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OCTOBER 2020 REVIEWS


RED WINES

AUSTRIA – RED

2019 Pfneisl, Blaufrankisch, Birgit und Katrin’s Blaufranker, Burgundland, Austria (1 liter) (O) 15.99 / 172.69

Sisters Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl hail from a celebrated Hungarian winemaking family and continue the family history of crafting artisanal wines from the traditional Hungarian and Austria varieties Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, and Zenit. Their delightful 2019 Blaufranker reflects a translucent rusty ruby hue followed by textbook aromas of spicy plums, wild cherries, Seville orange peel, and loamy earth. Bright, spicy, and immediately lovable, the Blaufranker graces the palate with expressions of brambly blackberries, peppery salumi, and cinnamon. Fresh, exuberant, and youthfully energetic, the wine finishes with reprises of spicy berry fruit supported by fine, dusty tannins and balancing acidity. Friends, this is just about the most delicious, unstuffy, and flat-out delicious Blaufrankisch in our experience. The fact that it’s under $16 for a full liter bottle makes it the value red wine play of the newsletter. Enjoy now and over the coming two years served with roast chicken, mushroom-laden vegetarian risottos, salumi, sausages, and pan-seared pork chops.

FRANCE – RED

2018 Vignoble Guillaume, Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays de Franche-Comte IGP, France 16.99 / 183.49

The Guillaume family is one of the world’s largest cultivators of vines, and their cuttings and grafts are planted throughout the New and Old Worlds. In the 1980s Xavier Guillaume began crafting wines from the family’s expansive vineyard holdings between Burgundy and the Jura. Guillaume’s gorgeous, floral 2018 Pinot Noir gleams a transparent ruby color from the bowl followed by aromas of earthy cranberries, tart cherries, geranium, and soft limestone minerals. Brisk acidity and chewy tannins frame the wine’s crunchy core of red Pinot fruit alongside fascinating suggestions of blood orange, black tea, and chalky-clay earth. The wine finishes wonderfully fleshy, with layers of bright red berry and cherry fruit lifted by a persistent mineral undercurrent. This is a delicious, light, and most affordable Pinot to enjoy now and over the coming two years with poultry, rabbit, semi-firm cow’s milk cheeses, potatoes au gratin, and light pork preparations.

2018 Mas de Gourgonnier, Les Baux de Provence, Provence, France (O) 21.99 / 237.49

The Mas de Gourgonnier is located in the unique, rocky, high-altitude microclimate of Provence called Les Baux. Farming organically since 1975, Mas de Gourgonnier assembles their best lots of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignan to fashion this delicious Provencal cuvee. A gleaming translucent black-ruby color, Mas de Gourgonnier’s 2018 casts aromas of black raspberries and red currants perfumed with overtones of sandalwood, lavender, cinnamon, and blood orange peel. Fleshy and generous on the palate, savory tannins and earthy notes of game, leather, and mushrooms complement the wine’s vibrant kernel of red cherry and black raspberry fruit. Framing tannins, brown spices, and crunchy currant fruit segue the wine to its long finish accented by notes of leather, mushroom, and garrigue. This is a classically-styled rouge that will serve as a lovely partner for all things Provencal, especially daubes of lamb or beef, roast squab, braised rabbit, and vegetarian fare featuring potato, mushroom. and eggplant. Enjoy now and over the next three to five years.

2016 Chateau de Fontenille, Bordeaux, France (S) 13.99 / 151.09

Visionary winemaker Stephane Defraine is defining what makes the wines of Bordeaux’s Entre-deux-Mers sector so special and so compelling. The impeccable balance and energy of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage is vividly expressed in Fontenille’s 2016 Bordeaux. The blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon casts a classic translucent claret color transitioning to dynamite aromas of black plums, cassis, cedar, and gravelly earth. Vibrant and pulsing with energy on the palate, the wine weaves layers of fleshy black cherry, plum and currant fruit with subtle barrel tones and suggestions of tar and gravel. Long, lingering, sumptuous and 100% delicious, Fontenille’s Bordeaux finishes with fine tannins and reprises of fresh black currant berries. This superb, affordable red Bordeaux will pair well now and over the coming five years with cool weather braises, grilled hanger steaks, roast lamb, and lentil stews

2019 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres, Sablet, Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, Southern Rhone Valley, France (S) 13.99 / 151.09

