Sunday, March 19, 2017

FREAKING OUT OVER FURMINT:
Hungary's Versatile and Delish Signature White Grape

Frequent readers know I adore good wine from atypical locales. And die-hard Wineaux already know that Hungary is home to one of the world's most exotic, revered dessert wines: Tokaji. ("Toe-kai.") But not a lot of folks know that the main grape of Tokaji, Furmint ("foor-mint,") is absolutely delicious when vinifed as a dry table wine.

Its position under the radar is because there simply wasn't much dry Furmint in the world-wide marketplace until recently. But Hungarian producers are getting their wares out in the U.S. more and more each year, and you should seek some out ASAP — do not pass go, do not collect 200 forint — especially because 2017 was named the "Year of Furmint" by both the SOMM Journal and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture.

THIS IS THE ACTUAL YEAR OF FURMINT, YOU GUYS. COME ON!

I sampled some amazing Furmints at the Council General of Hungary in New York City recently, and spoke with some passionate winemakers about this versatile grape.

Tamás Kis, Owner and Winemaker of Somlói Vándor, poured his winery's eponymous offering, the 2015 Somlói Vándor Furmint, which had a bright nose of florals and straw. On the palate, it showed notes of quince and lime, and had a charming acidic structure with very good length. Tasty! If you are a Sauv Blanc fan, this one's for you. ~$24.

Also on the lighter side was the 2012 Zafír Dűlő from Erzsébet Cellar. The woman next to me compared it to a white Burgundy, quite the compliment, though I found it lacking a bit of character to agree. Still, it showed yellow apple and lemon on the nose, and was very clean and minerally on the palate. ~$31.

I went "Lady Gaga" over the 2015 Degenfeld Furmint Dry, with its heady floral nose and excellent fruit/acid balance. It was rich-seeming though light and quaffable, with straw, florals, white peach, and a not-overly acidic finish. A great summertime sipper at ~$18. 

Tamás Kovács, owner and winemaker at St. Donat Estate, poured his 2015 Marga Furmint Selection Estate Bottled. ("Marga" is the Hungarian term for "marl," which is a soil type related to limestone.) This had a soft nose, but its white floral perfume blossomed in the mouth, accompanied by bright and tangy acid. ~$22.

Mr. Kovács came prepared with a wonderful map of Hungary on his iPad, on which he could zoom in to illustrate the volcanic and flatland topography of the major Hungarian wine-growing areas. He also had pictures of his small, round aging vessels. When I asked if they were concrete, he turned up his nose a bit; "This is not concrete. Concrete is the past." I stood corrected; these vessels were porous ceramic stone units, which breathe like oak barrels do, but are totally neutral. 

Furmint started to show its spicy side in the 2015 Kvaszinger Hatalos Furmint, along with ginger and melon on the nose. This had integrated acidity and a leesy richness, with a touch of bitterness and long length. ~$27. 

The Spice Girls themselves (what's with the music references today?!) would be overwhelmed by the 2015 Béres Lőcse Furmint Selection Estate Bottled. The nose had rich rome apple and candied melon, but it was a bit schitzo, because in the mouth it was SO dry and SUPER spicy!! Once I got over the difference in expressions, I kept returning to it and wrote, "wow" in my notes. ~$27.


Furmint often gets compared with Chenin Blanc, and I definitely got that similarity with the 2013 Vision Furmint from Holdvölgy. (This was the only 2013 poured, which is too bad, as it Mr. Kis proclaimed it "an excellent vintage.") This had an inviting floral nose with a candied melon presence, flirty and tasty ripe fruit on the mouth, with high acidity. ~$24. 

The last dry Furmint of the day was the 2012 Barta Öreg Király Furmint, which had a slightly maderized nose (like a light Sherry,) with a funky barnyard feel and overripe lemon, but on the mouth it was light, lemon-peel acidic, with straw on the finish. I found this really interesting; earthy, but bright. And it also shows that this grape definitely has aging potential. (This one is for you Chardonnay fans.) ~$39

Finally, there was one sweeter style poured; the 2012 Basilicas Szamorodni Tokaji. "Szamorodni" means "as it comes," and refers to the condition of the grapes when picked. This is not like Sauternes, where multiple passes are made throughout the vineyards and individual grapes at optimal ripeness are picked each time; here the bunches with varying degrees of ripe berries will get picked "as it comes." Because of the topography and climate of Tokaji, the dessert-wine grapes will often be affected by botrytis (the "noble rot" that also hits Sauternes, and adds an amazing, distinctive flavor to these wines,) and this showed some botrytis on the nose, with peach, apricot, and vanilla. With about 66 grams per liter of sugar, it was definitely sweet, but not at all cloying, as the amazing acidity keeps it fresh. ~$NA.

