Stift Goetweig Niederosterreich Gruner Veltliner Messwein 2021 $20
Keeping vines in central and northern Europe is hard. In contrast to Mediterranean climates where vines seem to spring out from the rocks all by themselves, it takes patience, backbreaking labor, and long-term dedication to convince them to grow in places like Germany and Austria. This is why Monasteries are a recurring viticultural motif in this part of Europe. Monks had the time, the land, and the resources to invest in vineyards. The grand monastery of Stift Goetweig is one of the prime examples. Monks here planted all the lower slopes of their prominent hill to vines, and have been making some of the best wine in Kremstal for almost a thousand years. This entry-tier wine, named for its original purpose as wine for Sunday mass, offers arresting complexity and finesse in a delightfully cost-effective package. The nose has notes of fresh lime juice, blossom, linden leaf, green apple, pear, white pepper and honeysuckle. The palate is just as sharply defined, with a strong upwell of lemon and lime with just a hint of red cherry that leads into a finish dusted with white pepper, pear drop, and gravelly soil. Drinking this wine no longer requires a Sunday visit to church, but it will have you singing hallelujahs all the same!
Terredora di Paolo Irpinia Aglianico 2020 $22
Irpinia’s most famous wine comes from the Aglianico grape, an ancient, sturdy variety that has risen to prominence thanks largely to the spectacular wines Angelo Mastroberardino made in the 1960s. The grape has thick skin and a dark, smoky flavor profile that neatly evokes the volcanoes that dominate Irpinia’s horizon, volcanoes that have contributed a fair amount of lava to the rich soils of the region over many millennia. A more recent blow-up involved the Mastroberardino family, where two brothers at odds with how to run the family business saw one take the famous name, and the other the vineyards. Today, those vineyards operate under the name Terradora di Paolo, and quietly make some of Campania’s finest wines. This Aglianico is a classic expression of the variety, with a nose of black peppercorn, pipe smoke trapped in sandstone, sun-warmed strawberries, raspberry tart, sandalwood and potpourri. The palate has a picket fence of tannins, black-etched structure with acidity too, which keeps the intense black raspberry, cranberry, and cherry flavors pleasantly fresh among the notes of bitter herbs and sooty soil that linger into the finish. A wine for barbecues, ribs slathered in smoky sauces, roasted eggplant, rich potato dishes, or bechamel macaroni and cheese.
Autocton Cellar Penedes Blanc Xarel.lo 2020 $20
There are few words that roll off the English tongue as gracelessly as Autochthonous. (pronounced like “All talk, then us”). It sounds better in Catalan, and as the name of this winery, stands for Albert Jane’s founding principle for the cellar. He only works with grapes native to Catalonia, primarily the red Sumoll and this purely Catalan white grape, Xarel.lo (pronounced “Char-Ell-o”, and don’t forget the period!). The vineyards are planted on poor clay soils, at 1200-1600 feet, and about 20 minutes in a car from the Mediterranean. From the struggle of growing out of infertile soils, the wine gets its depth and intensity. From the proximity to the sea, it has a mineral-scented freshness and lively cant. The nose offers peach, nectarine, acacia, fennel seed, basil and bee pollen with intensity to compare to your favorite Chenin Blancs. The palate is equally generous with flavor, with lemon juice, pear, smoked peaches, clay soil and fresh white flowers all transmitted in a lean and juicy medium that dances on the palate. For food pairing, we recommend pairing this native Catalonian wine with Catalan cuisine. That means fresh ingredients, simple preparations, and lots of variety!
Ferrando Canavese Rosso 2020 $23 $16.10
Ferrando is most famous for rescuing the crumbling terraces of Carema from falling down the slope and into a forgotten fold of European wine history. His towering, ephemeral and ageless Nebbiolos were the first wines imported by legendary wine importer Neil Rosenthal, and if that’s all Luigi Ferrando made, it would be enough. But it’s not, and we are overjoyed to present Luigi’s “baby Carema.” The rolling alpine foothills of the Canavese region are perfect for Nebbiolo, offering a less serious, less daunting structure for this grape. In Piedmont’s excellent 2020 vintage, the region’s strengths are on display. A wine that tends to be aromatic, fresh, and fruity was even more so this time. Aromas of strawberry, blood orange, and licorice come accented with touches of cedar incense, green olives and clay dust. The palate shows the precision and lift of the best Alto Piemonte reds, with velvety tannins and fresh notes of cherry, cranberry, strawberry, oregano, and rosemary with arresting touches of bacon fat, shiitake mushroom, and black vinegar. It is a wonder that there’s so much intensity in a wine so delicately put together, and so much complexity so seemingly simple. Go with the classics on this one: mushroom pasta, pork loin, or Neapolitan style pizza.
