Monday, August 6, 2007

White Wines: Off the Beaten Track

Tired of Chardonnay? Bored with Riesling? Do you want to find a new white wine to drink? If so, you should have been there this past Saturday at the Wine Education Class at the OurGlass Wine Co.

The topic of the class was "Off The Beaten Track" White Wines. I chose this topic to introduce people to wines they may never have tasted but that they might enjoy. About 20 people attended the class, most of them from the North Shore Winers. This was an excellent event, both fun and educational. Brian, one of the owners of OurGlass, led the class and was a very good speaker. He was informative, personable and fun.

We tasted eight white wines, from five different countries. All of the wines cost under $20. There were also two platters of various cheeses (including Mahon, Gruyere and Piave), fresh bread and spicy sausage. Brian also prepared a sheet listing all of the wines, with full descriptions, for each of the attendees. This was a nice touch.

We began the tasting with four white wines from Italy.

First was the 2005 Gagliardo Fallegra from Piedmonte ($16.99). "This wine is made from the Favorita grape and comes from the La Morra region of Piedmontese. Favorita is said to be quite similar to Sardinia’s Vermentino. The Gagliardo family is more famous for their Nebbiolo based wines. Grown in sandy soil, it’s fermented in stainless steel for a short time. It shows an elegantly tart taste and is uniquely spritzy. The effervescence is a nice palate cleanser and a halfway point between Prosecco and still whites. It pairs well with pate and other oily dishes."

I found this to be a very crisp and refreshing wine. It has a little effervescence to it which adds an interesting touch. It is not as fizzy as a Prosecco or Champagne. It is more of a background fizz. It is a unique wine and impressed me.

Next was the 2006 Sella & Mosca La Cala, Vermentino de Sardegna ($12.99). "The Sella & Mosca property in Sardinia is one of Italy’s most impressive and progressive wine estates. Impeccably maintained, this 1600 acre estate is credited with placing Sardinian wines firmly on the international wine-lover’s map. Moreover, it includes the second largest contiguous vineyard in Italy. Acclaimed for world-class wines made form Vermentino and Cannonau grapes. Few wines rival La Cala for its exceptional affinity with seafood, thanks to the very subtle presence of a natural marine salinity in the wine, credited to the Mediterranean location of Sell & Mosca’s Vermentino vineyards. Elegant and supple, this single-vineyard wine couples fullness of flavor with underlying acidity."

I enjoyed this wine as well. It was crisp, clean and had some nice citrus flavors. It is not a sweet wine. There were some similarities to the Gagliardo though the La Cala does not have any effervescence. I could envision drinking this wine with a seafood dinner at the shore.

The third wine was the 2006 Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany ($13.99). "Tuscany’s most traditional, refreshing white wine, grown around the hill town of San Gimignano. The wine comes entirely from 100% Vernaccia grapes. It is pleasantly fresh with a hint of green apply and delicate white flowers. It adapts wonderfully to any type of cuisines thanks to the rich mineral content of the wine. This wine with great elegance, a pleasant bouquet and structure is a classic example of Vernaccia that ‘kisses, licks, bites and stings’, as described by the poet Michelangelo Buonarroti Jt. The Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first white wine of Italy to become a DOC in 1966, and again among the first white wines to receive the D.O.C.G. recognition in 1993. Flavors of citrus fruit and melon on the palate. Medium bodied and creamy. Clean and concentrated."

This wine has some more golden color than the previous two wines. It has a minerally nose and those mineral notes come out on the palate as well. It is a richer tasting wine than the other two. It would be much better paired with food than drank alone. It has a nice green apple flavor as well as a bit of melon.

Our last Italian wine was the 2006 La Caplana Gavi di Gavi from Piedmonte ($14.99). "The Piedmonte region is no doubt, historically more famous for its red wines. But during the 60’s and 70’s, Gavi was thought to be one of the best white wines made in Italy. Made from the Cortese grape, and produced near a small village of the same name, the wine is bone dry and crisp with citrus and mineral notes. About 30 estates produce Gavi in this region with most coming from the southeast corner of Piedmont near Liguria. This area’s proximity to the Ligurian coast, the Italian Riviera, has made Gavi a natural partner for seafood. Look for the mineral and herbal notes on the nose, and bright acidity with apple and floral hints on the palate."

I have had this wine before and very much enjoy it. It has a nice crispness with lots of apple flavors and some mineral notes. It has a lot of character. I could drink this wine alone or with food.

Now onto Spain. We tasted the 2006 Bodegas La Purisma Estio from the Yecla region ($8.99). "This winery is responsible for more than 60% of the wines coming from the Yecla D.O. in southeastern Spain, next to Alicante. This wine is made from 100% Macabeo grapes, also called Viura, and more famous for its use in Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. It is harvested at night, during the first week of September. In its vinification, only the first pressing was used, fermented with selected yeast for three weeks at 15 degrees Celsius. Golden color with greenish reflections, frank nose with deep citric, white flower and mineral aromas. Fresh, light and highly elegant on the palate."

