A few weeks back I attended an Australian wine event in Manhattan. This particular tasting was an interesting one indeed. Some of the country’s leading family-owned and multi-generational producers selected wines from their libraries to showcase to American trade and media. The main portion of the tasting was a sit-down seminar led by Mark Davidson, Australia’s worldwide wine educator. Alongside him, family members from each winery whose offerings were being poured that day were on hand to speak about their wine and Australia in general. There are a couple of general misconceptions floating around about Australian wine. One is that the country’s producers make big, blustery wines that are long on upfront fruit and flash and short on finish and substance. The other is that that Australian wines don’t age. The problem is neither point is really valid; certainly not as wholesale statements. Every wine-producing country has great, good, and bad producers. Certainly, Australia still has some who make boatloads of overripe shiraz. However, there are many more making proportionate shiraz as well as a very wide range of other offerings. It’s time to realize that there are as many diverse styles coming out of Australia as any other wine-making country. Not to mention much, much more than just shiraz, no matter how tasty it can be. Head Over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.
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One of the associations people often have with wine is in regard to price. Some regions are well known for providing value and quality at a variety of price points. Other areas are not necessarily thought of that way by every consumer. This is often true of Old World regions which people sometimes associate with higher cost wines. The truth though is that just about every country has regions that offer good values. France for instance has numerous areas that can offer plenty of nice, value priced wines. However due to the numerous classic, higher end wines that have traditionally gotten most of the attention, people’s thoughts aren't always tuned into the value priced selections that are also available. With that in mind here’s a look at a couple of varietal offerings that I recently tasted and enjoyed immensely. The Fortant 2012 Coast Select Muscat was produced from fruit sourced in the Languedoc region of France. More specifically all of the vines where fruit was picked for this wine were in vineyards that see coastal influence. This offering is 100% Muscat. The fruit was picked at night and then pressed gently. It was aged for 3 months Sur Lies prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Aromas of Lychee and apricot fill the nose of this Muscat; underlying bits of toasted almond are present as well. Mango, nectarine and white peach lead a treasure trove of stone and tropical fruit flavors on display throughout the joyful and expressive palate. White pepper spice and a hint of clove are in play here as well. The finish which is fruity and a bit lusty shows off pineapple, bits of honey and a gentle wisp of chamomile. This French Muscat is incredibly appealing and approachable with enough depth to really keep things interesting. Sip after sip it kept beckoning me back to the glass for more. It will pair well with soft cheeses, entree salads and a broad array of lighter fare.
The Gilles Louvet Mon Pré Carré 2012 Marselan was produced entirerely from organically grown grapes. The fruit all came from the Rhone region. Marselan is a relatively new grape created in France just over 50 years ago. It’s a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. This offering is 100% Marselan. The vines in this case had 20 years of age on them at the time of harvest. Fermentation took place over 7 days in a temperature controlled environment. Aging followed in concrete tanks prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $13.99. The nose of this offering is marked by aromas of red cherry and leather. Strawberry, spices and continued cherry characteristics make up the palate. It is simultaneously easy going, fruity, dry, spicy and a bit savory in nature. Cranberry and dusty bittersweet cocoa notes emerge on the finish which has good length for its price point. This is a medium bodied wine that will be a delight paired with cuisine styles from various parts of Europe. I paired it with a hearty Italian Lentil Stew and it was a killer match.
Both of these wines offer good bang for the buck. They feature lots of character and charm as well as easy drinkability. Each of them is primed to pair with appropriate and diverse food categories too. You don’t have to kill your wine budget to enjoy delicious, well made French wine. These two offerings prove that.
I've been enjoying wines from Franciscan Estate since my earliest familiarity with Napa Valley. In that time they've featured a consistently appealing portfolio of wines. Franciscan has also been steady in terms of what they release; their core has remained reliable as well. However every now and then they add something new. This summer it’s a new white blend, focused mostly on two varietals they have worked with for years. Here’s a look at it. The Franciscan Estate 2012 Equilibrium is the inaugural release of this wine. This white blend combines Sauvignon Blanc (72%), Chardonnay (17%), and Muscat (11%). All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Napa Valley. 83% of the fruit was fermented in stainless steel and the remaining 17% in barrel. Just fewer than 6,000 cases of Equilibrium were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $22.99. This wine leads with a killer nose; tropical and stone fruit aromas simply burst out of the glass invitingly. Equilibrium’s palate is studded with an array of engaging bright fruit flavors; white peach, guava and mango are of particular note here. Lemon curd, white pepper and continued tropical fruit flavors abound on the finish which has nice length. This wine is soft, round, lush and mouth-filling.
The bottom line is that Franciscan Estate’s 2012 Equilibrium is a delightful and refreshing white blend that has arrived on store shelves just in time for the warmest weather of the year. There are many appealing, easy to drink white blends out there. The difference here is this one is 3 dimensional and has depth, length and persistence. It will appeal to those who lean towards porch sippers and keep the more discerning interested as well. Buy a bottle or more of this wine and have a party in your mouth!