Domaine Carrel & Senger Savoie Rose 2022 $14
They say that wine is bottled sunshine. Somehow that feels more true in this wine than most. Perhaps this is because Carrel’s vineyards are all planted around the rims of the French Alps in the village of Jongieux so they’re a little bit closer to the sun than most. The air is a little thinner, so no matter how warm it gets during the day, the night dawns cold and fresh, so grapes don’t lose their acidity before harvest. Maybe that’s just what Mondeuse and Gamay grapes do best. For any and all of these reasons, this red-leaning rose is bright and cheerful and everything we could want for an early summer wine. On the nose, gravelly mineral notes come with raspberry, orange and grapefruit. The palate is an explosion of fresh picked cherries, white blossoms, and citrus zest with a saline rim. Mouthwateringly fresh acidity keeps the whole thing bouncing along to a cheerful, crisp finish. A fantastic choice for picnics by a lake with sandwiches, for charcuterie boards, or most dishes that end in “-salad”.
Colle Petruccio Toscana Bianco Stralunato 2021 $15
The generous Tuscan sun meets the salty winds of the Tyrrhenian Sea in this full bodied white, grown a quick 20 minute drive from the shore on some particularly rocky soils in Maremma. Vermentino, that sea faring grape that permeates the vineyards of this quarter of the Mediterranean, plays the largest part. Small helpings of Trebbiano and Malvasia add their weight and fruity charm to the wine, and winemaker Sandro Ruffo tries to stay largely out of the way with gentle pressing, no yeast additions, and gentle handling throughout. Stainless steel tanks are the only item that sets his technique apart from winemaking methods of a hundred years ago. The result is a charming, inexpensive white with a pleasantly creamy texture and gobs of fruit. On the nose, the wine starts with tangerine, salted apricot, jasmine and a hint of butterscotch. The palate offers more ripe peach and tangerine and mango fruit with a note of citric acidity that carries all the way through to the finish. Simple, unctuous, and deliciously easy to drink, this wine will find a home with Marcella Hazan’s “Chicken with Two Lemons” recipe, or an afternoon on the deck with vegetables on the barbecue.
Ribas del Cua Bierzo Mencia 2020 $10
Along the banks of the Cua river, a family-run cooperative of more than 250 individual holdings coalesced in the 1980s. While winemakers from Priorat flew in and brought fame and attention to the Bierzo region with their heavy-handed, oaky, and expensive Mencias, the women of Ribas del Cua continued making a simple, unadorned yet totally delicious Mencia without fanfare. A new generation of winemakers returned to Bierzo in the 2000s and climbed high into the hills to find vineyards for a fresher and more elegant sort of Mencia, all the while Ribas del Cua remained by the banks of the river, making this unctuous, yet elegant and omplex wine with just a hint of oak. On the nose, this wine offers plump black cherry, black raspberry, smoky basaltic soil, burnt orange peel, fig, cinnamon, and iron rich clay. The palate is full bodied, brimming with dark berry fruit, touches of Cara Cara orange, fig, and earth that linger through the finish. An astonishingly good value red and a great weekday wine for all sorts of weeknight cheese-dusted pastas, takeout pizza, or spicy potato dishes.
Olga Raffault Chinon Rose $19
Olga Raffault is a name to remember if you’re a fan of old school, classic Loire valley Cabernet Franc. Indeed, you very likely already know the name, as this estate is famous for spectacularly earthy, functionally immortal Cabernet Franc that sets the standard to which other winemakers in Chinon aspire. Under the direction of Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie and her husband Eric De la Vigerie, the tradition remains strong, and even their elegant and fine-grained rose is unmistakable as anything but Cabernet Franc. The nose is of wild strawberry, grapefruit, tayberry, lime zest, granite, white pepper, rose petal and Vietnamese cinnamon. The palate has red berry fruit on full blast, raspberry, strawberry, Maraschino cherry, and rosewater. Texturally, this wine is buoyant, juicy, and crisp, with energetic acidity to reach every last corner of the palate. The finish lingers delicately, with orange zest and white pepper to keep company with lingering raspberry notes. This is a delicious and versatile wine for roast pork, salmon, and sourdough picnic sandwiches, and a brilliant companion to the estate’s famous red wines.
