Domaine de Sahari Vin Gris- Beni M’Tir, Meknes-Fes, Morocco
We’re starting this club off with a bang: Moroccan wine. French colonization was the primary catalyst for Moroccan viticulture, but the country’s independence in the mid-20th century gave way to an influx of influences from other prominent regions. This is a blend of Grenache and Cinsault, but one that more resembles Spanish Garnacha Rosado, in taste, than any prominent rose-producing region in France. This wine pours a pale pink/ pale copper color, which is indicative of the vin gris style. The nose offers citrus peel, white flowers, and tart neutral fruit flavors such as cantaloupe. The palate offers subtle stone and citrus fruit, high acidity, and a surprisingly full body for the style. This is a quintessential grilled veggie or raw seafood wine.
Montinore Estate Borealis NV- Willamette Valley AVA- Oregon
When you think of Oregonian white wine, you likely think of Burgundy-adjacent Chardonnay or richer styles of Pinot Gris. However, much like some other cool climate growing areas, off-dry whites can be an immense success. The Borealis is a blend of Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Don’t be dissuaded by the NV designation; this is done intentionally to yearn different levels of ripeness and intensity from each individual grape. This is certainly an off-dry wine, but the level of expression from step to step is amazing. The nose offers a plethora of tropical fruits, lychee, peach, and the slightest hint of petrol. The palate has a fun, slightly oily texture, showcasing mouthwatering acidity and deliciously ripe fruit. Pair this with your next Thai meal or anything with a noted level of spice.
Lulumi Pinot Noir- Pays d’Oc IGP- France
When you think of the Languedoc, you likely think of spicy red blends made from Cinsault, Carignan, and Syrah; but probably not Pinot Noir. Pinot’s ubiquity is not limited just to Burgundy, as notable plantings can be found virtually anywhere outside of Bordeaux (And that’s just in France). This version is the epitome of easy-going, with aromas of brambly red fruit, earth, and potpourri. The palate displays light, spicy tannins, quaffable acidity, and a restrained medley of red berries. This is incredible versatile in terms of food and could even be the accompaniment to heavy seafood-based fare.
Pizarras de Otero Mencia- Bierzo D.O.-Spain
Spain might be the poster child for underappreciated, mostly indigenous, varieties. Chief among the red varieties might be Mencia, which can be compared to other medium-bodied aromatic reds like Pinot Noir and more delicate Cabernet Franc. Generally, Mencia showcases juicy, tart red and black fruit intermixed with earthy and spicy aromas. The Pizarras de Otero is very style-appropriate, pouring a medium ruby color and offering aromas bursting with juicy red and black fruits cut with anise. The palate is medium-bodied with mildly-gripping tannins and balanced acidity, which again accentuates the juicy fruit on the palate. This is an extremely versatile food wine and could be paired with just about anything.
Il Borro ‘Lamelle’- IGT Toscana- Italy
Frankly, I had not had a Tuscan Chardonnay that wowed me until this one; and did it ever wow me. The Lamelle, completely unoaked, strikes the perfect balance between Chablis-esque structure and focus and the beautiful fruit found in new world examples. The nose is clean and fragant, with green apple, citrus oil, and a slight flinty character. The palate shows off mouthwatering acidity cutting through a surprising amount of fruit for this style of Chardonnay. If you are a California Chardonnay-lover looking for an introduction into the wide, intimidating world of Burgundy, this is an excellent steppingstone.
Pedernales Viognier Reserve- Texas High Plains AVA- Texas
Viognier, unlike some of the other notable white varieties, can thrive in warm climate growing regions. Though some of the most noted Viognier-growing regions like Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet suffer from adverse conditions such as the Mistral, they rely on warm summers in order to facilitate optimal ripeness. Though no one will be mistaking the Pedernales for its Northern Rhone companions, the Pedernales shows off the grape’s potential for richness and affinity for warm climates. This is made with richness in mind, as some amount of new French oak is used. The nose offers subtle orchard fruits cut with citrus peel, beeswax, and aromatic floral notes. The palate is quintessential Viognier, with a creamy mouthfeel and comparatively lower acidity enveloping ripe, spice-accented tropical and orchard fruit.
Tenuta della Terre Nerre Etna Rosso- Etna Rosso DOC- Sicily
Though not necessarily an unknown wine for the region, Sicily as a wine-producing region remains a fairly large enigma in the US market. One of the gems of Sicily, well-known among those in the profession, is Etna; a small viticultural region (On an active volcano!!!) producing incredible red and white wines. The reds are made primarily from a grape called Nerello Mascalese; whose closest analog would be an incredibly savory Pinot Noir. This wine pours a medium red color with some garnet hues. The nose offers aromas of tart red berries, dried herbs, and a slight hint of ash (variety-typical for Nerello Mascalese). The palate is medium-bodied, with woody tannins and zippy acidity accenting a mixture of fresh and dried red fruits. High-acid red wine pairs with equally acidic foods, so a tomato-based dish would be excellent with this.
Stella Bella Shiraz- Margaret River- Australia
Shiraz from Australia? What’s weird about that? When we think about the premier Syrah-producing regions in Australia, we likely think of South Australian regions like Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, or maybe some of the areas in the Limestone Coast. We probably don’t think of a region that is most well known for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Margaret River is the westernmost wine growing region in Australia, and as such experiences the most maritime influence of any region. This is a characteristic that makes for unique expressions of Australian Shiraz, which the Stella Bella displays extremely well. This wine looks the part, with a deep ruby color with purple hues. The nose offers plum, red currant, black cherry, licorice, and hints of oak via baking spice and cedar box. The palate is medium-bodied, with light-plus acid and medium tannin. The fruit profile is fresher than you would expect from Australian Shiraz, with bright plum, cherry, and orange peel notes. The finish is toasty and lengthy. This is a much more quaffable style of Shiraz for Australia and dispels the notion that Australian is only known for massive, alcoholic expressions of various red varieties.