Friday, May 4, 2012

Vintus Tour: Wines of Elegance

Is elegance the new black?

Vintus, founded in April 2004 by Michael Quinttus, represents a number of "family-owned, estate-based producers of hand-crafted wines." Their goal is to "assemble a diverse, international range of "wines of place" produced by passionate personalities driven to extract the maximum expression from their estates." Their producers are "are intensely attuned to their environments, emphasizing biodynamic, organic or sustainable viticulture and winemaking."

The Vintus Tour, a portfolio trade tasting, has been touring the country and recently made a stop in Boston at Catalyst Restaurant. The event presented 26 winemakers from all over the world, including France, California, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Australia, Hungary, and Portugal. Catalyst provided snacks, including oysters, delicious gougeres, cheeses and more. The tasting was well attended, and everyone I spoke to seemed to enjoy the event very much, finding plenty of excellent wine to enjoy.

My primary takeaway is that many of these producers are creating wines of elegance, not power. These are wines that seduce your palate rather than ravish it, that enthrall rather than coerce. These are wines that impressed me and which I heartily recommend.

Bruno Paillard, pictured above, owns a small Champagne House which I visited and reviewed last year. Bruno is a colorful personality, with strong opinions, and makes some excellent Champagnes. He poured four at the event, including the Brut Premiere Cuvee Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Reserve Privee Grand Cru Champagne, and 1999 Brut Millesime Assemblage Champagne. He also poured his Rosé  Premiere Cuvee, which had been a stand out for me when I visited his winery. About  21% of the Champagne Bruno sells is Rosé as opposed to the 7% average for other Champagne producers. That speaks volumes about the quality of his Rosé.

Domaine des Baumard, which has been in the family since 1634, is located in the Loire Valley, in the heart of Anjou, in the town of Rochefort-sur-Loire. They produce several cuvees of Savennieres (which is Chenin Blanc) and they also owns vineyards in Coteaux du Layon from which they produce sweet wines, also made from Chenin Blanc. In addition, they produce a Cremant de Loire.

The Carte Turquoise Cremant de Loire is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, and sees lengthy aging on the lees in the bottle. It possesses a fresh, clean taste with dominant fruit flavors and a backbone of minerality. Rich, refreshing and with plenty of character. The 2008 Savennieres is their basic Chenin Blanc cuvee, which has a bit of a floral nose and a pleasant fruity taste, mostly peach and pear, with hints of honey.  The 2008 Clos du Papillon Savennieres, from a single vineyard site which resembles the shape of a butterfly, this elegant cuvee has a more prominent mineral taste, more wet stone, though there is an undercurrent of pleasant pear flavors. It is dry and complex, with a lengthy and satisfying finish. A very impressive wine. The 2008 Quarts de Chaume used late harvested grapes, with plenty of botrytis, and produced a seductively appealing, lightly sweet wine with high acidity, plenty of complexity and pure hedonistic pleasures. Another top recommendation.

Telmo Rodriguez, of the Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez, started in the early 1990s, seeking out to discover new vineyards, recover old sites and regions in Spain. His goal is to primarily use indigenous Spanish grapes and to farm biodynamically. He stated that he is more a "long distance runner" as his projects generally require 20-50 years to reach completion. In addition, he stated that he wants to be seen as a "taste of place" and not as a brand.

In Valdeorras, Telmo found an ancient vineyard called La Falcoeira, where he concentrated on growing Godello and Mencia. The 2010 Gaba do Xil Godello was very pleasing, crisp and refreshing with delicious citrus and melon flavors, some minerality and even hints of floral notes. It would be a nice seafood wine or a pleasant summer drink. The 2010 Gaba do Xil Mencia, which has a little Garnacha added, presents with lush black fruit flavors, spicy accents and hints of violets. The tannins are restrained and the finish is fairly long. A good choice for a summer BBQ, a burger or pizza.

From Rioja, the 2010 LZ is aged and fermented in cement, made with natural yeasts and sees no oak. Its rich, black fruit flavors are clean and compelling, with mild spice notes and a silky mouth feel. An elegant and delicious wine, showcasing the beauty of Tempranillo. From the Toro region comes the 2008 Gago, and the term "gago" actually refers to an "elegant bull." The 2008 Gago is made from 100% Tinto de Toro, a clone of Tempranillo, and was deep, elegant and complex, a powerful expression of the grape yet with plenty of restraint.

The final wine I tasted from his selection was the 2005 Matallana from the Ribera del Duero, a wine of which less than 300 cases are produced annually. The grapes are grown biodynamically, a careful selection from eight plots of old vine. The grapes are crushed by foot and fermentation occurs in open wooden vats. What an amazing wine, a silky, elegant, and complex creation which seduces your palate with its deep melange of enticing flavors and very lengthy finish. It is the type of wine that shuts down your logical senses and tells you merely to savor and enjoy. Highly recommended.