As with many unusual varieties/locales, you will have to work a little harder to seek dry Furmints out. But the incredible quality of the wines I sampled above suggest that they will be the darlings of somms and merchants before too long. Furmint is quite reflective of its terroir, so that explains the incredible range of experiences, from super-bright and tangy to richer, rounder, earthier flavors. It's hard to know exactly what you will get from each wine by merely glancing at the label, but grab whatever bottle you can find and start experimenting. I think you might end up freaking out over Furmint yourselves.

Cheers!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cinqe Stelle? 2012 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO

A lot has been said about the 2012 vintage Brunello, but does the wine live up to the hype?

Full disclosure: I am not the world's biggest Brunello di Montalcino fan. I often find the younger wines unbalanced and overbearingly structured, and many BdMs with some age have lost their pleasant fruit and are just too austere for my palate.

But at a recent tasting sponsored by The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, I was introduced to a range of 2012s that absolutely sparked my interest. I'm sure the vintage isn't the only contributing factor to my change-of-heart, but it seems to be the foundation.

It certainly wasn't an easy growing season in Montalcino in 2012. With a dry start, snow and rain during important growth stages, and a HOT summer, yields were down. But the important weeks leading up to harvest were practically perfect.

BdM is a DOCG wine -- the highest-rated level of governmental standards of control. These are high-class wines, although their popularity has only risen to world-wide levels over the last 50 years or so.

3D map of Montalcino, from the Consorzio presentation.
The area of Montalcino is located in Tuscany, Italy, and is basically a square, rising to a slightly off-center peak like a pyramid. Soils differ in the main four quadrants of the region -- a combination of sand, clay, and limestone. We tasted wines from all parts of Montalcino, grown on all soil types, at various elevations. (As is required by DOCG regulations, all of these wines are 100% Sangiovese.)

__________

2012 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium ruby color. Fragrant cherry, floral, cola nose with ripe, perky fruit. Quite tart in the mouth, with tangy, mouthwatering acidity, and a cheeky, long finish, with present but integrated tannins. One of my faves, and perhaps the most "easy-drinking." ~$70.

2012 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium ruby color. Big tangy cherry-berry nose, with sandalwood and florals. A bit stemmier, bramble-y, and a mineral tang like a rare steak sangue. Good acid, nice finish. ~$50.

2012 La Magia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium-plus ruby color. Woodsy, sweet herbs, black cherry nose. This one's gutsier, quite tannic with good acidity, yet elegant and balanced. ~$45.

2012 Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium ruby color. Light floral perfume, merde-y nose. Super dry feel, leafy, dusty. Stylistically not my fave, but also well-balanced. ~$60.

2012 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium-plus dark ruby color. (The most opaque of the flight.) Ripe fruit, robust nose. Big and bold, black cherry and grape soda notes. High acidity, big but balanced tannins, a bruiser. (Higher altitude and maybe picked later?) But I like it! ~$75

2012 Pian Delle Querci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium ruby color. Very herb-y, cherry, pine nose. Super structured, but classic Brunello -- elegant and playful in the mouth, with spices and tart cherry. Another fave. ~$40.

2012 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG -- Medium ruby color. Very astringent feel, leafy, eucalyptus/pine sharpness, with more sangue minerality. I have a slight suspicion my glass was off, but couldn't verify. ~$55.

__________

So what REALLY made the Minx reconsider her thoughts on Brunello? As Jeff Porter, Beverage Director for the Batali/Bastianich Hospitality Group and one of the leaders of the tasting, said, these are "very pretty" wines. They were elegant and approachable, and in every case I found the potentially troublesome acidity and tannins inherent in Sangiovese totally well-balanced. That structure makes these long-lived, and also incredible food wines, so I just might have to pop out and grab a few bottles, for now AND later!

Cheers.

