My tour through Spain and Portugal in the summer of 2018 was to better familiarize myself with producers I had been enamored with for a long time. Of course, traversing through this land steeped in rich history was going to provide some new revelations. At one dinner, the owner of Mesón A Curva restaurant in Galicia blind-poured us a stunning glass of wine. The big reveal was: Forjas del Salnes's Rias Baixas "Goliardo" Albariño, a joint project between Rodrigo Mendez and Raul Perez.
Albariño's birthplace, Val do Salnes, is the coolest of the five subzones of Rias Baixas. Galician winemakers are more focused than ever on wines with levity instead of power, though Forjas del Salnes has found a way to instill both of these virtues with a balance.
Goliardo a Telleira comes from a 1973-planted Albariño parcel on sand and granite soils—sourced from the same site as Raúl Perez's famous Sketch bottling. The grapes see partial skin-contact fermentation with malolactic blocked to preserve the wine's verve. A single foudre is used for fermentation, then the wine is transferred to stainless steel for several months before bottling.
The other bottling, Leirana, is as unique and singular a wine as I've had from Galicia. From vines planted between 1952 and 1982, the most profound trait in Leirana is centered around multi-layered textures and that ultimate elusive density without weight. Less than 1,000 bottles produced of both wines!
Vietti's Luca Currado works tirelessly to continually improve the quality of his wines and Barolo's reputation as a whole, and the 2018 vintage proved no different. Antonio Galloni wrote in his 2018 Barolo report how this was "the most erratic, frustratingly inconsistent Barolo vintage" that he has encountered in his career. Still, Vietti's Baroli were standouts from the region, and the 2018 Castiglione, Lazzarito, and Ravera earned glowing reviews, as you'll see below.
Aside from being a banner year in Piedmont, 2013 cemented a shift in Currado's philosophy—now, the Baroli lineup is nearly exclusively aged in large format botti as opposed to small French barrique. (The Ravera was the first bottling to undergo this change in 2010, and the powerful Villero was the last in the range to do so in 2013).
Many consider Vietti to have one foot in the traditional camp and one foot in the modern camp. In addition to aging in botti, the Baroli see long skin macerations (a requisite for the traditional category). If one aspect leans modern, it's their vineyard work, which is about keeping yields low and doing everything in their power by natural means to push ripeness higher.
Last week, I wrote about Les Mémoires, Thierry Germain’s soulful, old-vine Cabernet Franc. I’m switching gears today and heading to the French Alps. If you enjoy white wines from the Jura but haven’t dipped into Savoie, you're missing out. One of the most important names to know is Michel Grisard.
This vigneron started Prieuré Saint-Christophe in the late 1970s, after running his family's domaine for a decade. His new sole intention was to produce high-quality, ageable Mondeuse, a powerfully deep red grape variety native to the area. Grisard succeeded but didn’t stop there: He was the Savoie’s first vigneron to adopt Biodynamics, played a key role in the local movement to revive the region’s many abandoned vineyards, by replanting them with indigenous varieties, and he also founded Domaine des Ardoisières.
Grisard devoted his career to championing Savoie, and the wine region is as popular as ever, largely thanks to his pioneering work. He retired after the 2014 vintage and gave his vineyards to the Giachino brothers (Currently, my favorite producer in the Savoie). They have carried on Grisard's legacy and continue to produce wines from his former estate under the Prieuré Saint-Christophe label.
In addition to Mondeuse, Grisard also planted 1.4 hectares of Altesse—the finest indigenous white grape variety of Savoie, according to Wink Lorch, author of Wines of the French Alps. (If you don’t know about Lorch, she is a leading expert on this alpine region). Comparable to Burgundy’s Aligoté or Italy’s Trebbiano, Altesse offers an intriguing concentration of fruit with floral and nutty tones.
From the foothills of the Massif des Bauges, on clay and limestone soils, this estate produces one of the most linear examples of Altesse we’ve encountered. It interplays succulent pear with striking minerality, and a slight texture of fresh almond—a pleasing combination that’s compelling and delicious. The wine spontaneously ferments and ages in large oak casks to avoid any oak flavors.
Marquiliani's pale copper-hued, diamond-cut rosé from Corsica is one of our most highly anticipated rosé releases each year. The native Sciaccarellu grape is grown here on decomposed granite terraces a couple of miles from the Mediterranean, just below the towering 8,000 foot Mount Renosu, ensuring cool breezes to balance out the island's hot summer temperatures.
Here, every single grape grown is destined to be rosé. Vin de Corse Rosé shows the domaine's more incisive, linear style of rosé. The smaller production Rosé de Pauline is a touch broader on the palate but counter-intuitively paler in color than the Vin de Corse. Even with Syrah's more prominent role here, this is rosé at its most featherweight and saline-driven.
Anne Almaric tends these minuscule two hectares of vines, which her family took over in the 1950s. There was a 20-year span where this centuries old domaine was abandoned, and Anne's father was the first to plant Sciaccarellu on the eastern side of the island. Anne's background in agricultural chemistry lends a keen eye toward viticulture, and the vines have prospered under her watch.
New California, dubbed by Jon Bonné, has brought back an emphasis on expressing terroir through more minimal intervention and balance. While Napa Valley still has a reputation for producing bombastic wines, Di Costanzo's Cabernet Sauvignons capture everything that's so thrilling about the variety from a sensitive and thoughtful approach.
Di Costanzo's Farella Cabernet Sauvignon is dark and savory with smoke, graphite, and scorched earth notes reminiscent of the volcanic ash scattered throughout the vineyard. The wine is also super elegant and speaks to Massimo's travels throughout the world, having learned how to work with this tannic variety and tame its burly predisposition.
Coombsville is perhaps the coolest AVA within Napa, thanks to moderating influences from nearby San Pablo Bay. Before launching his label, Massimo spent years working with the Farella winery, getting intimately familiar with the nuances of this red gravel-dominant vineyard. Also, the "DI CO" Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a shale and sandstone vineyard at the foothills of Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley.
Massimo earned his degree in enology and viticulture from UC Davis in 2002. After working for wineries in Tuscany, Stellenbosch, and Mendoza, he landed at Napa's Ovid and then Screaming Eagle, working as the winemaker alongside Andy Erickson. Massimo's extensive familiarity with old-school Napa Valley greatly shapes his winemaking approach.