Red wine makes up the vast majority of production in Tuscany, with white wine (dry or sweet) making up a tiny fraction. Furthermore, many white varieties grown in Tuscany have a reputation for being inexpensive, middling quality grapes such as Trebbiano Toscana and Malvasia. However, there is one Tuscan appellation producing white wines that holds a significant place in both Tuscany and Italy at large. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a dry white wine made of Vernaccia that holds the distinction of being the very first DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine in Italy and the only DOCG dedicated to white wine in Tuscany. More than a historically interesting wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is simply an interesting wine in the context of Tuscany. For such a warm growing region, Toscolo’s rendition is strikingly cool climate in nature. The nose offers pleasantly green notes of fresh lemongrass and citrus and the palate offers zippy acidity supplementing gentle tart citrus and stonefruit cut by delicious minerality.
For many, knowledge of white wine from the Loire Valley stops at Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Just as much love should go the remaining standouts, particularly dry Chenin Blanc from Saumur. Even entry-level examples such as this offer delicious complexity and food-pairing versatility. This is a minimalist approach using multiple soil types, no oak, and noted sur lie (on lees) aging. The nose offers peach, beeswax, lemongrass, and slight salinity. The palate offers bright acidity with a light, but creamy texture supporting ripe orchard and stone fruits.
If you have been a customer of Steve’s for some time, you have likely heard one of us claim that Languedoc is the “value region to end all value regions”. There are more reasons for this that can be listed, but know that if you enjoy Bordeaux and Rhone variety-based wines at fantastic price, the Languedoc as a whole is your region; particularly the Corbieres and Minervois AOC’s. Chateau de Caraguilhes has been making wines in the Corbieres since the late 50’s, and the Cochon Volant series is their entry-level take on a Corbieres red. This blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah offers aromas of red and black fruits cut with earth and herbs de Provence. The palate offers some grip, restratined acidity and bright, spicy red fruit flavors.
Alright, what does gros rouge qui tache mean? Literally: Big Red That Stains- intrigued yet? This roughly half-half blend of Alicante Bouschet and Syrah from Languedoc delivers exactly that. Though Syrah is certainly big and inky on its own, it cannot hold a candle to Alicante Bouschet, which is one of the few vitis vinifera grapes with red flesh (also known as a teinturier). These two together result in an impossibly dark and inky wine with some balance to it! The nose is fairly savory, with black pepper and bramble-laden black fruits. The palate offers surprisingly restrained tannin, which allows for delicious cherry, plum, and blackberry to shine.
Alexana Pinot Gris- Willamette Valley AVA-OR
Though Oregon is currently more well-known for Chardonnay when it comes to white wine, Pinot Gris used to be king and is still one of the best things that Oregon has to offer. For an area so well known for its pseudo-Burgundian characteristics, it only makes sense that the Pinot Gris would be delicious. Alexana’s example is notedly decadent, using a substantial amount of both neutral and new French oak in addition to 4 months of sur lie aging. These add a richness to both the nose and palate, with aromas of granny smith, honey, and herbs supplementing a clean, steely palate with hints of orchard and citrus fruits. This wine is screaming for crab with drawn butter.
If anyone had delicious kitchen-sink white blend from Northwestern Italy on their January bingo card, they’re lying. This peculiar blend of Chardonnay, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Muller-Thurgau comes from the Valle d'Aosta, a region in Northwestern Italy that, like many successful wine regions, benefits from a rain shadow formed by the neighboring Alps. This results in warm, dry summers, cooler (but still dry) winters and diurnal shifts abound! The Anselmet winemaking tradition in the Valle d’Aosta stretches back to the 16th century, with the family being noted for their innovations in winemaking. This blend offers a complex, but restrained nose with orchard fruits, noted minerality, and a bready character. The palate offers luscious honey crisp apple, thyme, sleek minerality, and high acidity.
Natural wine can be a bit of a contentious topic in the wine industry. On one hand, many champion low-intervention wine in the name of ecological responsibility and to minimize the addition of sulfites. On the other hand, many point out that sulfites help maintain the quality of wine long-term and that wine faults such as ‘brett’ and volatile acidity should not be tolerated. However, one argument stands above all: is the wine good? In the case of the Dido, the answer is a resounding yes. This blend of Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot is a delicious wine with an extremely involved production process. Winemakers Sara Perez and Barbier age this blend in a combination of concrete tanks, neutral oak, and amphora (clay pots). The result is a bold, extracted wine with aromas of earth, bittersweet chocolate, and garrigue-tinged plum. The palate offers balanced tannins and acidity with refreshingly juicy red and blue fruits.
Bias out of the way, Brian might or might not have fallen in love with this winery while visiting over the holidays. Though the Cuvee la Bec is Beckman’s ‘entry level’ wine, it more than stands tall among their amazing catalogue of Rhone-based wines from the general Santa Barbara region. With crop sourced from one of the warmer regions of Santa Barbara County, this blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Counoise is rich, ripe and crowd-friendly. The nose offers peppercorn, black cherry, chocolate, and hints of vanilla. The tannins are silky and well-integrated, supplementing rich macerated red and blue fruits. This is quintessential steak wine and something to sip on as we enter allegedly cold weather.