Monday, August 1, 2016

TOO DARN HOT? Warm-Weather Wines.

Get me on a boat, it's HOT!
Wineaux, there are a number of amazing posts I've been working on (while living my OTHER existence as a performer,) but I had to address a concern of many fellow oenophiles during this hot, HOT summer.

What to drink when the mercury is off the charts?!

So many people say, "it's too hot to drink wine," and I say, "NO" to that!!


So here's a little primer for the rest of your summer.

60-70 degrees F: try an Albariño from Spain, or a Vermentino from Sardinia. Both of these exhibit rounder fruit flavors like melon and apricot, and are a bit weightier, though still well-balanced and super quaffable. Martin Codax is a reputable Albariño producer (though your local store may have some other wonderful options,) and I always enjoy the Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino. Both usually <$20.


70-80 degrees F: time for refreshing bubbles! A cava from Spain has the same methodology of production as Champagne, but the indigenous grapes result in a lighter, more refreshing sipper. I'm a huge fan of the award-winning Segua Viudas cava. (~$10) Also, go a little red (YEP!) with a sparkling Brachetto from Italy. Some of these are on the sweeter side, so if that's your taste then hooray, but I prefer one made in the drier style. You get a refreshing, light red, on the herby side, but perfect out on the patio as the grill is firing up. The Banfi Rosa Regale has wide distribution, and is slightly sweet but balanced. (~$18)


80-90 degrees F: I think it's time for a Chenin Blanc (Loire Valley or South Africa) or a nice rosé from Provence. Chenin is such an under-appreciated white grape!! It's known for its lanolin and wax notes, but I find many options are brighter, more interesting, and a great alternative to your more typical Chard and Sauv Blancs. MAN Vintners' (S. Africa) is inexpensive and pretty easy to find, or you can splurge a little for a Vouvray from the Loire.

You can hardly avoid tripping over the summertime rosé displays in your local wine store, and I believe in rosé ALL YEAR ROUND, but there's a reason why so many people go gaga for rosé in the summer. One from Provence, France, will have light strawberry notes, florals, and herbs, and you may find you've sucked down the whole bottle without even realizing it.



90-100 degrees F: It's getting uncomfortably warm out there... you need refreshment, NOW. Head straight for a Grüner Veltliner from Austria, or a grassy Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or the Loire Valley. These will all be crisp with high acidity, perfect for cutting through the mugginess of a hot day. A Grüner picked early will have lime, celery and white pepper notes—and while you can find a ton of value options, try and find an FX Pichler  G.V. and marvel at its elegance.  (~$25-$100 depending on designation.)

Oyster Bay is a common and affordable NZ ZB, but again, your wine purveyors can steer you to a delectable Sauvignon Blanc to fit your desired style and price range.


100+ degrees F: You can't even turn your head without wanting to pass out, so you need something light and caressing like a cool breeze. A Muscadet from the Loire Valley will be refreshing and minerally (those aged "sur lie," or on their lees, will be weightier,) or try a perfecto Txakoli from northwestern Spain. These have a little shpritz, and their fruit is crisp and lean, often with notes of ginger, with tons of acidity and low alcohol. I like the Ameztoi, which comes in both a white and rosé style. (~$20) And if you're serious about your Txakolis, you can pour it into a flat-bottomed glass from a high reach, as the Basque do!



Wineaux, I hope you stay cool and enjoy wines like these during the rest of the dog days of summer. Let me know if you find other summer sippers you love!

Cheers!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SPOTLIGHT ON 2010 and 2012 GRANDS CRUS CLASSES de SAINT-EMILION

My, how we Wineaux love our classifications. Well, maybe it's a love-hate kind of thing, because they certainly confuse many consumers. (And sometimes classifications are even self-regulated, hm.) But they are everywhere, so the first part of my task today is to zero in on the Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion.

It's not that difficult if we telescope a bit: France > Bordeaux > Saint-Emilion (located on the "Right Bank," of Bordeaux, where Merlot is king,) > Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. (Which is a classification, divvied into Grand Cru Classé and Premier Grand Cru Classé.) Every 10 years the classification is reviewed, most recently in 2012.

In 1982, a group of classed growers formed the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion to work together to promote their region, their wines, and to continuously strive to elevate quality. 

