Tasting: Unexpected Wine Gems


The Full Circle Beverage Conference started off on a very high note with a wine seminar on unexpected gems from around the world. The focus of the tasting was on unusual grapes that are probably not on current radars. It was a very well thought out and diverse tasting as we worked our way through everything from sparkling wine from England (surprisingly complex) to Tannat from Bolivia (yes Bolivia!) I’m always delighted to see the efforts of mavericks who are working on the cutting edge of wine production, it definitely makes my job more interesting.

Here are the wines we tasted along with my notes.  

2014 Ridgeview Blanc de Noirs, East Sussex, England $95 - 68% Pinot Noir, 32% Pinot Meunier, 3 years tirage, no oak, Jancis Robinson referred to this as the Grandaddy of English sparkling wine. First vintage was 1996, released in 1999. First to introduce Chard, PN, PM to English soils for sparkling production. Limited release range. Toasted nuts, brioche, lemon-lime curd, creamy mousse, persistent finish. Combination of fruit, length and depth.

1994 Quinta Poco do Lobo Arinto, Beiras, Portugal $60 - Planted in 1950. According to Master Sommelier Peter Granoff’s research, there are roughly ten other grapes in Portugal that are referred to as Arinto but are not really Arinto. This is true Arinto. The grape take a while to come into its own. Smells like toasted cumin, tropical mango, nuts, honeycomb, dried honey with searing acidity and oxidative notes on the finish.

2017 Bouza Riesling,Pan de Azucar, Maldonado, Uruguay $30 - Juan Bouza acquired and restored the winery in 2002 with money obtained from selling his business. He was the largest producer of frozen empanadas in South America at time of the sale. Eduardo Boido, winemaker, considered most gifted in Uruguay. Vineyards are planted close to the Atlantic. Rocky and very exposed site to sea breezes. Bright acidity, lime, honey, white flowers, bone dry, high acid, needs filling out.

2018 Sovibar Mamore de Borba, DOC Talha Branco, Borba, Alentejo, Portugal - This is a Talha wine, Talha means amphora. Made according to specific regulations: grapes must be de-stemmed, fermentation must be in clay (impermeable pots), wine must stay in pots until at least November, only 3 types of vessels are used for winemaking (amphoras, cement cubes, old large wood tonneaux), almost all crushing is done in marble lagars. Surprisingly light and fresh with creamy fruit quality. Savory herbs and umami.

2017 Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc, Gamlitz, Styria, Austria $32 - Kranach vineyard situated between the towns of Gamlitz and Leutschach, mainly planted with Sauvignon Blanc (approx. 90%). Unique combination of soils (limestone sands with light mica) shows an unmistakable spiciness in the wines. About 100 acres under vine, estate dates back to 1887. Belong to the STK (Styrian Terroir and Classic Winegrowers). Difficult climate to grow grapes in, hail, steep, marginal climates, 115% slopes, death defying. Green herbs, sauvage quality, tomato leaf, white pepper., lime zest.

2016 Yangarra Estate, Roux Beaute Roussanne, Australia, McLaren Vale, Fleurieu, South Australia $50 - 7 months in 90% old French, 10% new French. 335 bio-dynamically farmed acres. The Roux Beaute Roussanne comes from a plot selection of older vines. Fermenting and aged in concrete eggs. Only white that they make. Rich mouthfeel, slight nutty quality but fresh acidity, complexity of the nose, Roussanne is not a widely aromatic grape, white flowers, smooth texture, alcohol disappears into the lift of acidity. Reminds me of white Burgundy. Fine grained tannins give it some structure and doesn’t make it flabby.

 2011 Quinta dos Roques Reserva Tinto, Dao, DOC, Beiras, Portugal $35 - 200 different grapes grown in Portugal. 55% Touriga Nacional, 15% Jaen, 15% Alfrocheiro, 10% Tinta Roriz and 5% Tinto Cao. Dao is a Relatively cool area sitting on a granite base (Douro sits on schist, Dao is the meat in the granite sandwich). Black plums, black fruit, violets, concentrated structure and texture, floral lift that is more pronounced in the Dao vs. Douro, more perfumed. Firm tannins. Barely moved even though it is 2011, still very primary in style. Dao features more elegance and lift vs. Douro.

2016 Gai’A Estate Agiorgitiko, Koutsi, Nemea, Greece $23 - Pioneers in the modern Greek movement. Pronounced Ya Ya, means grandmother but they mean it as mother earth. St. George. Agiorgitiko often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Reminds me of Merlot. Red berry fruit, tobacco, dusty leafy elements associated with Bordeaux, aged in French oak for 12-14 months, vanilla notes but not distracting.

2017 Aranjuez Tannat, Valle de los Cintis, Tarija, Bolivia $25 - Bolivia’s high elevation winemaking tradition dates back to the 16th century, there are 65 wineries and less than 10 export. Muscat of Alexandria accounts for 70% of grapes planted in Bolivia, most is used to distill the pisco-like spirit, singani. Vineyards sit at 6600 feet elevation with very cool nights. Elevation, a very arid wine-growing area. 90% of vineyard plantings concentrated on the border to Argentina. During the silver mining boom in the 1500’s, grape growing exploded, Bolivia had the most productive silver mine anywhere in the world. Wine industry is a by-product of another economic activity. Folks get thirsty, they want to drink. Tannat has a reputation for coarse tannins, brutish, rough and rustic style. Comparable to Petite Sirah. Aromas of coffee beans, mocha, good management of the tannins. Ripe, black olives, kirsch, green bayleaf quality, meaty and smokey. Plush and approachable in youth. High altitude wines. 4,000-9,000 ft. elevation. High level of polyphenols and phenolic ripeness without going overboard on the alcohol, maintains acidity.

2015 Gerard Bertrand Clos d’Ora, Minervois La Liviniere, Langudoc, France $225 - Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan. Former rugby player. Biodyamic practioner. My bottle was corked.

2015 Downes Family Wines, Mt. Bullet Merlot, Elgin, Cape South Coast, South Africa $90 - 100% matured in barriques for approximately 20 months. Elgin is known as the apple and pear center of South Africa. Elgin is the coolest region in South Africa, surrounded by mountains on all sides, herbal character, cool climate, green, black olives, bell pepper quality that reminds me of chili peppers. Concentrated ripe black fruit notes. Fine, well integrated tannins with plush texture and drying finish.

2016 Sparkman Cellars, Gaga, Touriga Nacional Blend, Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington State $55 - 75% Touriga Nacional, 17% Syrah, 8% Syrah. Snipes Mountain named after Ben Snipes, a cattle baron who settled in the area, perfect vantage point to keep track of his holdings. Same floral lift as in the Dao. Violets and perfumed.

Alpana SinghComment