So for this “Wine of the Week” I’m using “alternative facts.” I guess I’m also taking some liberties with my title of this post, so I’ll move along and explain myself.
This week’s “Wine of the Week” is a wine from the Southern “Rhone” Valley in France, specifically, the region and Gigondas. While “technically” the Rhone River doesn’t quite run through Gigondas, that area resides closely to it. So I took some creative license to come up with the title.
What’s really important is the wine itself.
Domaine Palon Gigondas 2017
That’s not a misprint on the vintage. It has to be one of the earliest wines I’ve seen from that area. It’s what also drew me to the wine. After two great vintages, 2015 & 2016, from the Rhone Valley, I was curious if 2017 would stand up against the two previous years. Early indications are that 2017 should be another great year. An early harvest with production estimates being much lower than in previous years.
With a barrel sample review from Wine Advocate of 94 – 96 Points, it was worth a shot!
Being such a young wine, I knew that proper aerating would be required, or, even better, a couple of years in the wine cellar. Didn’t want to wait a couple of years, so I opted for aeration. Removing the cork I let the wine gurgle into my decanter to get a jump start on the whole process. This is one of those times when, even being retired and having nowhere to go and not much else to do, I find it difficult to be patient. Two hours minimum with an emphasis on more like 3 or 4 is what is called for.
Even given the time necessary to prepare dinner, in this case, Pork Tenderloin, Sweet Potato and Sugar Snap Peas, I was still left with waiting over an hour using the two-hour minimum, but much more under the optimum situation. How exasperating! (Did I gain any sympathy?)
In this case, the word compromise comes to mind. It was over two hours but a tad short of three that I allowed the wine to breathe. I knew that I would be drinking the wine through and after dinner, so I would get a little closer to the time I felt was needed.
Focusing on the wine (isn’t that what this is all about after all) I was struck by aromas lifting from my glass. Big and bright with that dark red fruit component. Hoping for the same on my palate, I sipped, allowing the wine to get that last burst of aeration. Good news bad news. As I was afraid, the wine did show its youth. It was still what is usually called “tight.” Not showing all of its potential. Still, I could sense the first nuances of that dark red fruit, the earthy backbone of tannins and a finish that pleases.
Dinner complete, and drinking the wine sparingly up to this point, allowed me to extend that aeration time even well past the four hours I had guessed the wine originally needed. Now things were getting interesting. The fruit became much more alive while still retaining those earthy characteristics found in Rhone wines. A slightly softer and rounder mouth feel also presented itself. Another fantastic wine from another great vintage.
Some technicals for the wine savvy, or maybe geeks like me. The wine is a blend of 79% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 6% Mourvèdre. A year residing in large oak casks for the Syrah and Mourvedre. Click here for the tech sheet. At around $20 a bottle, this looks to be an outstanding selection for either the cellar or for every day. Although, if you drink it anytime in the near future, don’t forget to decant for a good long time! Use something I don’t have…. patience! Maybe watch the movie “A River Runs Through It?”
I recently attended a particular wine tasting featuring Italian wines, I was overcome with the quality of all of the selections. Not necessarily what would be called a high-end tasting; it did nonetheless have a few higher-end wines, primarily Brunello’s and those called “Super Tuscan.”
Italian wines have always been a soft spot for me ever since my early days before entering the wine business mostly due to the fact that there was this particular manager at a local wine shop that featured Italian wines. His memories of his visits and his love of wines from Italy poured over to those of us most fortunate to have gotten to know him. He was also notorious for always having a couple of wines for those better customers that he kept “under the counter” during those tastings that would allow us to partake of some of the truly great wines he had in the store.
To give some background, all of this was taking place right around when the 1997 Vintage from Italy was being distributed. Meaning the wines were OUTSTANDING! Of course, those “under the counter” wines seemed to always be those with just a slightly (or more so) price tag. So I have him to thank for my emergence into paying higher and higher prices for wine. Mind you I said “thank” as it may have impacted my wallet in a not so friendly way, it did introduce me to the world of those spectacular wines from all areas of the world.
Enough past history (wait, isn’t all history by definition in the past?). So I’m at the event and as always, I first peruse the selection of wine taking particular note of those wines that I just can’t miss. Noting that there are around 40 wines in total to try. I start out to pace myself with the intent to try most of them. “Wait” you ask. “Don’t you just spit out the wines tried?” I subscribe to the 4 S’s; SSSS*.
Off I go, beginning with the white wines. Couldn’t really say there was a bad one in the bunch. I do love Pinot Bianco and Arneis, but on this occasion, I happened across something a little different. Knowing my affinity for Sauvignon Blanc as all of you do (or should if you read my blog), I tried this little number from Venezia Giulia in the far Northeastern region of Italy. Soon to be its own “Wine of the Week.”
Then on to the reds! Once again, some excellent examples of wines from a variety of regions. It’s important to note for those out there who love Italian wines that the 2015 Vintage is on equal footing with 1997! That means; the quality of a good number of 2015 wines will be excellent and an ideal time to stock up on if need be, or to splash a little more frivolously, if so inclined, but don’t dally too long as they are going fast.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite Italian wines, Barolo from the Nebbiolo grape, was not present. There were a few Brunello’s and a couple of what can only be described as that moniker “Super Tuscan.” Let’s focus there as that’s where this “Wine of the Week” hails from.
