I thought for a while about the title that we gave to this tasting, before choosing the wines that I was going to pour. The Weirder the better… But what is weird when it comes to grape varieties? With over 10,000 known grape varieties used in wine-making, it would be much easier to define what a well-known grape variety than what is not. So many indigenous grapes, so many wine producing areas in the world… And what is weird for me could be very familiar to you, depending of your tasting experiences, your trips, your food and wine culture. So I decided to orient my choices with my personal experience selling wine to customer and how people are generally not familiar with these interesting wines that I am about to present. No Chardonnay or Syrah tonight, but tasty, great alternatives that hopefully, are going to expend your horizon when it comes to choose a wine.
2005 Domaine du Haut Bourg, Muscadet Côtes de Granlieu $27.99
Varietal: 100% Melon de Bourgogne
Côtes de Granlieu AOC, Loire, France
Third generation winemakers Luc and Jérôme Choblet are located the Côtes de Grandlieu sub-appellation of Muscadet, and they only release their wines after it has had extended time aging. Great value white wine from France’s beautiful Loire Valley Atlantique and one of my favorite grape, perfect to replace the expensive wines from Chablis for your next oyster party! Pretty, with lemon curd, verbena and honeysuckle notes woven together, carried by a creamy, lightly waxy feel through the salted butter finish. And when is the last time that had the chance to try a 2005 white wine for under 30$? Just an amazing and surprising bottle of wine! In my top 5 best white wine in the store this summer.
2015, Lagar de Costa Rías Baixas Albariño $27.99
Varietal: 100 % Albariño
Rías Baixas, Spain
A must. Simply a must, if you love white wine, and especially if you love interesting, beautiful white wines that leave you wanting more. Lagar de Costa is a small winery that produces Albariño from an estate-grown 50-year-old vineyard. Albariño is talked of in the same breath as Viognier and Gewurztraminer, but there is always a fresh sea breeze, acid minerality to match the grapefruit and apple blossom scent and yeasty softness of texture. Albarino is considered to be the most fashionable white grape variety of Spain, but it is still a fairly new trend in Alberta. And yes, it’s that delicious! Albarino is definitely on my personal top five favorite white grape varieties and I recommend it as often as I can in the store, with many customers coming back for more!
2013, Manzone Rossese Bianco $32.99
Varietal: 100% Rossese Bianco
Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
One to check out if you’re intrigued by indigenous, unusual wines from Italy. There are just three barrels produced of this totally unique white wine. Aged in 500L barrels for one year, with 100% malolactic fermentation and regular bâtonnage, this has a Chardonnay like weight and feel with intriguing nuances of orange peel, acacia flower, peach macerated in dark honey, and melon. Roasted chicken wine, perfect for the fall!
2014, Carlisle Grüner Vetliner Steiner Vineyard $48.99
Varietal: 100% Grüner Vetliner
Sonoma County, California, USA
There are only six producers of Grüner Veltliner in America and Carlisle is la crème de la crème, according to the critics. Just the barest hint of green on the straw core. Perfumed aromas of white grapefruit, unripe pineapple, and snap peas. Austrian soul, but with the warmth and tropical character of California wines! Medium-bodied with flavors of grapefruit, lime, honeydew melon, and white pepper. A bit more cool-climate-y than previous renditions. This wine can certainly be enjoyed now but should develop additional complexity with age. One for the cellar!
2015, Domaine de L’Idylle, Clos L’Idylle Mondeuse $24.99
Varietal: 100% Mondeuse
Domaine de l’Idylle is located in the Bauges Mountains, in the heart of the village of Cruet in the Savoie region of France, also known as the Rhône Alpine. Look for lots of fresh fruit, especially raspberry and black currant. It’s delicately structured and there’s a vein of white pepper, fresh green herbs and bell-pepper flavors that lend crispness to the finish. Mondeuse makes a great partner for a platter of charcuterie and cheese and with his 11.5% alcohol; it makes the perfect aperitif red wine. I am always looking for new light body red wine, especially in the summer. I value acidity and balance and mountain wines like this Mondeuse never stop fascinating me. Definitely an alternative to Pinot Noir!
2014, Coca I Fitó Tolo do Xisto $33.99
Varietal: 100% Mencía
Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain
Tolo do Xisto is a new project from the team at one of our favourite Spanish wineries, Coca i Fitó, with the Galician winemaker Andrea Obenza. The name means “mad about slate”. The winemaking process strives to transmit the mineral essence of the area through the different soils along the Sil river banks. A mineral, almost salty wine, is achieved which is aromatic, with good acidity. Penetrating smooth tannins, acidic red fruit attack with a blueberry infused core, balsamic notes, spices, but above all, it is very delicate with an eternal finish. I really appreciate the natural freshness of the mencia grape and in the hand of talented winemarkers, it can become a real gem. Most of the mencia wines retails for less than 30$. For that reason, Mencia is consistently one of my go-to value oriented varietal.
2014, Durigutti Bonarda $18.99
Varietal: 100% Bonarda
After talking to many customers in the store about Bonarda, I realized that very few people know this varietal. You might be surprised to learn that Bonarda is the second most widely planted red grape variety in Argentina. DNA analysis has proven that the Argentina Bonarda is in fact not related to the Italian grape Bonarda di Chieri and Bonarda del Monferrato from Piedmont. Also known as Charbono, Corbeau or Douce Noire, the grape was historically grown in the Savoie region in the French Alps, but his almost instinct there. The grape produces a light, fruity wine with a rustic character. The Durigutti brothers, Hector and Pablo, have made an exceptional example of this little-known variety! Lush and spicy ripe-fruit driven nose, with notes of red Bing cherry, plum, chocolate, and menthol on the finish. Bright, refreshing acidity holds everything together and makes this an excellent choice with spicy foods. My favorite pairing for this bonarda: a comfy couch and a movie, in good company!
2014, Massena The Howling Dog $49.99
Varietals: 72% Saperavi, 16% Petite Sirah, 12% Tannat
Barossa Valley, Australia
Made from a blend of Saperavi (a red grape from the region of Eastern Georgia), Petite Sirah (also called Durif in Australia), and Tannat (main varietal of the Madiran wines of South West France), this is no ordinary pup! Black as night and laden with an abundance of natural structure and personality, the palate surprises with immense flavor, but with all elements in balance. Aromas of beetroot, tilled earth and juniper, the palate has an inky, iodine like deepness with elements of roasted coriander and cumin and a structure that is evident, but intriguingly supple. Built more along the lines of a marathon runner than a sprinter, it is surprisingly approachable now, but will greatly reward those who choose to keep a few bottles well into the future.
After asking the people to vote for their 2 favorite of the night, the verdict:
Ex Aequo in first place:
2014 Massena The Howling Dog (Saperavi, Durif & Tannat) from Australia
2015 Lagar de Costa Albarino from Spain
Ex Aequo in second place:
2014 Durigutti Bonarda
2014 Carlisle Gruner Vetliner
Interesting fact: First and second place, one red and one white for each, including the most expensive as well as the cheapest red and white wines of the night. That is just proving that you can find interesting varietal in all price point that are both delicious and intriguing.