Monday, November 28, 2016

Bright, fresh, modern - the surprising new face of Bulgarian wine

It's not the first country Americans think of when it comes to wine, but Bulgaria actually has thousands of years of wine-making history. In fact, the cult of Dionysus originated here - Bulgaria takes its grapes seriously! 

 Yet this country, located northeast of Greece, is not stuck in ancient times, There's a new spirit of innovation that's leading to modern wines created for today's palate.  

At a seminar presented by the World Wine Guys Mike DiSimone and Jeff Jenssen, an audience of beverage media and trade tasted a range of wines made from both international varieties and indigenous Bulgarian grapes. There were some terrific surprises in the lineup.  

My favorite wines of the tasting included: 

- Version Plaisir Di Vin  2013 Cabernet Franc - delicious, fresh, black pepper and dark fruit, this wine won a silver medal at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. 
-F2F Chardonnay 2015 - notes of lime and minerality and delightfully crisp. 
-Pixels Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Blackberries, blueberries, high acid, this Cabernet is a far lighter rendition than Napa - and that's not such a bad thing. 
-Version Plaisir Di Vin 2013 Mavrud - Here is Bulgaria's hearty indigenous grape, offering savory quality of smoked meats but also nice pomegranate fruit. 
-Edoardo Miroglio Bio Mavrud and Rubin - This organic wine combines two indigenous grapes. The nose says "Bulgaria" but it's a more approachable rendition than when, in old times, it was said you could carry the wine in your handkerchief it was so dense. This blend had strong flavors of blackberry with black pepper. I compare it to the weight and spice of a good Carmenere.  

Clocking in under $20, these Bulgarian wines will expand your vinous world at an affordable price.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Chateau de La Dauphine delivers delicious value in right bank Bordeaux

It is the game many a Bordeaux-lover knows well.  If you love a certain appellation but can't afford it, look to the neighbors.

The highly esteemed wines of Pomerol are out of the reach of many a pocketbook, but there are other right bank Bordeaux appellations close by that deliver similar Merlot-based plushness at a fraction of the cost.

I had the opportunity to try some of the wines of Chateau de La Dauphine at a recent media lunch at Gramercy Tavern and was duly impressed by these rich red wines.

Chateau de La Dauphine is a historic property, so named because the Princess Maria-Josepha of Saxony (mother of Louis XVI) stayed several days at the chateau soon after it was built.  The chateau is situated in the Libourne region which comprises Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac.

With such esteemed neighbors, it's no surprise that the wines of Fronsac can be excellent, but often at a fraction of the cost of Pomerol or St. Emilion.

According to Marion Merker from the chateau, "The goal of Chateau de La Dauphine is to show the quality  of clay and limestone soil in a complex wine with character and elegance."  These wines are affordable, selling in the $18-$35 range, which Marion feels is correct, because, according to her, "Wine is to share, to enjoy, to taste."  In other words - we more often want wine that we can pull out today rather than cellar for decades.

Chateau de La Dauphine has made strides in its viticulture and today its vineyards are certified organic.  In addition, great care is show in the winemaking process.  Starting with the 2012 vintage, Michel Roland has been brought in as oenologist.

The vintages we sampled at lunch were all rich, smooth, and fully of red fruit, including:

Chateau de La Dauphine 2009 - With flavors of caramel and cherry this was rich, round, and plush - a great wine.

 Chateau de La Dauphine 2010 - A wine of good structure with greater acidity, drying tannins. This wine will be delicious in 3-5 years although can be drunk now.

Chateau de La Dauphine 2012 - A great vintage with more complexity. It will evolve well, but can be drunk now.  There are notes of licorice, caramel, vanilla, and ripe cherries.

The wines of Chateau de La Dauphine are available in the U.S. now.  For visitors in the Bordeaux region especially traveling to St. Emilion, Chateau de La Dauphine makes a wonderful visit, and it has garnered the Best of Wine Tourism award in 2016 from Great Wine Capitals.

Tis the season for Brunello, and La Mannella is ready to shine

When the temperature drops and holidays are here, it's the season for rich, red wines. And for memorable wines, too: This is when we pull something special from our cellars to make the evening unforgettable.

I met Tommaso Cortonesi earlier this year at a special tasting in New York when I was impressed with the quality vintages I tasted. His vineyards are located in some of the most highly prized sites both north and southeast from Montalcino, Italy.

I was thinking of his fantastic La Mannella wines recently when I came up on this article from The Times News which called the La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 "sublime and elegant."

La Mannella makes a range of wines starting with their satisfying entry level La Manella Rosso, now available in the 2013 vintage.

But it is the Brunellos that bring the winery the most accolades.  This winery ages these highly prized wines for five years before release.  I sampled the following Brunellos:

-  La Mannella Brunello di Montalicino 2010 and 2011
-  La Mannella Brunello di Montalicino Riserva 2010 Cortonesi
-  La Mannella Brunello di Montalicino  il Poggiarelli 2010 and 2011

These are all delicious wines of the highest quality, offering potpourri on the nose and redolent of dried cherries, spice, and earthiness on the palate.

As Christmas carols take over the airways, hasten to your nearest fine wine shop to stock up on some of these gems for your holiday meals. And remember, Brunellos often benefit from at least an hour in the decanter before serving.