Greetings from Esoteria
I rarely make resolutions, but this year I have decided to get weirder. Not personally (not possible), but in the selections of wines that I present to you. Although I’ve always strived to find classic wines with great ratings, I must admit to being a tad restless – there is a wide, electric-kaleidoscope of wines out there that I haven’t been featuring, simply because the region or producer is too small or too strange to submit for reviews or points.
Don’t worry, I haven’t moved into a yurt and renamed myself Treasure. These wines aren’t themselves bizarre, they’re just undiscovered and unusual. I’ll still scour the province to bring you the newest exciting, must-have wines and great points-to-price ratios, but from time to time I hope you’ll allow me to show you snapshots of the Awesome World of Wine that exists far from the main roads, somewhat unsung but no less essential and no less beautiful. To the juice:
Domaine du Cellier “Cuvée Clemence” Rousette de Savoie 2016, Savoie, France
A pretty postcard from the French Alps. You’ve probably never tasted the white grape Roussette (also known as Altesse) but then you’ve likely never encountered a wine from Savoie (often Anglicized to Savoy) either, so here’s a great regional primer: https://winefolly.com/review/savoie-wine-guide/ . This Cuvée Clemence is a rich, oily masterpiece of quince, lavender and flowers, medium weight and dry with a touch of honey on the long finish. Acts like a Northern Rhone White (Marsanne/Roussanne) but with more aromatics. Gets nuttier and toastier with 5 years of down time but is super-yowzers now – I’m not waiting. Exclusive to EW River District. 3 6-packs available, $42.98 +tax
Suvla “Sir” 2011, Gallipoli, Turkey
The only thing unusual about this Syrah-based blend is where it comes from: if I didn’t tell you it was from Turkey, you’d be jumping up and down with glee for finding such a great-value French wine. Two thirds Syrah with Grenache, Merlot and Cab Franc, Sir is from family-owned vineyards on the Gallipoli peninsula, the European side of Turkey, and it drinks like a southern Rhône blend from a hot year. There are many unpronounceable rustic grapes in Turkey that make wines of varying weirdness, but Sir is not one of those. Oodles of dark berries and licorice weigh down the tongue before the spicy finish caps off with elegant acidity and astringency. 3 6-packs available, $40.98 +tax
Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon 1994, Anjou, France
Founded in 1787 overlooking the middle section of the Loire River, the 8 generations of winemakers at Moulin Touchais have all followed a curious business model: they only make the dessert wine they’re most famous for in the years where the intermittent fog brings botrytis (Noble Rot, same process as Sauternes) to their Chenin Blanc vineyards – and that happens almost never. Since every late harvest is wildly different (especially when you let the indigenous yeast just do its thing), every sparse vintage of their Coteaux du Layon is varied in sweetness, and this 1994 is on the drier side – think more like an oily, ripe Auslese than an Icewine – with wildly vibrant acidity. Heather and honeysuckle drive the floral nose, clean, juicy and fresh on palate, finishes with sweet lemon curd and a touch of brioche. Gorgeous. 2 6-packs available, $50.98 +tax
Chateau d’Epire Savennieres 2016, Anjou, France
Just across the river from Coteaux du Layon is Savennieres, home to some of the richest, most concentrated dry Chenin Blanc this side of South Africa. The schist-grown Chenin (known as Pineau de Loire, locally) is lees-aged in neutral wood, and the extra junk in the trunk, alongside Chenin’s natural acidity, is a recipe for a long cellar journey – although the absence of tannins makes it quite crushable, presently. Drinking is winning and holding is winning, here, and the Bizard family has spent 6 generations getting the syncopated, drawn-out harvest just right so that you have enough acidity and enough glycerine to do both. That bumping sound you hear is your patio asking you to get some of this for summer. 3 6-packs available, $58.98 +tax
Fasoli Gino “Sande” Pinot Nero Veronese 2008, Veneto, Italy
Telling you that this is the best 10-year-old Amarone made from Pinot Noir you’ll ever drink is a) absolutely true and b) not helpful, because no one else does anything close to this. The Pinot, grown north of Verona, is harvested early, around the end of August to preserve essential acidity, then laid to dry on straw mats (like Amarone) before crush, followed by a 4-year residency in French oak. Sande is to Pinot as Hulk is to Dr. Banner, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Unlike Amarone, Sande is not opaque (Pinot isn’t that pigmented, even when in near-raisin form) and the wine isn’t sweet at all, the aromatics and mid-palate, however, burn with the rage of a dying star. Intense and focused, more elegant than hulks usually are, and also a bit of a cult item back home. 12 bottles available, $85.98 +tax
Until next time, Happy Drinking!!