Sablet is one of sixteen esteemed Cotes-du-Rhone Villages that represent the finest Southern Rhone communes awaiting appointment to full Appellation d’Origine Controlee status. Situated at the foothills of Dentelles de Montmirail, Sablet is revered for its sand and clay soils which produce generous, precocious, mouth-filling wines. Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres’ cuvee of equal parts old-vine Grenache and Syrah shines in the critically acclaimed 2019 vintage with an opaque black plum robe followed by classic aromas of black cherries, cassis, licorice, and garrigue. Ripe, juicy and spicy on the attack, firm tannins appear mid-palate to frame the wine’s saturated core of cherry, plum, and black currant fruit. The Sablet finishes long, chewy, and sumptuous with further accents of blackberries, dried herbs, tar, leather, and tobacco. This is a serious, savory, and comfortably-priced rouge that will satisfy Southern Rhone aficionados. Enjoy now or over the coming five years with herb-crusted lamb, grilled burgers, ratatouille, rosemary-scented chicken, and hearty braises.

GREECE – RED

2017 Vaeni, Xinomavro, Naoussa PDO, Greece 11.99 / 129.49

Situated in the hills of Macedonia in northern Greece, Naoussa became Greece's very first wine region to be given its own official appellation title (1971), and it served as a model for the Greek appellation system. Xinomavro is considered Greece’s finest varietal, and Naoussa’s Xinomavros are often considered to be Greece’s greatest red wines. Vaeni’s 2017 Xinomavro casts a transparent rusty garnet robe followed by delicious aromas of wild cherries, rose petals, leafy underbrush, and wood spice. Brisk yet generous on the attack (Xinomavro translates into English as “acid-black”) the wine conveys expressions of black raspberries, tar, savory herbs, and limestone soil vivified by a firm spine of fine tannins. The wine finishes long and clean with plentiful fine tannins enlivening the wine’s kernel of berry fruit. In fact, comparisons abound between this gorgeous Xinomavro and our favorite gems from the Alto Piemonte, so try this alongside Mazzani’s Nebbiolo from this newsletter. Enjoy now and over the coming seven years with Greek lamb recipes, grilled beef, zesty eggplant preparations, and hearty pastas.

ITALY – RED

2019 Cardedu, Monica di Sardegna, Praja, Sardinia, Italy (O) 15.99 / 172.69

Monica is a grape indigenous to Sardinia. This lovely, traditional Monica from the Loi family’s Cardedu winery hails from the most mountainous and least populated sector of the island. Here the vineyards are planted near cliffs that go straight down to the Mediterranean Sea and capture the salty sea breeze. Transparent garnet in the glass, Cardedu’s Praja casts aromas of figs, dried cherries, licorice, golden raisins, and smoky minerals. Bright and lively on the palate, Cardedu’s Praja layers the palate with chewy black cherry, pomegranate, and fig fruit. The Praja finishes fresh, zesty, and stunningly refreshing – especially after a slight chill – with chewy tannins adding rusticity, charm, and appetizingly bitter dimension. The wine begs to be paired with barbecued meats and vegetables, pizzas, and pasta dishes dressed with garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and pine nuts. This is a perfect choice for pairing with antipasti, charcuterie, sardines, olives, and lighter fare. If that’s not enough, the importer asserts that Monica is the natural partner to fregula, Sardinia’s couscous-like toasted pasta.

2018 Tiziano Mazzoni, Nebbiolo del Monteregio, Colline Novaresi, Alto Piemonte, Italy (O) 19.99 / 215.89

This is fantastic Nebbiolo with all the soul and spirit of the great wines of Ghemme and Gattinara. Reflecting a transparent rusty garnet robe, Mazzoni’s Nebbiolo del Monteregio – from organically grown vines in and around the Ghemme DOCG – expresses all that makes the Alto Piemonte such an exciting winegrowing zone. Notes of licorice, rose petals, tobacco, and pink peppercorns mingle with a deep kernel of chewy red plum and pie cherry fruit. Fashioned for immediate enjoyment, the Nebbiolo’s fierce tannins are tamed to a perfect spot where they seem to lift the wine’s fruit and amplify the Ghemme’s mineral-rich soil expression. Reprises of red plum and cherry fruit return as the wine finishes long and soul-satisfying, leaving a sprinkling of clay dust on your lips and cheeks. Pair this pure, versatile, and unusually affordable wine now and over the coming seven years with both classic hearty Piemontese cuisine and with everyday fare such as pizza, pasta, burgers, and pork chops.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 89 points

