Top ten imports from the VINTAGES September 19th release

From left to right: Pella The Vanilla Chenin Blanc 2013, Dominio De Punctum Viento Aliseo Viognier 2014, Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013, Barton Merlot 2012 and Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2011

From left to right: Pella The Vanilla Chenin Blanc 2013, Dominio De Punctum Viento Aliseo Viognier 2014, Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013, Barton Merlot 2012 and Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2011

Back from South Africa and while I was gone some pretty good wines were released this past weekend. The VINTAGES September 19th release must have been methodized with this late September summer climatic empressement in mind. I tasted these 10 back in August and at the time said to myself, “self, these will make for superb late September sipping.” Here are the notes.

Pella The Vanilla Chenin Blanc 2013, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (389619, $14.95, WineAlign)

The vanilla is an odd moniker for any wine, let alone Chenin Blanc and the usage ends here. The bush vine savagery, atlantic wind and poor gravel soil have more influence than the barrel though there is a distinct aroma that reminds of wood fires on an old oak forest campsite. Creamiest of creamy Chenin Blanc, with the flavour of roasted marshmallow with almost no sweetness or cloy. An acquired taste to be certain but I will pull up a rock or a log to its comforts any day. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @SSVineyards  @WOSACanada

Dominio De Punctum Viento Aliseo Viognier 2014, Do La Mancha, Spain (424713, $15.95, WineAlign)

O and B Viognier of profound aromatics and lithe enough to call itself a gentleman. White flowers lit by beeswax candle, white pepper and prettier than most herbs. Punctuates with a palate built on mineral and perpetuates good feelings with acidity and structure. More La Mancha than Viognier and rightfully so. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @DePunctum  @TheLivingVine  @vinodelamancha

Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013, Niederösterreich, Austria (87627, $16.95, WineAlign)

Stonking mineral Gruner, herbal and gravel inflected, its voice scratchy and smoky like a good Veltliner can be. Actually reminds me of Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, with the herbs and the minor spritz but as Gruner, that’s a bit of a stretch. Eminently drinkable nonetheless. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @KylixWines  @AustrianWine

Barton Merlot 2012, Wo Walker Bay, South Africa (424143, $14.95, WineAlign)

So much soil funk, gritty, chalky, like liquid concrete and crumbling clay, mixed into a high-acting cocktail. This Merlot is alive, full of tingles and tricks, rich and chocolate fixated. If the acidity were a bit north of the 34/19 line, it would be a formidable red to drink for 10 more years. As it is five will do just fine. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @WOSA_ZA

Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2011, Umbria, Italy (46417, $20.95, WineAlign)

Natural to a degree, ripe to a larger one and angled with juicy tang and ripe tannins. Nothing overdone, but there is deep intent, rigid lines and membranes, daunting like facing a large stance of game animals and their dangerous racks. Step aside, let them pass and come back when they are older and more docile. The tannins I mean. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @Scacciadiavoli1  @ConsSagrantino

From left to right: Tandem Macula 2006, Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2013, Schiopetto Pinot Grigio 2013, Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino 2009 and Paschal Marchand Meursault 2012

From left to right: Tandem Macula 2006, Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2013, Schiopetto Pinot Grigio 2013, Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino 2009 and Paschal Marchand Meursault 2012

Tandem Macula 2006, Navarra, Spain (424705, $24.95, WineAlign)

Like dried red fruit sprinkled with a fine aggregate of sweet concrete, if such a combination of inanimate flora existed, plated upon a pool of sanguine fauna below. Funky omeboshi and a torch of garrigue, like spruce tips and a struck match, Dripping, unctuous liquor of varietal amalgamation, having soaked up sunshine and now slowly, naturally leaning towards Nirvana. Where have you been Macula? Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @jmfraile  @hobbsandco  @navarrawine

Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2013, Monterey County, California (46417, $27.95, WineAlign)

Always upscale and like a sheep in wolf’s clothing, matchstick jumpy and full of barrel bounty. Rich and thick like fresh churned butter on rye toast, spice and effectuality. Really ramps up in the vintage and makes a bold Monterey statement. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @TalbottVineyard  @MontereyWines  @Smallwinemakers