Podere Ciona Toscana Rosso Le Diacce 2013 $26
Podere Ciona was an accident. Franca and Franco Gatteschi were on the hunt for a country estate for their retirement when they found a run-down property near the village of Gaiole in the higher elevation part of Chianti in 1990. The 2.5 hectare, nearly wild vineyard below the house was an afterthought. It took three years to get the house in livable condition and a full decade before they finally gave in and elected to make wine full time with the help of their children.
This "Super Tuscan" is an homage to Franca’s love of right bank Bordeaux, made entirely from Merlot. On the nose, this wine offers classic Tuscan notes of well worn leather, cranberries cooked together with raspberries and cherries into a compote, with dried soil. After a decade of age, a touch of orange peel has come out with tamarind, cinnamon, vanilla, underbrush, and oak spices, an elegant spread of aromas. As tempting as it is to just smell the wine all night, it is pretty tasty too. Roasted red berry pie fruits lead the palate but do not overwhelm notes of leather, orange, chocolate, and potpourri. Full bodied, warm and well structured, with stern tannins only now rounding into shape. A savory touch of herbs and hoisin sauce lingers on the finish. We featured this wine earlier this year, and we’re both surprised and pleased to have another chance at it!
Zajc Dolenjska Cvicek Full Circle $17
I’ve been having trouble writing this review, because every time I sit down to write up the notes, I just drink the whole damn thing before I can put pen to paper. Zajc’s Cvicek is just too much fun. It’s a walk through a field of flowers after a spring rain, or a Sunday rewatch of your favorite movie about strawberries. The Cvicek appellation is one of the most charmingly specific wine denominations in the world. It must be a blend of red and white grapes, starting with the native Blauer Koelner, with additions of Blaufrankisch, Kraljevina, and Welschriesling. Cvicek must also be between 8% and 10% alcohol, and that leaves so much room for crunchy acid and snappy fresh fruit. Aromas of white strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, lemon, lemon pepper, and apple blossoms lead into flavors of fresh raspberry and gooseberry, strawberry jello, lemon and pepper and granite. This is only technically a red wine, more the color of a sunset right at its peak. This wine belongs in the refrigerator while you run to the market for the charcuterie board and find the picnic blanket. For the most traditional experience, drink this wine outside from a rocks glass.
JP Gaussen Vin de Pay de Mont Caume 2019 $18
Jean-Pierre Gaussen purchased a tiny plot of land in Bandol in 1962. Over the course of decades he increased the size of his domaine one piece at a time, planting each vine himself and tending them by hand with no pesticides or fertilizers. Jean-Pierre’s – and now JP’s daughter Mireille’s – winemaking is straightforward, in a natural stone cave that keeps the temperature perfectly regulated. His Bandols are almost pure Mourvedre, and among the most powerful, ageable wines in all of Bandol, a wine to lay down in the cellar. For tonight’s dining room table, Gaussen also makes this subtly serious Vin de Pays du Mont Caume from a broader palate of grapes including Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose offers Provençal aromas of wild bramble, sauvage, black olive and sun-baked earth to go with kirsch and dried blackcurrant fruit, making promises that the palate keeps, with velvety rich dark fruit framed by chewy tannins, cola and baking spices. The finish lingers gently, with touches of soil and herbs waving in the Mediterranean sea breeze. A lamb burger sounds good right about now.
Chateau de la Durandiere Saumur Blanc 2021 $19
This wine smells of pineapple and apricot, orange and lemon curd, fresh hay, steel wool and limestone, a complex set of aromas in the finest tradition of Chenin Blanc. Where this wine truly shines is on the palate. The texture is like quicksilver, with just a dusting of tannin and a leesy richness that provides a fitting platform for flavors of ripe peach, melon, kiwi and pear with a delicate herbaceous note. The finish echoes with mango, baking spice, and a touch of white soil. Third generation winemaker Antoine Bodet tends his vineyards sustainably, and works carefully in the cellar to maintain the aromatic purity of his wines on the estate in the very center of the Saumur district. As far as we’re concerned, this is the best Chenin Blanc under $20 we’ve had in a while. Intensity, finesse, and balance are the hallmarks of great Chenin Blanc and you can find all of those in this wine. Pair with classic French duck recipes for best results, but fresh summer fare from the garden will also do nicely.