This is a light, crisp and clean wine with a variety of citrus flavors. A great summer wine and an excellent bargain at this price. And if you enjoy this wine, you might want to try a Cava as well.

We then moved onto France and tasted the 2006 Henri Pouiron Muscadet Sevre & Maine Sur Lie from the Loire region ($11.99). "The most western part of the Loire, the part that borders on the Atlantic coast, is well known for one wine alone, Muscadet. A dry, fairly neutral tasting white that has always been known for its easy partnership with seafood. It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape which was said to be brought over by Dutch traders in the 17th century. Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine, named after the two rivers that flow through the area, is the best sub-region for the tastiest of all Muscadets. The term ‘Sur Lie’ means that the wine was left in contact with the yeast lees for several months before it was bottled. It gives the wine more flavor plus a refreshing spritz. Look for the subtle fruit and minerality on the nose, and peach and melon flavors on the palate. It is bone dry but has loads of character. This wine was born for raw oysters."

This was a very popular wine with the group and one of my favorites as well. It is definitely an Old world wine, more subtle but with lots of character. It has a mineral nose. On the palate, it is dry with melon flavors. This is a wine to savor, enjoying its depths. And I can definitely picture it with a platter of raw oysters. At this price, you get a lot of wine!

From Old World to New, we moved onto Argentina and the 2006 Sur de los Andes Torrontes, Cafayate ($9.99). "Recent DNA research has shown that Torrontes is related to the Malvasia group of grapes which originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and found their way to Atlantic islands such as Madeira. It is not known how it arrived in Argentina, but it seems to have been there a long time, suggesting it was brought by Spanish colonists, quite possibly missionaries. Torrontes has become the leading white grape of Argentina and known for its fresh aromatic and floral style. The high altitude, microclimate of Cafayate, lends perfectly to this wine. It has yummy aromas of peach and nectarines with floral undertones, and striking similar to Viognier on the nose. One the palate, you taste bright peach and fresh nectarines accompanied by lemon and lime on a medium body. A tasty and fresh finish."

This wine has a very floral nose as well a floral notes on the palate. It is definitely similar to a Viognier. You also get nectarine and lemon tastes. I was not a fan of this wine because I do not really like this style of wine. But for those attendees who enjoy Viognier, they very much liked this wine. So, if you like that wine style, then check this wine out.

Our final wine was from Hungary, the 2006 Craftsman Kiralyleanyka from Neszmely ($8.99). "In the historic Asvar-Neszmely wine region, fifty miles northwest from Budapest and halfway to Vienna, lying amid spectacular vistas covered by ancient and newly planted vineyards and overlooking the river Danube, is our winery Hilltop Neszmely. Since the Romans some 2000 years ago, this part of Hungary has always been an important grape growing and wine producing region. The sunny vineyards of Neszmely produce golden-yellow wines thanks to the special micro-climate around the Danube. A delightfully well-balanced, flavorful yet light white wine made from Kiralyleanyka, a native Hungarian grape. Reminiscent of wines made of Chenin Blanc and Viognier grapes. Light but flavorful white wine. Apple and pear fruit is followed by light herbal notes, fresh acidity and a smooth finish on the palate."

Another excellent white wine. It combines some nice minerality with citrus flavors. It has a little bit of sweetness and makes for a very pleasant drink. And at this price, it is another great value wine.

Overall, a fine selection of wines and a great class. I have heard many compliments about the class. I also witnessed a number of the attendees buying bottles and bottles of the wines we tasted. I certainly bought some. I am sure that the attendees found some new favorites and will be willing in the future to try more different wines.

Kudos to Brian for running the class. I look forward to more classes in the future. I hope that some of my readers join us at the next class.

OurGlass Wine Co.
124A Broadway (Rt. 1 N)
Saugus, MA
Phone: 781-941-8068


Dr. Debs said...

What a great lineup of wines--and a great opportunity to taste grape varietals. I love Hungarian wines, which are a good value substitute for more expensive Alsatian and German whites.

Richard Auffrey said...

This tasting was a lot of fun. I always love trying lesser known wines or wine regions like Hungary. Craftsman also makes a Pinot Noir Rose that I enjoy.

piedmont_phil said...

Nice review thank you.

I hope you don't mind a little correction:

We can call the region Piedmont (in English) or Piemonte (Italy). The people or culture is thus Piedmontese (English) or Piemontese (Italian).

Hope that helps


Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Phil and welcome to my blog. I definitely do not mind a correction if I stated something that was incorrect. I will definitely remember that and try to make sure I don't repeat that mistake again.