We love our go-to Chardonnay and Cabernet wines, but in the wide, wide world of wine, there are so many interesting, elegant, elevated options beyond these two highly produced international varieties. Today at 11am on KXAS-TV/NBC DFW in Dallas I will share a few selections from around the world that may not be on your go-to radar, but should be. A link to the segment is here. More on the wines discussed today below, as well as a few additional favorites. #Cheers!
Austria’s signature variety, with over 30% of vineyards in the country planted, Gruner Veltliner can be light, fresh, and vibrant with gorgeous mineral intensity, or round and rich, with layers of stone fruit and citrus. Farming completely biodynamically, Loimer Lois Gruner Veltliner 2018 ($17) leans towards the former, with highly aromatic aromas, followed by flavors of green apple, ripe citrus, bitter greens, and soft herbs with vibrancy and energy.
Pinot Grigio is considered to be an “international variety,” but the wines of Alto Adige, Italy are anything but typical, transforming well-known varieties into something of sublime greatness. Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2018 ($19) from this high altitude elevations at the base of the Dolomite Mountains shines with incredible acidity and freshness, adding texture and structure to the lush, lively, fruit-forward wine with golden apple, lemon zest, and a hint of soft herbal notes.
The volcanic soils of the Greek island of Santorini deliver white wines with focused intensity and abundance, particularly in their racy Assyrtiko wines. GAI’A Thalassitis Assyrtiko 2018 ($37) reveals a focused, lean, mineral intense palate that is softened by highly aromatic notes of honeysuckle and lemon blossom. Very dry and very fresh, the wine is the ideal pairing with grilled sardines or briny grilled clams.
Highly influenced by salty ocean air, Albarino is the white wine of Galicia, Spain. However, in the southern hemisphere, this luscious white variety also thrives in the Atlantic Ocean influenced vineyards of Uruguay. Bodega Garzon capitalizes on briny sea breezes through their Garzon vineyards thanks to this close proximity to the ocean, bringing a mineral salty note to their white peach and melon filled Bodega Garzon Albarino ($20) perfect with grilled octopus or fresh dayboat fish.
Aromatic, elevated, and completely bone dry, Altano Douro White 2017 (SRP $14.99) allows earthy, mineral intense white varieties native to Portugal to shine in a clean, approachable wine. Blending Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Rabigato, and Moscatel Galego varieties showcase aromatic qualities of the sunshine-filled fruit, revealing great acidity, with wildflowers, apple blossom, and zesty citrus notes.
Lievland Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2018 (SRP $18.99) from South Africa displays why this white, also known as Steen in the country, has been the signature variety of the region for generations. With 100% of the vines used to produce this pineapple, golden peach, and apricot filled wine planted at least forty years ago, and being dry-farmed, the wine has developed incredible texture and structure, while remaining completely refreshing, elegant, and delicious.
From limestone and clay soils in the toe of Italy’s boot, also known at Calabria, Librandi Duca San Felice Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva DOC 2015 ($19) is full-bodied and powerful, with big tannin and acidity. By fermenting and aging in stainless steel for 3 years, followed by a bit of bottle aging before releasing the wine to the marketplace, the wine softens to create a well-rounded and balanced palate, with dried cherry, pomegranate, and wet stone.
The king of Italian wines, Barolo reigns as the ah-ha wine for me. Produced from the Nebbiolo variety in the Northwestern Italian hills of Piemonte, Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne 2014 ($50) reveals savory notes of tobacco, leather, and tar, with black cherry, and beautiful truffle-filled earthiness. The ideal wine to enjoy with Italian ragu dishes and mushroom risotto.
From the island of Mallorca, blending indigenous Callet, Mantonegro, and Fogoneu, with a touch of Syrah, Anima Negra AN/2 ($30) is on the softer side of dense red wines typically from Spain. Layering lush strawberry, raspberry and spice, the wine reveals appealing floral and fruit notes, making it perfect for a spring or summer wine.
Celebrated for their hands-off methods for producing delicious Montepulciano wines, Azienda Agricola Poliziano Vin Nobile de Montepulciano ($30) layers lush red cherry, black plum, warm toasted spice, and chocolate together for an ideal winter wine pairing with wild boar, roasted pork belly, or a marbled ribeye steak.
Volcanic soils of Sicily creates a mineral intense, crushed stone earthiness in Tenuta di Fessina Erse Rosato (SRP $24.99) blending indigenous Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, growing at the base of lava-filled soils on Mount Etna. Slightly bitter, with sour cherry, cranberry, pomegranate and a hint of orange blossom honey, creating a touch of creaminess in the very crisp, clean rose wine.
Blending Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, Buscado Vivo o Muerto El Manzano Los Chacayes (SRP $53.99) is anything but conventional, and yet completely beautiful. With high elevations vineyards sitting in the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Mendoza, grapes capture freshness and acidity, ensuring the pretty qualities of the vines, like the fresh floral and soft fruit notes, are highlighted in the highly concentrated, highly expressive wine.
There are over 300 varieties of wine grapes in Italy. From Marche, Italy, Umani Ronchi Fonte del Re 2018 (SRP $23.99) is 100% Lacrima, an ancient variety the region has saved, that thrive in the nutrient-poor soils near the Adriatic Sea. Best enjoyed young, as smooth tannins don’t need time to soften, the wine opens with floral notes of violets, followed by blackberry and cherry.
From Spain’s Ribera del Duero, Domino Fournier Reserva 2014 ($50) shines with elegance and character, showcasing Tempranillo, or Tinta del Pais as it is known locally, fruit that is grown in prime northern Spanish vineyards. The fruit is grown on the edge of the Duero River, ensuring freshness in the fruit, and then aged 18 months in French oak, bottled in 2016. With 2014 being the current release of the wine, the additional four years of bottle aging has allowed the wine to round out, soften, and become completely enticing, showcasing black fruit, woody herb, pencil lead, and toasted cedar. A beautiful wine for pairing with platters of succulent Spanish ham.