(2016) Hilberg-Pasquero, Vino Rosso, 29.5 Per Alessandra, Piedmont, Italy (B) 15.99 / 172.69

Michelangelo Pasquero and Annette Hilberg have established their domaine in Piedmont’s Roero district based on biodynamic principles, where tasks are performed based on the phases of the moon, eschewing pesticides and herbicides in the vineyard, fermenting with natural yeasts, and adding no sulfites during the winemaking. The duo’s 100% Barbera 29.5 Vino Rosso – named for the duration of the lunar cycle – opens with an opaque violet ruby color segueing to high-toned aromas of blackberries, violets, leather, cinnamon, and dark tobacco. Showing Piedmont’s sensational 2016 elegance, the wine’s gentle tannins buttress a gorgeously pure kernel of tart blackberry and black currant fruit complemented by complex hints of tar, leather, tobacco, licorice, and lavender. Delicious now with carne cruda, grilled hanger steak, oven-roasted root vegetables, egg-rich pastas, grilled pork, and myriad risottos, Hilberg-Pasquero’s 29.5 Rosso will also cellar well for two to five years.

PORTUGAL – RED

2018 Nao Condenado, Palhete, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal (CO) 17.99 / 194.29

In the rural areas north of Lisbon, old “backyard” vineyards are being abandoned due to the ageing of the owners and the next generation’s choice to pursue fortunes elsewhere. Andre Gomes, the winemaker at Quinta do Montalto, took action to save two legendary patches of 120- to 150-year-old vines. The 2018 Nao Condenado (“uncondemned”) employs the traditional Portuguese method called “palhete,” which ferments red and white grapes together to craft one delicious, aromatic, and utterly unique red wine. The cuvee – roughly equal parts of white Fernao Pires and red Trincadeira – casts a rusty, crimson-ruby hue in the glass followed by ripe aromas of raspberry, fig, black plums, cherry blossoms, and peppercorns. Deep and peppery on the palate, chewy cherry and raspberry fruit mingle with suggestions of dried herbs, Serrano peppers, gamy salumi, tamari, and cassia. At once both tart and ripe, the juxtaposition of these impressions and textures – alongside the sappiness of the old vine fruit – make this an ideal selection for picnics and a natural partner for grilled meats, carnitas tacos, meat and potato tapas, and mild Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines. Enjoy now and over the next two years.

SPAIN – RED

2010 Vina Olabarri Rioja Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain 19.99 / 215.89  reg. 26.99

Is there a more complex, delicious, and age-worthy selection than Vina Olabarri’s Gran Reserva? Olabarri’s 2010 Gran Reserva casts tobacco and cedar aromas of black plums, cured meat, and camphor. Deepened by long barrel aging, Olabarri’s classic Rioja fusion of Tempranillo (80%) and a blend of Graciano and Mazuelo saturates the palate with chewy black currant and black cherry fruit backed by plentiful fine-grained tannins and classic, lifting Tempranillo acidity. Hints of camphor, cigar tobacco, pencil lead, leather, coconut husk, game, and vanilla bean creep in on the long, structured finish. This is classic, old-school Rioja Gran Reserva, and a wine that can be enjoyed now with hearty roasts of beef and grilled lamb, or, ideally, stashed away in a cool cellar for another decade or two to allow its structural components to meld together and its complexity to develop.

WHITE WINES

AUSTRIA – WHITE

2019 Mantlerhof, Gruner Veltliner, Ried Weitgasse, Kremstal, Austria (CO) 13.99 / 151.09

This is a sensational Gruner Veltliner from one of the variety’s spiritual homelands – the Kremstal. The Mantler family organically farms some of the Kremstal’s finest sites with winegrowing legacies stretching back to 1365. Their Ried Weitgasse is a special single vineyard on a high plateau that features deep loess soils atop a gravel subsoil – the perfect combination for Austria’s great Gruner Veltliner grape to express its unique characteristics. Mantlerhof’s 2019 Ried Weitgasse Gruner opens with a green-glinted lemon-gold hue followed by classic Gruner aromas of snap pea shoots, earthy lentils, and white pepper infused in a juicy core of lemon, quince, and green apple. Fresh and invigorating on the palate, the wine’s laser-focused acidity propels classic Gruner expressions of lime zest, pear, snap peas, watercress, jalapeno pepper, and green lentils. Suggestions of thyme, green melon, and saline minerals segue the wine to its long, clean and delicious finish. Vegetarians and vegans rejoice! Gruner is a natural complement to nearly all vegetable preparations from green salads to braised lentils to root vegetable purees. Truly versatile, Mantlerhof’s Gruner will dazzle as an aperitif and will also shine throughout the meal with everything from salad courses to fresh fish preparations to light poultry and pork entrees. At its sub-$15 tariff, this is the white wine buy of the newsletter!

