Castillon-la-Bataille is a town on the Dordogne river famous for exactly two things, the climactic victory of the French over the English in the Hundred Years War, and being right next to Saint-Emilion. Though Castillon is part of the unwieldy Cotes de Bordeaux super appellation, it is better understood as the neighbor to the famous heart of Bordeaux’s right bank. Soil and topography here is pretty similar, Castillon shares St Emilion’s preference for Merlot, and on the ground, you would be forgiven for not knowing which appellation you were in. Chateau La Bourée is an estate in the heart of Castillon, where winemaker Jean-Francois Maynard and Christelle Gauthier farm this deeply unpretentious, deeply inexpensive, and just plain deep wine from 81% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a sturdy Bordeaux perfect for cooler late summer nights, with a nose of black plum and blackcurrant, dried cherry, black soil and a baker’s chocolate with dry tobacco leaves. The palate is unrepentantly tannic and follows up with more chocolate, cacao, and intensely dark dried fruits, clay-scented earth and cinnamon incense. If you’re a fan of structured Bordeaux, this is a must-try wine that will help you save your more expensive St. Emilion. Decanting is recommended alongside your next filet or helping of roasted vegetables.
“A little salty” is a perfect name for this wine from the craggy limestone cliffs and narrow valleys east of Marseille. Petit Salé is a nickname for Clairette, which has distinctive white speckling on its skin, and a strong salty aroma. Chateau de Roquefort uses seventy year old, biodynamically farmed Clairette vines for the majority of this wine, with the addition of Vermentino and Ugni Blanc. True to its name, the first aromas that climbs out of the glass is salt, followed close by white plum, apple, lemon and pineapple fruits. The palate is kinetic and full of sharp edges, salt, lemon tang, crisp apple, and spicy note of red pepper flakes. Spring blossoms bloom on the finish with a fresh burst of acidity rare in Mediterranean whites. Freshness and minerality are everything here. The vines are planted facing northwest, away from the sun at almost 1300 feet of elevation. In the winery, the wine is kept cold enough to inhibit malolactic fermentation, preserving the sharpest edge of tartaric acidity that makes white wines crisp. This is an impressively clear, crisp white that brings its own seasoning to any meal.
Cascading lemons and limes with a salty touch, peaches, granite gravel terraces, a dash of spritz, and a nub of ginger. balanced, crisp and cool on the palate. If that’s not the dictionary definition of Vinho Verde, there’s something wrong with your dictionary. Portal da Calçada’s vineyards are in Amarante, within sight of the Serra do Marão that separates Vinho Verde from the Douro Valley. Loureiro and Alvarinho are two of the most popular varieties in Vinho Verde – out of the 37 allowed – and this subzone is the warmest and driest in the denomination. Calçada is a relatively large estate with 50 hectares under vine, and their Vinho Verde is a classically fresh and zesty wine. Generally speaking, Vinho Verde has been emerging on the scene with a more complex, nuanced, and exciting set of wines than we’re used to (check out the Quinta da Palmirinha wine below for more details), but as growers across northern Portugal have insisted on higher quality and better definition in their wines, even the classic fizzy stuff has been getting better. This wine still comes at bottom shelf prices, but it offers mid-shelf quality and complexity. We recommend light picnic fare, summer evenings on the porch, and fruity fish dishes.
Russ and Mary Raney founded Evesham Wood in 1986 with the goal of producing wine in Oregon in a method and style as close as possible to that of Burgundy. Organic almost since the outset, Le Puit Sec vineyard wine quickly became a favorite among Oregon winemakers to bring along when they really wanted to impress their friends. In 2007, Erin Nuccio moved to Oregon to make wine, and in a stroke of spectacular timing and persistence, he approached Russ Raney just as the iconic winemaker was considering retirement. They struck up a friendship, and once Erin proved worthy, Russ sold him the winery in 2010. The transition proved seamless, and Evesham Wood wines remain among the best in the Valley. This precocious 2022 edition of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is the proof in the pudding, with intense aromas of black fruits, lilac, barrel spice and toasted cedar, and a sharply defined palate of underbrush, cranberry, cherry, tarragon and cinnamon with a scoop of loose packed earth. The tannins are short and the acidity is woven through like silk thread in this fairly full bodied wine. A classic wine for duck in its youth, the pairing menu will only grow as it develops over the course of five to seven years.