A recent tasting sponsored by the Association shined a spotlight on two recent vintages: the acclaimed 2010 and the erratic 2012. 2010 is known as one of the standout Bordeaux vintages, and may very well be a benchmark year for the Right Bank. 2012 was beset by very turbulent weather, but if growers picked early, they were on track for a great wine.

Alas, I did not have time to sample the full Saint-Emilion bounty available due to time constraints, but found a few stunners from both vintages.

2012 Clos Saint Martin: notes of chalky lavender and cassis. With grippy tannins, this was dense and packed, but shimmied into a nice fruit-touched finish laced with cocoa powder. ~$60.
2010 Clos Saint Martin: smoky berry/cherry nose, with a heady floral perfume. This one is sexy — red fruit, good, strong structure, a boffo wine. ~$100.

2010 Clos Des Jacobins: florals and soft red berries on the nose. With a somewhat light personality, it was still elegant with red, redddd, reddddddd fruits. ~$60.

2012 Château La Commanderie: pyrazine-y green pepper, black cherry, spice. Quite smooth and velvety. ~$30.
2010 Château La Commaderie: dark fruits and graphite on the nose. Tangy personality, cherry cola, strong but integrated tannins. ~$35.

2012 Château Faurie de Souchard: smoky, spicy, licorice, black and blue fruits. Tightly wound with dusty tannins. ~$30.
2010 Château Faurie de Souchard: liquid cassis and purple flowers on the sexy nose. "Wowzers. SEXY wine," I wrote, with a "Purple Velvet Elvis" kind of feel. ~$35.

I preferred the 2012 Château Dassault, to the 2010, with its heady blueberry, plum, cherry nose I couldn't get enough of. Not overly tannic, with good acidity, pleasant and rich enough but approachable now, ~$45. The 2010 Château Dassault seemed very earthy, dusty, herby — more Cabernet Sauvignon-like, although there was only 5% in the blend — but I'd love to see it when it opens up. ~$50.

2012 Château Fonplegade: cassis, cedar, and rose petals on the nose, with a nice tang and brightness, fairly approachable. ~$40
2010 Château Fonplegade: "wow" nose! Smarties candy, cranberry, underripe red cassis. Glorious festival of cheeky red fruits, nice florals, bit of licorice, good acidic tang, amazing. ~$50

Both the 2012 and 2010 Château Grand Pontet had a relatively high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, and it showed. The 2012 was earthy, "merde"y, and woodsy with good structure, ~$35, and the 2010 had strong cigar leaf and herbs with a little more black fruit expression and sneaky tannins; very nice for the style. ~$55

2012 Château La Dominique: great nose — floral, red berries, cassis. Approachable, smooth, LOVELY. Like your new best friend/crush. WOW! ~$42
2010 Château La Dominique: intoxicating cassis and lavender nose. Mocha, dried potpourri, wonderful structure, very purple-y finish. ~$60

In years like 2010 and 2012, especially when coaxed by the right hands, Right Bank Bordeaux lets the Merlot shine, and these tend to be more approachable than the Left Bank Cab-heavy offerings, even in great vintages. (Especially in great vintages, acutally, due to Cab Sauv's intense structure.) It's also a fantastic bang for the price point buck, considering two of my favorites above retail under ~$45. Some of these producers don't have the widest distribution here in the U.S., but keep your eyes peeled for 2012 and 2010 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classes (it will say that on the label,) and snap up a few bottles when you can, you'll be glad you did. And don't forget to let me know what you find!

Cheers!









Wednesday, January 6, 2016

CHAMPAGNE PIPER-HEIDSIECK ~ Lunch with Chef de Cave REGIS CAMUS

People who know me have heard me say, "If I could drink Champagne all day long, every day, I would." So it should be no surprise that when I had the chance to dine with Piper-Heidsieck's award-winning Chef de Cave Régis Camus, I jumped. On a balmy November day, I joined him and a few other Wineaux at Koi Soho for an incredible lunch, paired with an array of Piper Champagnes.

We began with the ubiquitous red-labelled Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV: notes of brioche and lemon, clean, with a sublime mousse, bright yet rich. 100% malolactic fermentation but still so fresh. ~$45. Lifting his glass, M. Camus said, "The first glass is the best of the day." So true.