FRANCE – WHITE

2017 Philippe Ravier, Jacquere, Vin de Savoie, Apremont, Savoie, France (S) 11.99 / 129.49

Like the Cotes du Rhone-Villages, the Vin de Savoie A.O.P. allows certain exemplary villages to append their names to impart special emphasis to the region’s wines. Apremont is one such outstanding cru in Savoie. Fashioned exclusively from the indigenous Jacquere grape, Philippe Ravier’s low-alcohol Apremont brings to mind crisp Alpine breezes and pure, cool mountain spring water. A gleaming lemon-gold in the glass with green reflections, Ravier’s Apremont presents a lovely bouquet of green pineapple, tart plums, pine buds, and flinty minerals. On the palate the wine continues the theme of refreshment with crisp, crunchy expressions of Bartlett pear skin, Pippin apple flesh, lime juice, quinine, and zesty minerals. Bone dry and oh-so-refreshing, this is simply a glorious white for year ’round enjoyment. An outstanding choice as an aperitif and a natural complement to smoked trout, white-fleshed fish dishes in a beurre blanc sauce, oysters, salads, fondue, and cheese plates featuring tomme de Savoie, young Gruyere, and other semi-firm cheeses from the Jura, Savoie, and Switzerland. Enjoy now and over the coming year.

2019 Vins Auvigue, Macon-Fuisse, Burgundy, France 19.99 / 215.89

Fuisse is one of the many small hamlets entitled to hyphenate the name of the village to the greater Macon designation, or to label its wines under the greater and more familiar Macon-Villages moniker. 2019 is shaping up to be a lovely, precocious vintage in the Maconnais, as evidenced by this elegant early offering from Vins Auvigue. Opening with a bright lemon-gold hue, Vins Auvigue’s Macon-Fuisse conveys an authentic white Burgundian nose of lemon zest underpinned by Burgundy’s inimitable limestone goût de terroir. On the palate, the Auvigue Chardonnay presents a lively, smoky mineral current overlaid by layers of preserved lemon, Bartlett pear, and golden delicious apple. Suggestions of smoke, crushed oyster shells, iodine, and buttery brioche provide additional complexity on the wine’s long, lingering finish. Dedicated fans of affordable, terroir-expressive white Burgundy will delight in this wine, served now or over the next five years with salmon, halibut, roast chicken, and light pork preparations.

ITALY – WHITE

2019 Montenidoli, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tradizionale, Tuscany, Italy (O) 19.99 / 215.89

In a region dominated by red wines, Vernaccia stands alone as Tuscany’s premier white. Vernaccia finds its singular voice in the predominately sandy soils around the medieval hillside village of San Gimignano. This bold, rich, long-macerated Vernaccia from Elisabetta Fagiuoli’s Montenidoli domain shows the serious, traditional, age-worthy side of the much beloved Vernaccia di San Gimignano appellation. A medium golden hue in the bowl, the wine casts deep aromas of Bosc pear, golden apple, juniper, and fresh sage. Shimmering, intense, and palate staining, Montenidoli’s 2019 Tradizionale meshes fleshy pear and yellow apple fruit with suggestions of fresh bay leaf, bitter orange peel, and spicy ginger. Long, resinous and tactile on the finish, the wine adds notes of almond skin, turmeric, and quinine. While the delicacy of most Vernaccias command light seafood as their complement, Montenidoli’s intense Tradizionale demands richer fare such as poultry, pork and game birds, grilled prawns, or warm-water fish such as swordfish, ahi, or branzino, and salty cheeses such as Pecorino. Serve now or over the coming five years. Don’t miss this serious, genre-busting Vernaccia that raises the bar for the denominazione in terms of complexity, intensity, richness, and age-ability.