Cantina Furlani Vino Bianco 2022 $20
The Cantina Furlani is in the mountains in a more literal sense than most alpine wineries. Where other winemakers boast about the alpine climate and sun and soil while their vineyards are next to a highway on the valley floor, Matteo Furlani’s vines shiver in the winds at 3000 feet with a panoramic view over the city of Trento. The Furlani family have for generations studied agriculture before coming to work at the winery, and they have always been good farmers first. Today Matteo farms biodynamically and uses simple, traditional winemaking techniques. He uses sulfur only when necessary and stabilizes the wine by putting it in glass demijohns outside in the snow over the winter. His Bianco is a blend of Nosiola, Verdealbara, Lagarino Bianco with a bit of Muller Thurgau. Since this ebullient wine is essentially made in an alpine meadow, it is appropriate that it conveys the character of one perfectly with aromas of Chamomile and honeysuckle, lemon and lime zest, lemongrass and agave with a rim of salt. The palate is energetic and crisp, with a sense of salty granitic minerality drawn from the mountain’s soil. Flavors of tangerine and ginger join the chorus and complete the finish, immediatel inviting the next sip. Insistent enough to stand up to richly flavored fish dishes, the Bianco also works with charcuterie, alpine cheeses, and garlicky aioli.
Mary Taylor Wines Felipe Ferreira Douro Tinto 2021 $16
Mary Taylor’s mission is to find great yet overlooked wines from all across Europe and bring them to market in a simple, easy-to-buy package. Her name on a wine label means it has character, complexity, and quality far beyond expectations for the price. This wine from Felipe Ferreira comes from the heart of the Douro, the sweet spot of the Cima Corgo. Under the direction of the Calem family since 1872, the winery uses hands-on techniques in their steeply terraced vineyards and foot-treading in the cellar. This blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz is a bold and savory red that personifies the Douro. Inky dark aromas of tar and slate soil, blackcurrant, cherry, and wild lowbush blueberry with lavender, nutmeg and star anise lead into a full bodied palate neatly balanced between scoops of earth and rich black and blue berries with a touch of pomegranate. Tannins build slowly towards the finish, with a bloody, iron-streaked soil note that keeps the fruit company on the finish. Serve this with hearty bean stews or burgers.
Domaine Castera Jurançon Sec 2020 $20
Jurançon is the jewel of southwest France, a bucolic paradise of rolling green hills, winding roads, and medieval towns built along the banks of cheerful rushing streams. This area is home to two of France’s greatest white grape varieties. Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng. Despite the similar name, they’re unrelated, yet they work together to make simply stunning white wines with complex flavor and incredible textural tension. Domaine Castéra, under the direction of fourth generation winemaker Frank Lihour, has become one of the great estates of the region. He farms biodynamically and works in the cellar to yield every bit of textural and aromatic intensity available. Castéra wines are always among the most energetic in the region. This edition shows aromas of Meyer lemon, tangerine, honeydew melon, honey drizzled Mackintosh apples with a dusting of allspice. The palate starts with lemon and apple juice, a waft of lime and limestone soil notes. As bright and zesty as anyone could ask, with a leesy richness that comes from Franck’s slow and cool fermentations. Jurançon tradition demands duck, foie gras, and other pates, but this is a truly versatile wine for anyone who loves intensity in their white wines. If you enjoy this one, we encourage you to seek out the Castéra flagship single vineyard ‘Tauzy’ wine, which is everything described above and more.
Domaine la Bonneliere Saumur Champigny rouge 2021 $15
Cabernet Franc is a grape that simply refuses to conform. Varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay are people pleasers that can fit into any mold the winemaker makes for them. Cabernet Franc is always and only Cabernet Franc. Insistent clay earth, ever present pepper, and lingering floral touches are the irreducible and unalterable essences of Cabernet Franc, and winemakers can either embrace all of them, or use a different grape.
In the heart of the Loire between the cities of Saumur and Touraine, winemakers have chosen to embrace this grape, to elucidate the Cabernet’s Franc-ness, elaborate these hearty, earthy aromas into sturdy, quaffable wines with a touch of the stoic in them. Domaine de la Bonneliere lies in the Saumur-Champigny region, famous for providing Paris with its emblematic cafe wines. Hearty and easy to buy, this wine offers a rich nose of dirty tomato leaf, pipe tobacco, roasted red bell pepper, clay, blackberry, tayberry, lilac, sage, oregano and tarragon. The palate is bold, fitted with rough hewn tannins and cooled by acidity, with flavors of fresh raspberry jam, iron rich earth, and pepper. This is a great choice for steak frites or a bloody burger, potato dishes or roasted vegetables.