Oltrepo Pavese is a curious corner of Italy’s wine map. The name means “The bit of Pavia on the other side of the Po”, a name obviously written by people on the north side of the river. Most of Lombardy is filled by the fertile Po valley and the many fingered city of Milan, but at the region’s southern extremity, the Apennine foothills cut into the plain, and mark the start of a small, hilly wine region, very different from nearby Piedmont. Winemakers here get to do their own thing, and Ca’Montabello, just outside the town of Broni makes a delightfully weird white wine from Pinot Noir. This estate has been under the direction of the Scarani family since the eighteenth century. Grown in Italy’s trademark Calcareous soil, grapes are picked for optimum acidity and pressed like a white wine so no trace of skin color gets in. The nose of this wine shows lime in several stages: fresh pressed juice, blossom, and zest. There’s notes of chalky soil, tangerine, Rainier cherry, marjoram and coriander seed. The palate is bright, mouthwatering fresh, with a touch of trapped CO2 to give an extra jolt of spritz. Flavors of white peaches and cherries and oranges finish up with a dusting of chalky minerals. Pair this people pleaser with spicy Gazpacho or light pastas featuring anchovies.
Syrah is a funny thing. Plant this grape in a hot, arid climate and you can create a wine with polished, corded tannins running over each other like the triceps of a character in a Sarah J Maas romance novel. Those wines are flashy and delicious and impressive, but if Syrah is planted in a colder site, exposed to cold winds in Crozes Hermitage and picked before the grapes have soaked up too much sunshine, the result is a buoyant, elegant, wine that combines earthy savor with brisk acidity and fruit. Marc Romak and Marlène Durand have been making this fresher sort of Syrah in the northern Rhone since 2009. With a constant eye on freshness and organic farming practices, they make this simple Vin de France in stainless steel tanks. The result is a masterclass on Syrah’s earthy palette. Aromas of black raspberry, tobacco, smoky soil and bacon fat – to be honest it smells a lot like an Italian beef sandwich. The palate shows plenty of ripe cherry and blackcurrant, dried herbs, iron and tar streaked earth. The body is substantial but lively, and a note of orange bitters blooms on the finish. This is a wine for burgers, corn, and other things off the grill.
There is nothing remarkable at first when you drive up to Chateau Flotis. You can hear the A62 freeway a few hundred yards away, the autoroute de deux mers from Bordeaux to Toulouse. The building is tucked between nondescript looking vineyards and oak forests, and it looks a little worse for wear. Inside, however, winemaker Cathy Ribas makes a stunning black wine of noble origin, a wine with roots that go back to Roman times. Fronton, found between the Tarn and Garonne rivers just north of Toulouse, was first planted to vines by Roman soldiers. At some point, the Negrette grape became the signature vine of the area, and Fronton built a strong but very local reputation in Toulouse for soulful, deep purple wine. Poor, stony soils and a gentle dose of elevation (600 ft above sea level) make Flotis’ vineyard ideal for bringing out Negrette’s intensity. On the nose, we get blackberry, blackcurrant, deep red rose and violet. Fresh turned potting soil after a rain. Black pepper and smoke from a burnt orange peel. The palate offers more of the same sharp black fruit, tarry earth, pepper and nutmeg whispering on the finish. Fronton’s coat of arms features a duck. We suspect that’s a centuries old food pairing suggestion.
Any time you have the chance to feature a wine made from a grape no one has ever heard of from a place no one has ever heard of that happens to be spectacular, you’ve got to do it! Cascina Melognis Pelaverga is from the southwestern alpine foothills of Piedmont near the city of Saluzzo. Here, the imposing peak of Revello dominates the landscape and the glacial stream of the Po River runs out of the hills and carves out a small valley peppered with fruit orchards and the occasional vineyard. The appellation was founded in part to preserve the local Pelaverga variety, and Cascina Melognis was founded by Michele Fino and his wife Vanina Maria Carta with the same goal. We want to encourage them to continue their efforts, because this wine is worth it! The aroma of this wine is passion fruit caught as it falls ripe from the tree, strawberries that glisten with morning dew, oregano and sage picked from an Italian grandmother’s backyard garden and blood orange so rich there might be real blood in it (or at least a note of iron rich clay). Pure mana on the palate, bursting with fresh berries and chalk and white pepper, with delicate texture and ebullient acidity that sings like a songbird. Pair with Alpine cheeses on a sunny day.