Schiopetto Pinot Grigio 2013, Doc Collio, Friuli, Italy (234757, $32.95, WineAlign)

Holy great mineral Batman. A coolio, Collio trove of fruit goodness and stony tang. Some musty notes and plenty of fruit offset the rocky, badass bent. Full and distinctive, with northern character and ready, steady climb. Build and builds. Many steps up from 99 per cent of Pinot Grigio realities. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @schiopetto  @LeSommelierWine

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (378513, $44.95, WineAlign)

Liqueur distilled into Sangiovese, with Grosso layering and from a vintage that meant business from go. Cherries never dried so well, fennel never whiffed so sweet and wood resin never reduced to flavour with such elegance. A very pretty Brunello with massive tannins to send it down the 20 year road in all directions departing Montalcino. Beautiful stuff for a song. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted September 2015  @ConsBrunello

Marchand Tawse Meursault 2012, Burgundy, France (285866, $52.95, WineAlign)

Rich Meursault if two-dimensionally direct, out of a very good vintage. Unctuous along the line to mineral. Brings both butter and beauty. Layered and complex. Fine bass line, with percussion fills between the beats. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @MARCHANDTAWSE

 Good to go!

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Varietal Spanish wine

Meat Me in the Junction http://meatmeinthejunction.com

Meat Me in the Junction
http://meatmeinthejunction.com

In which camp do you take up permanent and loyal residence? Do you listen to, build your cellar around and taste exclusively of the singer-songwriter, the solo artist, the grape that goes it alone? Who are you? Varietal or blend?

Many a quarrel has landed on the subject of pitting meritage versus the single-varietal. The purist will argue that no combination of grapes can combine to make for the greatest of wines (save for Champagne). They will insist the skilled and important winemaker is one whose favourite medium is difficulty. That only the ones who are possessive of the cabalistic code can truly unlock the inner secrets of their art. That it can only done through the secret concentration and religious attention paid solely to one partner.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay perpetuate in globally made, 100 per cent single solutions, not to mention the behemoths of Shiraz, Malbec, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. To a lesser extent there are great vats composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Gamay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.

The viticultural right of assemblage is one of the perks in modern winemaking, propped up by and standing on the shoulders of Bordeaux giants. The blending of grapes in summations to argue that the whole is the proper gross of fractions is a celebration of the 21st century avant garde.

Related – Off the beaten Italian path

Yet times evolve, change and tesselate. Old becomes new again. In November I travelled off the beaten Italian varietal path in an investigation of the B-sides, the ones that no one else knows about. I met the awakening of the Italian grape vernacular, engineered for companionless a cappella troubadours, from Albana to Ribolla Gialla, endemic (or indigenous, if the nomenclature suits you) and ancient varieties that have entered a time of new dawn. A similar renaissance is happening in Spain.

In October, at the invite of the downright honourable good Dr. Barry Brown of the Spanish Wine Society, I had the opportunity to taste through a wide selection of the wines of Navarra. The region lies between Pamplona in the north and the Ebro River plain to the south. Non-native varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced in the eighties, but it is the native Viura, Tempranillo and Garnacha that drive the Navarran machine.

The Rosado of Navarra were exceptional and the best examples were composed from 100 per cent Garnacha. The single-varietal compositions in Garnacha and Tempranillo by Bodegas Principe de Viana drove the companionless point. The exception to the rule was found in the wines of Bodegas Tandem. The small winery in Tierra Estella (Yerri Valley) is fashioning blends using Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a combination of concrete vats and French oak. The slow ripening, meticulous handling and extended aging in wines crafted by José María Fraile is nothing short of exceptional. After all, they are called grape varieties and variety is the spice of life. Why shouldn’t blends have more fun?