Another impressive producer was Ferrer Bobet, the project of Sergi Ferrer-Salat and Raul Bobet located in the Priorat region of Spain. In 2002, they constructed a cellar and planted vines in some of the coolest and highest altitude spots between the towns of Porrera and Falset. Currently though, they have been buying their grapes as their own are still too young. They choose old vine Carignan and Garnacha from organic farms and released their first wine in 2008. They consider themselves pioneer of a new style in the Priorat,  more elegance and finesse rather than the powerful, muscular wines you often find. I believe they succeeded in their attempt to produce such a style.

The 2008 Ferrer Bobet is made from 70% old vine Carignan and 30% Garnacha, fermented in small wooden and steel tanks and then aged in French oak for about 15 months. It was a more elegant wine, with delicious black fruit and spice flavors, silky tannins and subtle floral notes. It has an intriguing complexity that will tantalize your palate, and its lengthy finish will satisfy even the most demanding of wine lovers. After tasting a number of powerhouses from Priorat, it is a beautiful reprieve to find such a wine of finesse.

The 2008 Seleccio Especial is made from 100 year old Carignane with a tiny amount added of old vine Garnacha, and has been aged in French oak for about 18 months. It has a darker color, almost an opaque purple, and a deeper aroma. Thes black fruit flavors are more concentrated and its complexity shines forth, adding elements of earthiness, minerality, spice and floral notes. There is just so much going on in this wine, yet it too retains elegance and finesse. It might have been easy to turn this into a powerhouse, but the wine makers understood restraint. Both of these wines are highly recommended and this is a winery to watch in the near future.

Viña Errazuriz was founded in 1870 in the Aconcagua Valley, Chile, and they have received many accolades for their wines. I was impressed with their 2008 Kai, which is primarily Carmenere, from their best vines, and possibly a little Petit Verdot and Syrah. I enjoyed this wine as it lacked that vegetal/green pepper taste which some Carmenere possesses. Instead, the wine presented with delicious, ripe black fruit flavors and an intriguing spice palate, from cinnamon to black pepper. Complex, moderate tannins and a lenghty finish all made for an excellent wine.

Finca Decero is a relatively new winery located in Agrelo, a subzone of Mendoza, Argentina. The term "decero" means "estate from scratch" and all of their grapes are from the sustainably farmed Remolinos vineyard, which is named after its tiny whirlwinds. Located at an altitude of about 3500 feet, they have only planted red grapes and have an annual production of about 25,000 cases. A key concept for them is "amano" means "by hand," indicating their concern for their environment and the artisan nature of their endeavor.

Their 2009 Malbec offers good fruit flavors, some spice notes and plenty of acidity, retaining an elegant nature though the tannins are strong. Bring on some grilled meats. The 2009 Petit Verdot (Mini Ediciones) was impressive, with delicious blueberry, blackberry and jasmine flavors, more restrained tannins and a pleasing finish. It was suggested this wine would pair well with venison or lamb and I tend to agree. The 2009 Amano, their flagship blend of 65% Malbec, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 5% Tannat was superb, a complex and elegant blend with silky tannins, and a delightful melange of flavors.

The estate of the Disznókő Winery, located in the Tokaj region of Hungary, was classified in 1772 as a first growth property, and currently consists of about 250 acres. The wines from this region are world renowned, especially their sweet wines, though they do make dry wines too.

The 2001 Dry Furmint Tokaji is made from 100% Furmint, harvested before botrytis sets in, and presents with intriguing tropical aromas, delicious citrus flavors, some minerality and nice acidity. It has just enough exotic flair to make it more unique. My favorite of their wines though was the 2005 5 Puttonyos Tokaji, made from 60% Furmint, 30% Harslevelu and 10% Zeta. Golden amber in color, it presents with a mild sweetness, balanced off by a fine acidity, and the flavors are intriguing, with notes of honey, almonds, apricots, and more. Seductive and elegant, it would also pair well wiith blue cheese or spicy Asian dishes. If you want a superb dessert wine, then look no further.

Quinta do Noval, one of the oldest Port houses and dating back to 1715, has been a pioneer in Port production in several different aspects. They produce a full line of Ports, and you generally won't go wrong with any of their products. Their Noval Black is an intriguing blend of quality grapes that don't make it into their vintage ports. It is very approachable, yet with plenty of character, and excellent fruit and spice flavors. A great gateway Port for newcomers, or an easy drinking Port for those who already are enamored with Port. The Quinta also promotes the use of Noval Black in cocktails, and the Catalyst bartender created three cocktails with it, all which were delicious and well balanced. A versatile choice.

For myself, I was fully enamored with their 20 Year Old Tawny Porto, which is produced from foot trodden grapes. Such a hedonistic pleasure, with its silky flavors of nuts and caramel, exotic spices and dried fruit. An elegant Port with a lingering finish that seems to remain for you for quite some time. 20+ year old Ports just have such an amazing quality to them, and not enough people seem to appreciate them.

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