At this point in time, Argentina is known primarily for rich renditions of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon with the occasional Pinot Noir or Chardonnay appearing on grocery store shelves. While red varieties dominate the total acreage, you might be surprised to hear that none of the famous white international varieties top the white list. At the very top are the three most common varieties with the Torrontes label: specifically, Torrontes Riojano, Torrontes Sanjuanino, and Torrontes Mendocino. Despite the identical forename, these are three distinct varieties that share a similar aromatic nature. T. Riojano is the most planted, most highly looked upon, and just happens to be the variety in the ‘La Oveja’. Aromas of violets, rose petals, and geraniums explode out of the glass, with some underlying citrus and stone fruit. On the palate, these fruits shine more with the floral notes playing more of a supporting role. Torrontes is one of the world’s most polarizing wines, with many likening its flavors to soap, but for those that love this quirky combo of fruit and flowers, we recommend grabbing some pad thai or a shrimp stir fry from our old neighbors over at Andamans.
Among many, Savoie is one of the central regions of the ‘natty’ wine zeitgeist. Tucked to the very East of France, Savoie viticultural history could truly be considered ancient, with confirmed winemaking activity in the 11th century and sparse evidence suggesting activity by the Gauls in the first! Among their interesting indigenous varieties, there are some mildly international ones, like Gamay! The father and son winemaking team at Ravier designed this wine to be approachable, while still standing out in character from some of the more famous rose-producing communes in France. Made of 100% Gamay sourced from 30–50-year-old vines, this wine goes through batonnage and 3-6 months on the lees depending on the quality of the grapes. The aromas of this pink drink are inviting, with bright strawberry and hints of sweet citrus, with an underlying note of flint. The palate is light, but creamy with balanced acidity accenting red fruits, minerality, and a slight flowery herbaceousness. The Ravier’s heavily recommend lighter salads and cheese dishes, and we cannot think of better candidates than our friends over at 10:1 Artisan Cheese.
It has been a SECOND since we had a Chilean red wine on the wine club: enter Chono! Named for the indigenous and nomadic Chono people of Southern Chile, this producer, spearheaded by Alvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faundez, vinifies different wines from many of the most notable appellations in Chile. Their Chono red blend is sourced from the Maule Valley, which also happens to be where the project itself started. Maule Valley is one of the oldest and most significant growing regions in Chile, housed in the Southern portion of the Central Valley. While many of Chile’s primary varieties thrive here, it is 50-year-old + plantings of Carignan that have captivated winemakers as of late. This eclectic blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc displays everything you could want in a summer red. The nose offers pepper-laden raspberry, plum, and black cherry accented with hints of earth. The palate is medium-bodied, with rustic tannins and moderate acidity underlying a savory, red fruit-driven profile. A cellar-temp glass of this with a hearty plate of Gyro Fries from Gyro 360 is the umami bomb we all need.
The ‘Villages’ surname is something you might have seen on a bottle of French, often with an increased price tag. Why the jump? Many subregions among many of the larger French growing regions (Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhone, etc.) have ‘Villages’ within certain appellations that indicate a more focused area of growth. A good analogy might be the difference between a wine from Sonoma County and one from Russian River Valley (A region within Sonoma). This is particularly analogous to Cotes du Rhone, as it is a vast and disjointed region that covers much of the Southern Rhone Valley. A bottle labeled as a ‘Village’ wine is simply one from a particular legally recognized subregion of Cotes du Rhone. If you were worried that this would drastically alter the CDR formula, rest assured that this is the big, extracted red you know and love. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, the ‘Croix de Bonpas’ goes through a lengthy maceration to extract the color and quintessential phenolic compounds the region is known for. This dark ruby wine smells of cherries, chocolate, black pepper, and hints of lavender. The palate is lush and full, with medium tannins and gobs of dark red and black fruit. Though this could go well with a fatty piece of steak, going for something more of the bistro ‘persuasion’ would go equally as well. Order some polenta fries to go from our friends at Chestnut Tree.