If you have a plate of fresh oysters with a classic mignonette, reach for the Simon Neau Gros Plant. If you’ve got a Caprese salad or bruschetta spread ready, pull the Simon Neau Gros Plant out of the cupboard. If you’ve found a way to use all your zucchini, grab a glass of Simon Neau Gros Plant to wash it all down. If you’re having hot dogs and tzatziki and it’s too hot to drink red wine, pull the Simon Neau Gros Plant out of the fridge. This lemony, salty, exuberantly acidic wine has been the every-day thirst quencher of the Pays Nantais for centuries that the folks of France’s Atlantic coast drink while their Muscadet ages properly. This latest version by Nantais icon Gilbert Chon is 100% Folle Blanche (Gros Plant’s official name) from the family estate, and the wine is aged Sur Lie to add a little extra textural richness. The flavor profile is classic Gros Plant; salt, pithy lemon, yellow grapefruit, grapefruit zest, apple and ginger aromas lead into a light, pleasantly tart and bouncy palate of white nectarine, more lemon, and peach pit, which finishes with a burst of crisp fruit and salt.
Sixteen years after achieving biodynamic certification, Fernando Paiva’s Quinta da Palmirinha is still one of only a handful of wineries in Portugal to qualify. That he farms in the famously wet and mild Vinho Verde region makes it all the more impressive. He actually takes it a step further, substituting chestnut blossoms – a natural antioxidant – for sulfites. In a region dedicated to large scale cookie cutter farming, Palmirinha’s vineyards have rows of basil and mâche between vines. Shoots are tied to training wires with palm leaves grown on the estate. With all this intense focus on details and thoughtful farming, is it any wonder that the resulting wine is at once delicious and unlike any other Vinho Verde we’ve ever had? The aromas alone set this wine in a class of one: candied lemon peel, gardenia, almond blossom, turkish delight, allspice, white vermouth botanicals from thyme and mint to lemon balm and marjoram, with just a dash of salt. The palate comes like a sharp wave of apple and cara cara orange, waxy pear, and incense smoke. The finish bursts with lemons, granitic minerality, and brine. A great match for clam or scallop dishes, but this wine is simply stunning all on its own.
Patrick Mourlan dislikes bling. He runs his family estate quietly, using organic practices his parents used. Patrick remembers when his grandfather would take the family’s grapes to the local cooperative. There is no grand chateau surrounded with palm trees here, even though the Cote d’Azur is just a few miles away. La Bastide des Oliviers is just a few scattered vineyards tucked between fields of wheat and chickpeas. The grapes are a melange of Cinsault, Grenache, and Carignan, among others. The simple, no frills approach Patrick takes produces far more interesting wines than most of his luxury-focused neighbors. In the generally cool and dry 2022 vintage, Mourlan’s dry farmed vines produced this beautifully balanced rosé both crisply cut and full bodied. The nose features intense notes of raspberry, tangerine, and ruby red grapefruit over garrigarious herbs lavender and sage. Lively-yet-creamy on the palate, there’s rich raspberries here, strawberries and peaches in cream, and a dusting of limestone soil that lingers on the finish. This is an exciting vintage for Provençal rosé, so long as the winemaker was careful.
“Out of respect for its northern Rhône roots, the Syrah sets the tone and tempers the sunny southern grenache.” Delas Freres’ description of their work-a-day Cotes-du-Rhône sounds like a good slogan for the whole of the southern Rhone valley, where these two grape varieties engage in a dance, complementing and balancing each other in hundreds of different wines each vintage. Delas traces their roots back to 1835, and stands as one of the longest tenured and largest houses in the region, with vineyard sources across the valley. A 60-40 blend of Syrah and Grenache, the Saint Esprit Cuvee is fermented at a high temperature and then left to age in stainless steel tank to preserve the definition of the fruit. The resulting wine offers classic Syrah aromas of leather, smoked meat, stewed berry compote, black plum, vanilla, pepper and dried rose petals. Flavors of plum and black cherry dominate the full throttle palate defined by fine grained, silky tannins and the luscious texture of Grenache. Touches of oak spice and dried herbs linger on the finish.