Champagne lovers know that a NV wine isn't a "second runner-up" to the vintage-declared bottlings. A NV blend represents the identity of the Champagne house, as it is crafted year to year to achieve the house style using reserve wines and different percentages of the three permitted varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier,) from a base vintage. When I asked M. Camus if he had favorite reserve wines that he was perhaps reluctant to use up, he said, a tad derisively, "Others want to hold, like museum. The Chef's job is to keep using wines." I took another sip, savoring the generous history in my glass.

Blending also occurs with a vintage wine, but with different varietals and vineyards, not years. The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2006 (49% Pinot Noir, 51% Chardonnay) was sourced from 16 Grand and Premier Crus (rated vineyards) during a "challenging yet rewarding" year marked by a wide range of weather. It had a yeasty nose with a strong tangerine element, and was rich and floral with an incredible length of fruit. Vivid, generous, gorgeous minerality, balanced acidity, strong mousse. ~$80. M. Camus called this "The Diplomat," and with a little prodding, I discovered he has nicknames for all of his vintage-designated Champagnes — 2008 was "The Diamond," 2004 was "The Marathoner." Love it! Toasting with the 2006, M. Camus said, "The second glass... is the best of the day." Agreed.

A Champagne house's Tête de Cuvée, or Cuvée Prestige, is its jewel in the crown. For Piper, that is the Rare, and they have only released EIGHT vintages of Rare sine its debut in 1976. As winemaker, M. Camus can take the gloves off and use complete creative freedom to craft a spectacular wine. The Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2002 (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir) has a bold nose of baked lemon and brioche. It is luxe beyond belief, with a creamy mandarin curd finish. Disgorged in 2012, this spent 9 years on its lees, and has the oomph to be cellared for another 20. ~$180. As we raised our glasses, I said, "Let me guess: the third glass…" and we all chorused: "is the best of the day!"

Most of the courses at Koi Soho have an Asian flair, and it doesn't take a Master Somm to pair Champagne with sushi... but how about red meat? Well, for a winter lamb chop, look no further than the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage NV (55-60% Pinot Noir, 20-25% Pinot Meunier, 10-15% Chardonnay, with some "vin de couleur," or still Pinot Noir, in the mix.) This was a deep, vibrant pink, with very fragrant strawberry notes, candied cherries, grapefruit, and roses, with a subtle mousse. Like the NV Brut, the rosé is blended from a base wine (in this case, 2010,) and a large number of reserve wines. M. Camus implied this rosé is one of his toughest wines to make; the color should be consistent from year to year, Pinot Noir could overwhelm the blend but shouldn't, and some vintages, crops of Pinot Noir don't pass muster for the rosé. But it's worth it; the Piper Heidsieck Rosé is another very striking, yet elegant, wine. ~$60.

Finally, we headed into dessert with the Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime. (55-60% Pinot Noir, 20-25% Pinot Meunier, 10-15% Chardonnay.) This is a Demi-Sec, which means it has a higher dosage (added sugar) and will exhibit apparent sweetness. But make no mistake, this is not a syrupy, cloying dessert wine. Think of it more like a voluptuous bombshell pin-up! Notes of marzipan, pineapple, vanilla cupcake. Delicious fruit, extremely well-balanced. (My notes have "delicious" again.) It certainly paired well with the dessert course, but would be a heady experience on its own. ~$50.

Although M. Camus has been named "Champagne Winemaker of the Year" by the International Wine Challenge eight times, Piper-Heidsieck doesn't command consumers' attention the way Perrier-Jouët or Möet & Chandon do. What does that mean for you Wineaux? Simple: incredible Champagnes at comparatively bargain prices. Perhaps Piper-Heidsieck doesn't have the reputation of other large houses, but it is a mistake to pass over these incredible wines. The cultivation of the vintage offerings and the high percentage of reserve wine in the NV bottlings belies the price points. In general, the Piper style is bold yet elegant, and who doesn't want that in a Champagne! So go seek some out, and let me know if you agree.

Many thanks to M. Camus and to my friends at Terlato Wines for a delicious luncheon and the unique opportunity to drink gorgeous Champagnes with their Chef beside me. I look forward to tasting with M. Camus again someday (and perhaps inspire a nickname for a future vintage —"The Minx"?!)

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TENNESSEE… The New Frontier?