By chance, I began with the Brunellos. A trio of excellent wines from a couple of different vintages. On to the “ST’s” (short for Super Tuscans). First up was the Le Volte dell’Ornellaia. Merlot-based from the home of one of the original ST’s. Beautiful wine and one that deserves a shout out. A couple of others, but then to the pièce de résistance.
Off in the distance, I see a wine from a producer that I know. Fèlsina! Famous for their Chiantis and producing a few wines outside of the DOCG area. AKA – ST! Got all those abbreviations? In this case the
Fèlsina Fontalloro 2015
Fèlsina is located on the southeast edge of the Chianti Classico appellation and nestled between the Chianti Classico and Crete Senesi areas, in the direction of Montalcino. Focused predominantly on Sangiovese, they do make a wine of Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay, a couple of Spumantes and a Vin Santo. Oh, let’s not forget the Olive Oil!
But back to the star of the tasting! From the first sip, I was hooked. While I love Brunello, the one factor that I have is that they have become slightly less full-bodied than of vintages past. Not terrible, just lighter. I missed that and find the same is true for Barolo as well. The exception tends to be in the higher price category where you do get a fuller bodied wine. Brunellos are also 100% Sangiovese grapes having specific regulations as to their production and aging. The Fontalloro is 100% Sangiovese as well, but that first sip gave me more of what I remember, a fuller bodied wine! Beautiful dark rich fruit with a certain savory and rustic note to balance the wine oh so delicately.
I would guess that this is one of their wines that go toe-to-toe with Brunello. Aged in new and one use French Oak barrels for 18 to 22 months and a minimum of 8 to 12 months in the bottle, that vinification closely resembles those used in the production of Brunello. The one outward appearance difference is the numbered government DOCG band around the foil of the bottles. Brunellos coming from that DOCG region will have that band, while the Fontalloro has been given the classification of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), a classification established in 1992 to help elevate certain wines from the lowest classification of VdT (Vino da Tavola: meaning “table wine”).
Next came the unofficial classification of “Super Tuscan.” As mentioned, to identify those wines of superb quality that do not adhere to Italian wine laws. Some of the most famous being Tignanello Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto, and a number composed of non-traditional grapes such as Cabernet or Merlot and some, like Fontalloro, being Sangiovese.
History lesson concluded, after falling in love with this wine I set about checking scores. It really came as no surprise seeing a score of 97 Points from Wine Advocate, 96 from Vinous Media and 94 from Wine Spectator. No brainer, in my shopping basket! What was even better, given the quality of this wine, at around $55 a bottle, it is less than most (but not all) Brunellos and considerably less expensive than the aforementioned ST’s. Click here for the tech sheet.
So grab this “Super Tuscan” if you can still find it, remember, it’s a Super Wine as well!
*SSSS - Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swallow
I know that the title of this post is going to come across as a bit of a stretch, no, a LOT of a stretch. How or what is Sibling Rivalry in wine?
A better place to start is at the beginning, seems logical.Read More
Wine-Searcher describes the Coda di Volpe grape as: “a white wine grape used to make medium- to full-bodied white wines since ancient times in Campania, southern Italy. The name Coda di Volpe means "tail of the fox", and was given in reference to the variety's long, pendulous bunches of grapes, which resemble a fox's bushy tail. Coda di Volpe grapes are golden-yellow in color, as is the wine they make.”
I felt it fitting to start this post off with a description of this week’s “Wine of the Week” as even in my long and illustrious career (too much?) I had never run into wine using this particular grape variety before. So then you might ask (I even asked myself this same question), why do a review on a wine I had never had before and how did I come to choose it in the first place?
The latter is pretty simple to answer. I was given a bottle of the wine. Why do a review? Much like George Mallory’s answer why he wanted to climb Mount Everest: “Because it’s there!” In my case, it was, “because I have it!” This particular Coda di Volpe is the:
Terredora Di Paolo Irpinia Le Starse Coda di Volpe 2017
Here’s another one of those pesky labels that we have to decipher. Easy peasy though. Terredora Di Paolo is the winery, plain enough. Irpinia is the region of Italy this wine comes from. Located about 50 miles East of Napes in the heart of Campania and recently (2005) elevated to the status of DOC (please don’t ask me what DOC means). Le Starse would normally be the name given to the wine or possibly the name of the vineyard. After exhaustive research (well maybe 15 minutes), I got nothin’.
Native to Irpinia, this wine, as described in the first paragraph, does produce a medium bodied wine with a slight pear taste. Citrus was also present as was nice, but not overbearing, acidity, most likely coming from the fact that this wine region is in the shadows of Mount Vesuvius and its volcanic soil. The wine paired well with the Mahi Mahi dinner that I prepared. Click here for the tech sheet.
Coming in at under $20, this is a great food wine for those times you’re planning a meal of seafood or shellfish. It might take a little more effort to find the wine as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of Coda di Volpe wines around, but if you find one, give it a try.
Sounds like I’ve just created a new movie monster. In some ways, what I’m referring to in the title is just that, at least from the standpoint of the wine biz.
More context needed?
How about this? Combine two powerhouse wine grapes together, plant vigorously throughout the world and let loose on millions of wine drinkers. Getting closer? Sounds like a great movie plot to me, but then again, I live in suburban Chicago, not Hollywood.Read More