2019 Durin, Pigato, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Liguria, Italy 15.99 / 172.69

The delicious and versatile Pigato grape – known as Vermentino further south in Italy – reaches new heights in complexity and versatility thanks to Durin’s vineyards’ proximity to the sea. Durin’s 2019 Pigato casts a brilliant medium gold robe followed by a salty, Chablis-like, iodine blast that seemingly infuses the wine’s white peach and citrus core of fruit with a riveting mineral undercurrent. Ripe and inviting on the palate, notes of white peaches and juicy lemons return alongside compelling touches of wildflower honey, white pepper, sunflower seeds, and fresh herbs. Salty minerals dust the lips and inner cheeks as the wine lingers on its long, brisk, and joyful finish. Distinctive and truly terroir-driven, Durin’s Pigato demands food and will prove a wonderful choice now and over the coming two years with antipasti, grilled whole fishes, fritto misto, white pizzas, seafood and vegetarian risottos, and pastas dressed in garlicky pesto.

2019 Marchetti-Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore, Marches, Italy 14.99 / 161.89

Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone imbue the finest Verdicchios with impressive complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A rich medium gold hue in the bowl, Marchetti’s incredibly expressive Verdicchio Classico Superiore opens with deep aromas of sweet snap peas, apricots, cassia, tarragon, and green peppercorns. On the palate, the wine conveys an impressively concentrated kernel of pear, yellow plum, and star fruit backed by brisk acidity, a smoky mineral undercurrent, and complex suggestions of oolong tea, candied ginger, and honeycomb. Full bodied and palate-staining, yet balanced and elegant, this impressive and comfortably priced Verdicchio is ready to drink now and over the coming five years. Pair it with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini gratin, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic, and summer vegetables. Limited.

SPAIN – WHITE

2018 Senorio de P. Pecina, Rioja, Blanco, Spain (S) 14.99 / 161.89

From prime parcels at high elevations on chalky soils in the Rioja Alta’s prime Sonsierra Riojana zone on the left bank of the Ebro River, Pedro Pecina fashions a complete portfolio of some of the most exciting, traditionally inspired Riojas. Pecina’s Viura Rioja Blanco opens with a pale straw-gold color and an elegant bouquet of beeswax, orchard blossoms, lime zest, and Pippin apple skin. On the palate, the wine juxtaposes a full, traditional waxy Rioja Blanco texture with zesty, citric acidity and herbal notes of lemon balm and tarragon. On the finish, oyster shell minerality marries with tart apple, honeydew melon, juicy ginger, and candied lemon notes. Delicious, bright and approachable now, Pecina’s Blanco also has the poise and the track record for a long evolution in your cool cellar. Serve it cool, but not too cold, with seafood tapas, young Manchego, steamed clams, grilled ahi, or broiled swordfish.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 90 points


ROSE WINE

ITALY - ROSE

2019 Calabretta, Terre Siciliane, Rosato, Sicily, Italy (O) 19.99 / 215.89

Are you ready for an autumn rose wine? We’ve featured Calabretta’s deliciously gulpable “Cala Cala” rosso to great customer response. This month we’re delighted to include Calabretta’s organic Rosato, fashioned primarily from ungrafted vines planted on the sandy, rocky slopes of Mount Etna. Calabretta’s rose opens with a gleaming vermilion color and a soaring bouquet of wild cherries, cured meat, cinnamon, and rocky soil. Fresh and lively on the palate, expressions of spicy cherries, red licorice, cloves and allspice mingle with Etna’s spicy, peppery soil signature. Fine, savory, food-friendly tannins emerge on the wine’s back-palate and segue it to a long, appetizing finish that reprises suggestions of cherries, red currants, cinnamon, volcanic earth, and peppery salumi. Along with the Alto Piemonte, Etna is Italy’s hippest wine zone right now: with one sip the freshness, brightness, and balance of this Rosado will show you why. It drinks fantastically well by itself, but shows best with food and will prove a versatile partner to roast poultry, eggplant parmigiana, pastas, pizzas, burgers, pork braises, sashimi, and sushi. Calabretta’s Rosado drinks well now but has the poise, tension, and structure to improve for two or three years.


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B = biodynamic methods; CO = certified organic; O = organic; S = sustainably farmed
 

© Liner & Elsen, all rights reserved. Availability and prices may have changed since the newsletter date.