Happy 2019! It’s a new year to toast and taste some of the incredible international selections. When thinking about what to enjoy for your evening glass, consider taking an adventure everyday in every glass. Here are a few standouts that have crossed my palate recently. Story originally published in West Hawaii Today, January 1, 2019.
Though I sadly can’t recall the winery that produced my first “ah ha” wine, I know it was an earthy, savory, robust yet refined Barolo. Crafted from the Nebiollo variety, delivering silky layers of dark cherry, tar, licorice and herb, like Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo ($55.)
Labor intensive to produce, (but so worth it in the end,) Italian Amarone blends ripe Valpolicella fruit with air-dried, concentrated grapes to create a multi-dimensional wine with dried fig, dried cherry, and sweet spice notes, as displayed in Cantine Buglione Amarone Della Valpolicella ($82).
Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese from rolling Tuscan hills with dry weather conditions making vines dig deep into mineral-rich earth, imparting the flavors of the land in every grape. Altesino Brunello di Montalcino ($70) is fleshy and seductive, with blackberry, dark chocolate and violets. Blending Sangiovese Grosso Merlot Cannaiolo Colorino, Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($33) creates layers of tart cherry, licorice, woody herb, and cedar.
Riesling shines when paired with the island’s plentiful amounts of seafood and shellfish, especially those from Germany. Highly aromatic, vibrant, fresh and very dry, with perfumed floral notes of white flowers, apple blossom, and lemon leaf, melding with crisp golden apple, lemon, and honey, as displayed in Pfeffingen Dry Riesling ($25) from Pfalz and Weiser-Kunstler Rudesheimer Drachenstein Riesling Trocken ($25).
Though a bit confusing, Syrah and Shiraz are essentially the same genetically, but the wines produced are very different. Old World Syrah tends to be leaner and earthier, as in the wines of the Rhone, where Shiraz, made popular in Australia, can be fleshier, richer and fruit-forward. Hickinbotham Brooks Road Shiraz ($88) from McLaren Vale, Australia, layers black plum, black licorice, and allspice. Rhone’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends up to 18 varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Piquepoul Gris, and Mourvedre, to create textured, highly structured, concentrated wines. Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($75) layers black olive, herbs de Provence and blackberry with meaty, bacon-fat and tobacco notes on the finish. Spain’s Priorat region in Catalonia blends similar varieties to the Rhone, highlighting old-vine Garnacha, Syrah, and Carignan, as in Torres Salmos ($57) blend balancing tannin and acid for a complex wine with crushed stone minerality, ripe black plum, and earthy forest floor.
International production of Pinot Noir is thriving, in recent years with elevated cool-climate selections from New Zealand. Brancott Estate “T” Terraces Pinot Noir ($40) melds ripe cherry, berry, toasted oak, and black tea. Loveblock Pinot Noir ($39) reveals wild violets, strawberry, pomegranate, and herb.