Weingut Ingrid Groiss Ried Hasenhaide Rose 2021 GXY $22
Rising star Ingrid Groiss’s family runs a Heurige in the town of Breitenwaida, north of Vienna in Austria’s Weinviertel region. Her grandmother planted vineyards with seventeen grape varieties near town to produce the Gemischter Satz blend for which the area is famous. While Ingrid at first pursued a career in the city, it wasn’t long before the vines – and her parents – called her home to take over the family cellars in 2010. Under her direction, Groiss has turned from a simple tavern winery into a vital part of an ongoing renaissance in the Weinviertel. Her object in the cellar is to preserve the work done in the vineyard, doing everything very gently and simply to let the complex aromas of the grapes develop. This Hasenhaide Rose is a blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir with just eight hours of skin contact to produce a perfect summer wine. Aromas of white strawberry, raspberry, lemon and lime zest and white flowers with a touch of the decomposed granite soils of the vineyard. The palate is limpid, fresh, and silky thanks to delicate handling in the cellar. Flavors of strawberry, lime, basil, white peach and white pepper dance lightly to a finish with a touch of salty minerality. This is wine for salads, for packed sandwiches, and sunny days.
Domaine la Montagnette Cotes-du-Rhone Villages 2021 Signargues $15
On the western edge of the Cotes-du-Rhone appellation, Les Vignerons d’Estezargues cooperative has produced wine for all the vine growers of the village for generations, and holds unusually high standards for viticulture and wine making. All their wines are organically farmed and vinified without cultured yeast, fining, filtration, or sulfur until bottling. Jean-Marie Granier’s Domaine la Montagnette is one of the most important producers of the cooperative and the mayor of Estezargues. His rustic-yet-refined Cotes du Rhone Signargues is a note perfect example of the region. A classic blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, the wine offers aromas of stewed strawberries and raspberries, dried cherries and figs, flourish with a big burst of cinnamon and a waft of barbecue smoke. The palate is full and ripe, with building tannins and enough acidity to keep flavors fresh. Black and blue berries, strawberries and cherries cooked down, with touches of cracked earth and garrigue. A hearty wine for dishes that are cooked over an open flame.
Cantina Menegotti Custoza 2021 $19
Lake Garda is locally known by another, older name: Benaco, derived from the latin Benacus or ‘beneficent’. It’s an appropriate name for this fairytale landscape, guarded by the Alps from cold air to the north. Gardens and vineyards alike thrive in this miniature pocket of warm Mediterranean climate, and just south of the lake those vineyards fall under the name Custoza, a tiny village about halfway between the lake and the city of Verona. The region offers a menu of white grapes including Garganega, Tocai Friulano, Trebbiano, and Fernanda, among others. The Menegotti family have refined their bright and floral Custoza over three generations, and it personifies the spirit of the region. The nose shows acacia blossom, pear and apple skin, barely ripe pineapple, greengage plum fruits with touches of creme fraiche, parmesan rind, and lemon mint. The palate is delicate, zesty, and refreshing with notes of lemon, mango, banana and lemongrass. This is a wine for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc, for wine on the patio and in the sun, and for pasta salads.
Bura Damatia Rukatac 2022 $21
Bergamot tea, yellow apple, peach, orange oil, tangerine, hazelnut, salted apricot and black pepper with freshly harvested honeycomb. The aromas come rich and heady from this wine made from the Rukatac grape – also called Marestina – on the Dalmatian Coast’s Peljesac Peninsula. Orange wines may still feel new and trendy to us, but in Croatia, and certainly in the Niko Bura’s cellars, this is the way it has always been done. Seven days on the skins help these wines soak up all the fruits and spices and structure available in the grape, and in this part of Europe, winemakers don’t work with shy and delicate grapes, they’re looking for intensity to stand up to the seafood cornucopia of the Adriatic sea, filled with octopus, shellfish, and rich, fatty swimming fish; things you’ll be hungry for by the time the Bura Rukatac hits your palate with orange peel, roasted pear, candied ginger, and talc-like tannins with vivid acidity that starts the mouth watering. This wine is handmade from the vineyard to the cellar, with no irrigation, no added yeast, and no oak. If you like rough hewn wines with maddening complexity and compelling soul, this is a must-try.