One of the white wines we are pouring this weekend is an old favorite, the bargain-priced Peirano Estates viognier (pronounced “vee-on-yay,”) from California. As the linked article says, Viognier is an “aromatic grape variety known for producing textural white wines with strong stone-fruit flavors. On the nose Viognier wines can be very floral, showing lavender and pollen aromas that are quite honeyed in sweeter examples. Apricots are the variety’s classic flavor association, often with a richness that can be interpreted as ripe peach.” Or, as wine writer Karen McNeil puts it, viognier is “the most drippingly sensuous white wine varietal.” !! Personally, I also often find notes of pear and lychee in the flavor profile.
It turns out that by the early 60′s “ just 40 acres of Viognier vines were all that remained in the world.” Wow, that’s, like, the verge of extinction! But then, beginning with plantings in Australia, it began a global comeback. It is tricky grape to grow well, because small changes in weather can have big effects on sugar content, resultant alcohol content, and acidity of the final wine. Some producers also let the wine age on the lees or in oak barrels to give it more body and character. This shows in small ways in the differences between California viognier, which tends to be big, fruity, and high in alcohol and those from France or Washington, where the overall climate is cooler. Some of the world’s best viognier comes from the French region of Condrieu (we have some, and it’s both delicious and pricey!), where latitude, microclimate, and granitic soil evoke its best qualities.
Some of you may recall last summer when Virginie Bourgue of Lullaby Winery poured her wines for us. We still have some of her Lullaby viognier, in which she captures many of the minerally, crisp, and aromatic characteristics of Condrieu in her delicious Washington viognier (a French import herself, all her wines have an Old World freshness and authenticity).
We continue to unpack our recent shipment of Italian wines and offer them for your tasting pleasure. This week we are offering three that we have not carried before, and which are (trust me!) totally yummy. Two weeks ago we introduced you to the very seductive blend of corvina and cabernet franc in the soul-soothing Lonardi Privilegia. This week we have another delicious wine from the same producer, the Corte Lonardi Rosso, a blend of 80% merlot and 20% corvina. As with its big sister, in this wine the corvina adds a sensuous element to the fruit and minerality of the old world merlot. AND winemaker Giuseppe Lonardi (his wife calls him “Bepi”- see label to left) also has the perfect toast to go with his wines: “Peccato gravissimo e quello di stare senza vino e senza amante.” Translation: “It is a grave mistake to live without wine and a lover.” …ah, Italian wisdom!
Another new wine for us is the Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi. with 90% sangiovese, and a touch of malvasia nera and canaiolo. This wine bears the classification “DOCG”, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, which basically means it not only has to meet geography and blend proportion requirements, but must also pass a taste test, usually conducted by other winemakers in the area, who take turns as stewards of the appellation. In this way, DOCG wines enforce a higher standard of quality to distinguish their wines from the hoi polloi of “Vino da Tavola” (not that, in many cases, there is anything at all wrong with that!). You can decide for yourself whether this really makes a difference or if it is just another case of “alla the wines, theysa way above average!”
Our final Italian wine this week is from one of our long-time favorite Italian imports, Perazzeta, which is in Tuscany just south of the dividing line between the DOCG Montalcino area and the more unruly wine region of Maremma. What this means, as nearly as I can tell, is that on the one hand they can (and do) grow sangiovese grosso, the grape used in Rosso de Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino (prized DOCG labels), but their wines can never use those labels because their vineyard is not located a few miles to the north, within the Montalcino boundary. On the other hand, it also means they can grow a wide range of French varietals (syrah, cab, merlot) and blend them into whatever wines they want. And I think you will agree, this syrah is so delicious that it won’t matter at all where it came from!
This week’s wines
Peirano Viognier ’10 California $12
Peaches, pineapple, and tropical fruit are complemented by the scent of lemons and ginger, and balanced by flavors of apples, pears and orange marmalade. (read more on how this wine was made)
Corte Lonardi Rosso ’11 Italy $11
Unusual blend of 80% merlot, 20% corvina that yields a smooth, even blend with notes of bright, spicy cranberry and wet granite.
Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi ’09 Italy $14
Rich, chewy, dark fruit, evolves into a smooth palate with notes of black cherry and sweet tobacco.
Perazzeta Syrah ’08 Italy $38
From one of our favorite Italian wineries, this beautiful artisan syrah (only 80 cases produced) was made from meticulously selected grapes beginning with open-barrel fermentation. Very special!