The Bodegas Sumarroca 2010 Temps de Flors was produced from fruit sourced in the D.O. of Penedès near Barcelona. This offering is a blend of Muscat (40%), Xarel-lo (48%), and Gewürztraminer (12%). Xarel-lo is a local indigenous grape that is often utilized in the production of Cava, which Bodegas Sumarroca is recognized for. This wine widely available wine was named for the Temps De Flors that occurs in Girona Spain over nine days each May. It has a suggested retail price of $12.99. The Temps De Flors has an impressively expressive and aromatic nose that is loaded with Apricot and Lychee Fruit characteristics. The plate is impeccably balanced and shows off sweet fruit flavors such as peach and apricot as well as zesty citrus and sour white fruits. Hints of white pepper and subtle wisps of cardamom emerge on the finish which has good length.
Someone apparently figured out how to bottle summer. This wine will work perfectly as a welcome wine and it will also pair well with lighter spicy foods. Indian Cuisine would be a terrific match. The low alcohol (12%) also makes this an easy choice to drink without worry about your palate tiring. This is precisely the sort of well made, light, refreshing and fun wine that's perfectly suited for summer gatherings with friends or just a casual meal on your deck any night of the week. You’ll find this wine for closer to $10 if you shop around and it represents a very nice value for such an appealing and fun to drink blend.
Valentine’s Day is here and to help celebrate the day in style some delicious wine is in order. When organizing a special occasion or Holiday meal I like to plan for several wines for each stage of the day. Certainly if you’re going to spend Valentine’s Day with someone important in your life each part of that celebration should have a wine to go with it. So today I’m presenting a trio of wines that will make for delicious drinking on Valentine’s Day or any other time. It also doesn’t hurt that each of the wines I’m recommending are modestly priced compared to the value they offer. To start off with you’ll want a wine that’s appropriate to settle in to the day. Something light, yet substantial in flavor, which also pairs as easily with conversation as it does appetizers. My selection is the Graffigna Centenario 2009 Pinot Grigio. This Argentine wine was produced using fruit sourced in the Tulum Valley of San Juan. It’s composed of 100% Pinot Grigio and was fermented in stainless steel. The suggested retail price for this wine is $13.
Mango, citrus and vanilla aromas fill the nose of this Pinot Grigio along with underlying elements of spice. These themes continue through the palate along with apricot and tropical fruit characteristics. Spices kick into full gear with white pepper, nutmeg and vanilla bean amongst the most prominent. Around mid-palate sour tangerine notes emerge and continue through the finish which includes additional wisps of vanilla and peach flavors that linger. Excellent acidity keeps everything in check.
This is a very fresh and lively Pinot Grigio. I’ve found this wine to be consistently delicious over the last several vintages. For $13 (less if you shop around), this wine is an excellent value. It’s going to be a great way to get your Valentine’s Day celebration started.
The second wine you’re going to need is something to pair with the main part of your meal. On these occasions I look for something that will complement a wide array of foods. My tendency is also to look for something with a lush mouth-feel that lends itself to easy drinkability while also providing complexity. My selection this time out is the Campo Viejo 2005 Reserva. This wine is made from fruit sourced in the Rioja region of Spain. As is typical in Rioja this wine was produced primarily from Tempranillo (85%). The balance is made up of indigenous varietals Graciano (10%), and Mazuelo (5%). Barrel aging was accomplished over 18 months in a combination of French and American oak. This wine spent an additional 18 months in bottle prior to release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $14.
Cedar, cherry and wild strawberry lead the nose of this 2005 Reserva from Spain. Cherry continues through the palate along with vanilla, blackberry and hints of smoke. Black pepper notes emerge prominently and lead to the finish which is marked by copious amounts of sour cherry, tobacco, leather, spice box and emerging earth reference points. This wine has medium tannins and very well balanced acidity.
This Rioja is another excellent value and it hits the marks I’m looking for. It has sufficient complexity and will pair with many foods while going down smoothly. It’s wide availability also makes it an easy selection to reach for in a pinch.
The third wine I plan for on a special day is a closer of sorts. It can be a dessert wine but doesn’t have to be. Sparkling Wine could work as well. But it should be something that can pair with your dessert and that you’ll want to continue drinking when dessert is over. The dessert wine that I recently tasted and was inspired to report on is the Jaboulet Muscat de Beaumes de Venise “Le Chant des Groilles” 2007. This offering is from the Rhone Valley and was produced using only Muscat grapes. Aging was accomplished in cask followed by time in bottle. The suggested retail price for this wine in 375 ml splits is $24.99.
White peach, lychee and mango lead the effusive nose of this wine. Apricots are the star of the palate which has a sweet, honeyed characteristic to it. This is joined by lots of tropical fruit that’s also got a layer of vanilla bean. It all leads to a lengthy finish marked by excellent spice. This wine is very well balanced and shows off good acidity.
The problem with many dessert wines is that they’re too sweet to drink very much of. This Muscat doesn’t have that issue. It’s quite sweet to be sure but the acidity provides excellent balance. Here is a wine you will be glad to drink quite a bit more than a few sips of. Pair it with a fruit tart topped with crème fraiche or a platter of fruits, nuts and soft cheeses. Either way you’ll be in for a treat.
This trio of wines is sure to make for a very satisfying day. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other time.