Bairrada’s blossoming international reputation comes largely thanks to the multigenerational talents of the Pato family. Luis Pato’s father João was the first winemaker in Bairrada to bottle his own wine in 1970, and when Luis took over the family business in 1980, he made the first pure Baga wines, deeply carved, earthy reds that stand the test of time. Over the decades, he has never stopped thinking ahead, trying new techniques and reinventing his wines. Pato wines, whether made by Luis or his daughter Filipa, are always made exclusively from native grapes. This illuminated white is a blend of Bical, Cereal, and Sercialinho, organically farmed under Bairrada’s rainy sky. Aromas of lime, granite, green apple, tarragon, sweetfern and quinine bounce merrily out of the glass. The palate is sharp as a tack, with yellow apples and yellow lemons, a touch of wintergreen and gooseberry. For all the high toned flavors and freshness, this blend is impressively full bodied, and leaves behind a finish full of fruit and floral accents. This wine’s strong personality fits it to many dishes, but we suggest trying it with tinned fish.
Every now and then, a wine comes along that isn’t quite what it should be. There’s nothing wrong with it. This is an utterly delicious wine, it’s just not what we’ve been trained to expect from crisp Catalan rosé. Looking at this pale, organically farmed and proudly Catalan wine, we don’t expect the sheer weight and intensity of this Garnatxa Rosat. The wine announces itself with aromas of strawberry whipped cream, fresh tilled, sun baked soil, Rainier cherry, kiwi, basil and a dash of pepper. The palate is lush – dry, but lush – with strawberries and whipped cream, peach, and savory herbs. There may be no finer wine for classic salmon, for light pork loin dishes, stuffed tomatoes, or ratatouille. The name Acustic is a reference to acoustic guitars versus electric, which is to say winemaker Albert Jané is dedicated to old traditions, native varieties, and homespun, hands-on viticulture. The vines for this wine are up to 50 years old in clay, sand, and Llicorella soils amongst the mountains of Montsant, and only 20% of the wine is aged in oak; enough to provide that layer of creaminess, but not enough to chip away at the fruit. Balance is the most important quality in a wine, but there are a number of places to find balance.
This is the sort of wine you need a spoon to eat properly. Maurizio Marchetti’s classic, superior Verdicchio always pumps iron, but in 2022, it has unusual weight and intensity even by its own Mr. Universe standards. The grapes for Marchetti’s Tenuta del Cavaliere hang nearly an extra month on the vine, soaking up all the autumnal sunshine of the Marche’s languorous, cool but sunny Octobers. Maurizio doubles down on texture in the winery, doing everything he can to slow down the fermentation. The wine spends weeks with the lees, gaining another creamy layer every day. The end result is a wine that smells of tangerine sherbet, fresh peaches, slate and a dusting of white pepper, before a palate that is the vinous equivalent of an overstuffed couch. Oranges and mangos, oregano and brine cut through, but the wine wins with sheer lush texture. Zesty, filled over the rim with fresh fruit, but big in every dimension. This is a wine for roast chicken, turkey, halibut, or pork, for risotto of every make or potato leek soup. It is also that sort of wine so uninhibitedly unctuous that you may forget to cook once you pour a glass. Consider yourself warned.
On the outskirts of Soave, just at the base of the hills that made the name famous, Monte Tondo produces a wide range of red, white, and sparkling wine from all over the Veneto. Of all the wines they make, this charming and inexpensive Corvina might be the most impressive, a feat of winemaking to pack so much flavor into such a simple, unassuming package. Winemaker Gino Magnabosco looks for freshness in this wine, picking early, keeping the grapes on the cooler side for fermentation, and doing everything in stainless steel tanks, which “preserves the freshness and lively spiciness of the grape”. While this is an easy choice every vintage, there are some vintages like this one where it stands out just a little further from the crowd. As always, the nose features bright cherry, apricot, and basil with a touch of chalky soil. The palate is juicy, clean and crisp with flavors of the sort of fresh raspberries and cherries that stain your hands. The finish features all these with a lilt of citrus peel. A perfect late summer aperitif with charcuterie.