There are winemaking projects that sprout up that seem particularly risky given what the new endeavor is trying to do in a certain region compared to what has been done traditionally. While these might be Brian’s favorite type of winery (nerd), it takes some pretty neat wines for these wineries to succeed long term. Ovum is a quintessential example of when these go right! Founded by Ksenija and John House, Ovum only use white varieties, but makes an eclectic range including roses, whites, and orange wines. King among their products is Big Salt, a phenomenal blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, and some proprietary varieties. It is hard to imagine a white that is more fun than this to drink, with aromas of lychee, petrol, flowers, and ripe stone fruit translating to the palate outlined by mouthwatering acidity and hints of salinity (get it?). Pair this with a platter of butter chicken or some Banh Mi fries from our friends at the Pickled Carrot!
The first of two killer Spanish reds on the Platinum list, we make our first stop in Galicia. We have featured Galician whites several times, but reds are more of a rarity here. Much of Spain’s growing regions tend to oscillate between warm/hot continental and Mediterranean, but Galicia (or ‘Green Spain’ as its affectionately known) is the closest thing Spain has to a true maritime climate. Naturally, white varieties thrive here in comparison to other regions in Spain, but there are a handful of interesting red varieties that call this region home: Enter Mencia! Grown exclusively in Bierzo, Mencia is often known being made into comparatively light, acidic, and fresh wines in relation to their Tempranillo counterparts. Ladeiras do Xil is a contemporary producer having started in 2002 but has quickly risen to prominence as one of the most respected champions of Mencia. Their Gabo do Xil Tinto might be their entry-level rendition, but it is a wonderful example, nonetheless. A blend of Mencia and Merenzao (more commonly known to the wine world as Trosseau) sourced from the Valdeorras region of Galicia, the nose offers bright, crunchy red fruit with hints of savory herbs. The palate offers rustic, but approachable tannin, with quaffable acidity and the same ripe red berry medley. This with an arugula and mushroom pizza from our friends at Mellow Mushroom or with a red meat-based pasta at Graffiti would be right at home.
If you want rich, leathery, fruit-driven reds, you go to Rioja. If you want something with a little bit more structure, nuance, and staying power, you go to Ribera. Located to the South of Rioja, cut by the Duero River, Ribera might not be the *legally* highest-rated region in Spain, but it might as well be, because their wines are priced like it (and for good reason). High-elevation vineyards dot the landscape, creating ample opportunity to infuse much needed structure into the sometimes-flabby Tempranillo (or Tinto del Pais as it’s known there). Prado Rey’s version follows this formula, coming from vineyards half-a-mile up, and spending 24 months total in a combination of various French oak barrels. The result is a firm, but approachable red, with aromas of ripe strawberry, black cherry, cedar box, and hints of balsamic reduction. The palate offers prominent tannins that soften with time in the glass, moderate acidity and ripe red and black fruits. This Tempranillo drinks more like a Cab’ than you may expect and needs a hunk of red meat… BUT pair this with the Psychedelic over at LSA and experience some magic.
By this point, it is likely that you have had the opportunity to try the ‘Wild Thing’ Zinfandel we feature on our By-The-Glass list. Should you have had the (mis)fortune of Brian serving said glass, you have heard the term ‘Godmother of Zinfandel’ thrown out. Turns out she is good at other grapes too! The Coquille Rouge is a Rhone-ish blend of Mourvèdre, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Alicante Bouschet sourced from multiple vineyards on the Central and North Coasts. Following a lengthy maceration and 15 months in a combination of American and French oak, this wine oozes excellence without pretention. The nose offers a rich medley of black cherry and blueberry coulee, with accents of bramble, new leather, and vanilla from the oak. The palate is nothing short of luxurious, with a creamy texture and soft tannins intermingling with the fruit to create something truly hedonistic. Grab a platter of BBQ from Juicy Pig, a bottle of this, and indulge.