ageing in older barrels, which impart less oakey character. It is named in honour of a certain “Roger Bilmore”, the alter ego of the grower who supplied the grapes.

Who

In 2001 owner/winemaker Kym Teusner learned that his girlfriend’s uncle had a plot of old vine Grenache in the northern Barossa that was due to be torn out. A winemaker, Kym had experience working with wineries Torbreck and Rolf Binder. He knew that larger producers were purchasing the fruit from this vineyard for a fraction of what it was worth, and that his girlfriend's uncle wasn’t making enough money to keep at it. Partnering up with his brother in law, Michael Page, they were able to scrape together enough funding to purchase about ¼ of the grapes, encouraging the grower to carry on and not pull up the vines. Sourcing fruit from a few other friends, they were able to bottle their first wines. This is how they still do things today, sourcing fruit from a handful of trusted growers with plots of old vines. Their ethos is to produce wines of excellent quality that are accessible and affordable to the everyday wine drinker. 

Taste

Although certainly ripe and full bodied, this wine doesn’t suffer from excess. Generous notes of tannic blackberry and blueberry are complemented by dashes of allspice and clove. Vanilla is here too, but not obnoxiously so. Alcohol is not meek at 14.5%, but for a Barossa Shiraz that’s on the low side. Kym and Michael aim to make “drink today” wine, and this one is no exception. You can hold onto this bottle for a while, but why wait when it’s perfectly delicious today.

- WINE CLUB PROCUREMENT TEAM -

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ANDREW MACLEOD

Resident Champagne geek and Assistant Manager at our 17th Avenue location

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JESSE WILLIS

Co-owner and General Manager