In November I continued my Spanish odyssey with the wines of Garnacha. It was there that the solo records, in red and white really began to play in my varietal head. Garnacha (also known as Grenache) is one of the world’s oldest and most widely planted grapes. Its ability to assimilate the double-pronged effect of a Mediterranean climate and an Atlantic suffusion make it ideal for the Iberian Peninsula.

From left to right: Bodegas Tandem Ars Nova 2011, Bodegas Principe de Viana Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013, Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2012, Lafou Els Amelers 2013, Edetària Selecció Blanc 2012, Bodegas Pirineos Garnacha 2013 and Grandes Vinos y Viñedos El Anayón Selección Garnacha 2011

From left to right: Bodegas Tandem Ars Nova 2011, Bodegas Principe de Viana Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2013, Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2012, Lafou Els Amelers 2013, Edetària Selecció Blanc 2012, Bodegas Pirineos Garnacha 2013 and Grandes Vinos y Viñedos El Anayón Selección Garnacha 2011

As the most notorious grape variety with the ability to go ying or yang, Ac or Dc, red or white, Garnacha makes for a fascinating study. Three examples expressive of Blanca’s western European white vinous supremacy opened my eyes to its capabilities. Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla 2012 (Agent, $16.00) from Somontano made use of four months in two year-old oak barrels to help develop texture in as good a value Garnacha Blanca as could hope to find. The Lafou Els Amelers 2013 (Agent, $28.95) from Terra Alta is a gorgeous wine of salinity, calcium, white flowers, fine lines and elegance. The Edetària Selecció Blanc 2012 (Agent, $39.95) also from Terra Alta is the pure distilled embodiment of Garnacha Blanca with its own unique and distinct aroma.

The Toronto Garnacha tasting ushered by Sopexa Canada brought into focus the grape’s diverse spectrum spread liberally around Spanish wine regions. When Garnacha goes it alone the results are extremely varied, from simple syrup, inexpensive drops to seriously structured compositions. As a varietal wine it is extremely accessible and offers exploratory song lines for all walks of wine consumer life.

From Somontano there is the Bodegas Pirineos Garnacha 2013 (Agent, $17.00), a prime starter’s example all about structure, with rock, chalk and lime-like citrus accents. This is a red Garnacha for the white wine drinker. Grandes Vinos y Viñedos El Anayón Selección Garnacha 2011 (Agent, $30.00) hails from Cariñena. Reeking ethereal and attenuated in American Oak, the high toast, citrus tone, vanilla and Rhône-esque garrigue is palpable. Crazy sweet tannins will carry this big fruit Garnacha to the next decade with pleasing clarity.

So with thanks to Macabeo, Prieto Picudo, Mazuelo, Graciano, Garnacha and the people who brought them to us, the individual is freed from the collective. In a twist of Descartian philosophy, of mind and mechanism, varietal wine is handled with the treatment of oxymoronic social sciences. The result is a triumph of secular materialism, the conceit of modernity and the reduction of the world to a single, simple mechanism. Varietal atom splitting is a resource to be exploited in blind interaction with the living planet.

In the end there is only one vine, one grape, concentrating, developing, existing one at a time. Here are six full tasting notes on varietal wines, each allowed to shine without intrusion and on their own line.

From left to right: Torre Oria Reserva Brut Cava, Dominio Dostares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009, Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009, Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010 and Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2009

From left to right: Torre Oria Reserva Brut Cava, Dominio Dostares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009, Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009, Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010 and Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2009

Torre Oria Reserva Brut Cava, Método Tradicional, Do Valencia, Spain (402255, $15.95, WineAlign)

Made from 100 per cent Macabeo, this is from a winery that is the first to produce Cava from outside of the Penedes DO. Here, from Valencia, up front there is dust, must and concrete, evidence of a lees-induced oxdative lean and wish upon a star aridity. There comes a time when dry fizz does not have to be the way to go, especially when trying to please many palates in too tight a space. So up steps this formidable Cava (with 9-10 g/L RS), in quality, with a crush of gala apple, a weight and a texture like a shag rug. Sure, it may be a bit disco but it’s also so very retro hip. Like Gorillaz and Clint Eastwood with “the essence, the basics,” and its “got sunshine, in a bag.” On the oxidative side? Yes and “the future is coming on.” Drink up.  Tasted January 2015  @cavaswine  @DO_Cava