My father, the acclaimed wine appraiser and consultant, William H. Edgerton, couldn't contain his glee. "When you're home from tour on layoff, I have this wine you have to try. It's from Tennessee." The minute he said it, I could tell he regretted spilling the beans; he would have much preferred tasting me blind and then dropping the origin bomb.

Wineaux, you know I champion wine from less-than-usual locales — and I did have an eye-opening experience in Arizona — but typically, I expect wine produced in the "outlier" states to be thin, forgettable, mostly sweet hybrids not really worth a review.

And then I tried a pair of offerings from Reedy Creek Vineyards, the Fallen Oak Alchemy (white) and the Fallen Oak Prophecy Reserve (red).

(It is winemaker Michael Reedy's philosophy that sales are better if he doesn't vintage designate his wines, or varietally label them either. Since he manages 50% of his sales in his tasting room, I can't argue with that methodology, but after tasting them, I certainly believe that these wines can compete in a broader market, and interested Wineaux will absolutely want vintages and varieties on those labels at some point soon.)

The (2013) Alchemy White is a Sauvignon Blanc, grown on slate and schist soils. I found it exceedingly quaffable, with appropriate white grapefruit, lemon curd, straw and floral notes, and not overly acidic. Would I confuse it with a similarly-priced SB from New Zealand or the Loire Valley? Probably not, but it's from Tennessee, people. And it heralds a LOT of potential. ~$21

The (2012) Prophecy Reserve is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Petite Verdot. This knocked me off my feet! Complex flavors of red berries, cassis, cedar, smoke, and violets. Fairly acidic (which masks its tannins) and a good length. Quite tasty, and again, even more impressive from young TN vines. Also bodes extremely well for what may come next. ~$26

For now, Reedy wines are only available at the Tasting Room and at about twenty retailers across Tennessee itself. I, for one, would definitely be interested in a visit, as Reedy also has a Tempranillo, some Viogniers, a Riesling, Syrah, and even a "Port" made from Tennessee Touriga Nacional on his list. (What the what?!)

An email request for an interview went unanswered, but from conversing with my father (who visited Reedy at the winery,) it seems that Reedy saw the growth in neighboring Virginia's wine culture and speculated Tennessee might share enough in climate and terroir to also be a successful growing area. However, it also seems that he is far and away making the "best" wine in TN at the moment, as other winemakers continue to produce the "outlier state" versions I mentioned above; Reedy imagines that TN is several decades behind VA in regional success.

Savvy Wineaux have been aware for a long while that the growth of education, information, and techniques have led to an elevation of quality winemaking in many parts of the world. It seems time to turn the wine world's eyes to Tennessee, and see what kind of evolution Michael Reedy is sparking there!

Cheers.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

TOP 20 UNDER $20 OF 2015!!

Wineaux, you wait all year for this post, I know you do. So let's get to it! In no particular order, but grouped by color/style, here are my TOP 20 UNDER $20 WINES of 2015:


REDS:

2013 Charles & Charles Red Blend, WA: 68% Cab Sauv, 32% Sra. Inky dark, dense ripe red sweet fruit. Purple florals. Smoke, herb liqueur. Very big, very ripe. Dense fruit finish. Not overly structured, but still a biiiiig boy. ~$12.

2011 Chateau La Grange Clinet Grande Réserve Côtes de Bordeaux, France. Hands-down favorite at a recent general tasting. Excellent cassis, blueberry fruit, with pepper and earth, perfectly structured tannins. ~$13. 

2012 Bonny Doon Contra, CA (Rhone style field blend — 56% Carignane, 17% Sra, 15% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre 1% Cinsault.) Smoke, licorice, graphite, macerated blackberry nose. Tart and brighter than expected, lifting acidity with more dense red berries (cassis, pomegranate, bing cherry,) in mouth. ~$18.

2011 Tineta Avante, Ribera del Duero, Spain: 100% Tinto Fino (tempranillo) Medium plus ruby color. Smoke, licorice, blackberry, whiff of savory meatiness. Tasty rich dark berries, with a lot of acid and tannic structure, looooong length.  ~$11.

2010 Bodegas Norton Privada Malbec, Argentina: blueberry, bramble fruit, nice balance of high tone fruit and mocha velvety richness. Luxe but elegant. ~$19.

