Monday, March 21, 2011


Dearest Wineaux, the Minx is impressed.

While my fellow New Yorkers might raise an eyebrow that the Minx's first restaurant wine list review comes from a Connecticut establishment, the list at Barcelona Wine Bar in Stamford, CT is one of the most comprehensive explorations of a particular region I have ever encountered.

While numerous French or Italian restaurants can offer detailed wine lists, discovering an establishment so thoroughly devoted to Spanish wines is a rarity. At Barcelona, for example, there are no fewer than one hundred and twenty different bottles of Spanish red wines on the list, from twenty-eight different regions. There are also well thought-out offerings from many other parts of the world, including a wonderful range of South American wines. But the array from Spain is simply incredible. Even the Rioja section is thorough enough to be divided into two stylistic groups, "tradicional" and "moderna."

With over forty wines available by the glass, you can't go wrong being a little adventurous... for example, try the 2009 white wine Xarel-lo Albet i Noya, from Penedès ($8). Xarel-lo is usually used as one of the grapes blended for Cava - Spanish sparkling wine - and I have never seen a straight Xarel-lo offered by the glass. (Unfortunately I noticed it too late to try it myself, but I will not make that mistake on a future visit!)

There are wines on the list to please every budget, as well. There are dozens of bottle options at the $30-40-50 range, still more under $100, and if you want to splurge on a 1996 Vega Sicilia Unico (arguably Spain's most famous and esteemed wine, this vintage rated 97 points by Robert Parker) it's there as well, for a very reasonable $639.

Wineaux, I know you're intrigued, and here's the kicker: on Sundays, almost every bottle is HALF OFF. (The 50% discount doesn't apply to some high-end wines like the Unico, but they too are offered at a somewhat lower price.) So during a recent Sunday visit, I was able to share two bottles with my table for the price of one.

Given the enticing discount, we started with a 2004 Bodegas Muga Selección Especial Reserva (on the list for $79). Muga has a great reputation for quality, and this bottle was no exception. With black cherry, leather, graphite and a hint of tar on the nose, this voluptuous wine was strong but still youthful with plummy dark fruits and a great balance. [WM: 94]

I wanted to go in a slightly different direction with our second bottle, and chose a 2000 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva (list price: $70). With 25% Garnacha blended along the Tempranillo, the Ardanza exhibited a more feminine style than the Muga; not as powerful, but incredibly elegant. The nose showed spices and red fruits, and there was lavender, lilac, and buckets of cassis on the palate of this fun and flirty wine. [WM: 92]

A wine list like this one makes me ache for deep pockets and the ability to consume numerous bottles without negative effect. There are too many gems on this Barcelona wine list, making a choice is almost impossible! However, the incredibly knowledgeable staff is on hand to make suggestions and thoughtful recommendations. I can't wait for my next visit - I already have some ideas brewing.

Barcelona also has CT locations in Fairfield, Greenwich, New Haven, South Norwalk, and West Hartford, with a branch in Atlanta, GA coming soon. Learn more and make a reservation at

Oh, and the food is wonderful too!! My visit was wine-focused for sure, but the tapas offerings we nibbled on were creative and delicious. They also have a full menu, and a serious selection of spirits as well. So go visit Barcelona without having to get on a plane, and let the Minx know what you think. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

(Re-?)Discovering White Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a wine-making region in France that is probably familiar even to neophyte Wineaux. However, the WHITE wines made there have long struggled for recognition due to the avalanche of renowned Bordeaux reds and white wines from other, "more familiar" regions of the country.

Arguably, the best whites in Bordeaux come from the region of Pessac-Léognan, located just outside the town of Bordeaux, north of the Graves region (of which it once was a part,) and south of the Médoc.

The grapes used here are primarily Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Although Sauvignon Blanc thrives in other parts of the world, it originated in France. In the Minx's opinion, in this case it is under-appreciated, darn it!

Ultimately, the region, its history, the soil (thick gravel and stone over a layer of sand and clay,) and the use of Sémillon in blending all combine to provide a luscious, approachable, invigorating, food-friendly wine.

Do yourselves a favor and make the effort to seek out white Bordeaux - you will not be disappointed! The following are tasting notes from a number of 2008 releases with approximate retail prices.

2008 Château Bouscaut Blanc: Flint and terroir on the nose, great citrus of tangerine and lime. ~$45

2008 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc: Taffy on the nose, good mid-palate feel, nicely acidic. ~$90

2008 Château de Fieuzal Blanc: Light nose of perfumey florals, great structure, elegant style. ~$62

2008 Château Haut-Bergey Blanc: Grassy nose, warm peaches and orange blossom, really unique, good acidity. ~$44

2008 Château Latour-Martillac Blanc: Great tropical fruit on the nose, sweet peaches, light acidity. ~$35

2008 Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc: Nice grassy elements, good acidity, integrated citrus throughout. ~$80

2008 Château Olivier Blanc: Nose of tropical fruits, good viscosity, prominent melon, light acidity. ~$32

2008 Château Pape Clément Blanc: Great nose! Florals, abundant fruit, and grassy notes. Lightish acidity. Fabulous balance. ~$200

2008 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc: Nose of straw and grass, nice spice mid-palate, great length. ~$90

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