Dominio Dostares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (393140, $15.95, WineAlign)

A rare sighting of Prieto Picudo, one of the more idiosyncratic of grape varieties. This is the entry-level offering from Dominio Dostares (they make more precious best plot selection versions). Vines as ancient as 90 years old contribute briery cedar and leathery veins but this is quite modern, straightforward and aiming to please. Though a bit hot and heavy, the aridity (2 g/L RS) and the mineral streak keep it real. A harmonious if gangly red (from high acid soils), keeping warm and huddled within its hermetic, endemic environment. Short and simple, sweet and tart. Represents striking value in something other. Tasted January 2015  @oenophilia1  @_Cast_y_Leon

Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009, Do Navarra, Spain (391656, $17.95, WineAlign)

The release of relief in the activity of opportunity to taste something other, like 100 per cent Mazuelo, is just excellent. Compounded with the breath of fresh Spanish DO brought to the table by the current wave of Navarran wines, the experience is made that much more enjoyable. The wine is neither modest nor is it a mouse. Its body travels “on a road shaped like a figure eight.” It builds more than nothing out of something. The traced aromas are filled with pots of fresh flowers and the space is occupied by plenty of stuffing. No. 8 has a seamless, put together structure from the start. Silky and so very juicy with a streak of reminiscing rusticity. Great proper acidity and very stretched length. A very pretty if grounded and ode to history made wine.  Tasted January 2015  @navarrawine

Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla, DO La Mancha, Spain (392522, $17.95, WineAlign)

Not unlike Rioja, the wines of Tierra De Castilla in the heart of Spain are blessed with a Mediterranean climate augmented by an Atlantic influence. This organic winery is located beneath the Gredos Mountains in the Province of Toledo. The vineyards are protected from the northern winds by the mountain ranges. Though oft considered lower in quality, the Vino de la Tierra de Castilla designation is emerging from out of the Castilla-La Mancha shell. Tasting this 100 per cent Graciano just after a few months in oak and a bunch more in bottle before release would have shown more bright fruit and verve. Now four plus years later there is still much to admire in the high notes and brightness of the nose. Hard not to notice the strikingly and hauntingly beautiful aromatics. Also some dried fruit, like prune and turkish apricot. Akin to some Dão and some Rhône, without ever flirting with being baked or stewed flavours. Aridty juiced from rocks, acidity that follows suit and to nudge it forward in longer strides.  Tasted January 2015

Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010, Doca Rioja, Spain (397166, $21.95, WineAlign)

Such a unique and life reaffirming, giving back red Riojan. The singular, singled out Graciano comeback revolution is upon us and we are all the beneficiaries. Here there exhibits a different sort of profile. A veritable profiterole of anise, cured chorizo, dried flowers and some spices (violets and the wafting aromas of Patatas a la Riojana). Not to be left off the redolent list is a funk, one that is not merde, but rather an old school, skinned hide. At the price and best of all is that the Graciano is so very, very long, like the Camino Frances, from the Pyrenees, through Roncesvalles and to Rioja.  Tasted January 2015  @RiojaWine

Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2009, DO Somontano, Spain (Agent, $32.00)

Took a sip and “the breeze blew back my hair.” Made from 100 per cent Garnacha, the elevated liqueur on the nose is invigorating and initially, somehow disturbing.  The combined forces of macerated, steeping cherries, melting liquorice and bubbling tar is extraordinary. Enveloped by a tinging, pinging acidity, the wine is structured in chalk, grain and gravelly tannin. The barrel influence is ingrained and the wine is most certainly huge but the overall composition is fresh, red and viscid. What to do after being hit in the face with a wine such as this? “How can I measure up to anyone new, after such a love as this?” Who are you Secastilla? Be patient, let it ride for years, let it soften. The comeback tour will be fun.  Tasted November 2014  @VinasdelVero  @WoodmanWS

Good to go!

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