2012 Esporão Assobio, Portugal: Inky maroon, cedar vanilla blackberry, dense rich and super smooth, violets, graphite, a lot going on! Supple, rich, v integrated and smooth tannins. (This was featured in Wine Spectator and sold out quickly; I may have snapped up the last of this in NYC! but keep your eyes out for Esporão, they have MANY excellent values.) ~$13.

2011 Palacio Quemado Los Acilates, Spain: cured meats, rose potpourri, absolutely intriguing! Tobacco notes, well-structured, long-lived. Yes. ~$15.

2013 St. Amant the Road Less Travelled Tempranillo, Amador County CA: 13th vintage. Earthy, black cherry, coffee grounds, mocha. Delicious red fruits, raspberry, smooth and integrated, subtle tannins, (nose is classic Rioja, funnily enough!) balanced acidity. ~$18

ROSÉ:

2014 Monte del Frá Bardolino Chiaretto, Italy: very pale onion skin/pink, bruised red berries, a little funky, pine, really intriguing, slightly tart and lip-smackingly tasty.  ~$16.

SPARKLING:

2011 Taltarni Tache Sparkling Rosé, Tasmania: Méthode traditionelle, onion skin color, tart strawberry, red cherries galore, nice minerality, excl acidity, good balance. ~$17.

NV Gruet Extra Dry, New Mexico: 100% Chardonnay, bottle aged a minimum of 18 months, it had notes of marzipan, white peach, rose petals and honeysuckle. Slightly higher dosage than Brut, but slight sweetness is amazingly balanced with its acidity. ~$16.

WHITES:

2014 Troupis Fteri Moschofilero, Greece: just lovely, with lemon citrus, pear and jasmine notes, good spice, and a well-balanced structure. ~$13. (Try other Moschofileros if you can't find this; many are very quaffable and delicious.)

2014 Kato Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ: vibrant tropical fruit nose. Bruised fruits and grass, lime on palate. Excellent balance and weight, loooong length. A textbook NZ SB with a lot goin' on. ~$15.

2013 Fronton de Oro Semiseco, Canary Islands: basil!! Mint!! Lemon curd, white flowers (gardenia,) great balance, zippy acidity, but chewy to balance. Minerally. Wow. ~$20

2013 ViNO Pinot Gris Charles Smith/K Vintners, WA. When did I ever expect a PG on here? Usually value PGs are eehhh. But this has stunning florals, spice, excellent acidity - wow. impressive. ~$12.

2013 Trivento Torrontés Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina: very pale greenish-yellow. Lemon/lime and peony florals on the nose. On palate, spice, key lime pie, ripe pear, herbs, grass, yellow apple. Great flavors, zippy acidity. ~$11.

2014 Jim Barry "The Lodge Hill" Dry Riesling, Australia: wild white flowers and lime zest on the nose, in the mouth, those flavors are balanced by minerality and a spicy finish. Very dry and clean. (Can also age—I had the '99 at the same tasting and it was amaaaaazing!) ~$17.

2013 Oro de Castilla Verdejo, Rueda Spain: tangerine citrus, fresh tangy minerality, bit of grassiness, melon, light yellow florals with great weight and loooong length. ~$16.

2013 Bellangelo Semi-Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes NY: lime, peach, lemon peel, grapefruit — a citrus salad with its off-dry nature balanced beautifully by Riesling's signature acidity. ~$17.

FORTIFIED:

2012 Château Les Pins AOP VDN Muscat de Rivesaltes: This is a Vins Doux Naturel from the south of France, could be a dessert wine, but could also pair well with savory dishes! Medium gold color. Nose of litchi, honeysuckle, orange marmalade, and pear; those notes with peach, chamomile, and spice (white pepper, cinnamon,) on the palate. Delish! Noticeable sugar but good acidic balance. Verrrry spicy. 50% Muscat des Petit Grains, 50% Muscat d'Alexandria ~$18.

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There you have it, Wineaux: a little something for everyone this year: 9 different countries, 4 different US states, white, red, pink, bubbly, and fortified. I love when that happens! I know not all of these wines will be readily available to you, but take this list to your local wine shop and see if your merchant can order them, or make similar suggestions. 

And if you find a sub-$20 wine you love, PLEASE comment below, I would love to know!

Cheers!