Today's curated packs of reds and whites personify the best of value, from a very diverse landscape. If I'm packing a picnic these are the 12 bottles I'm reaching for immediately. Each is a perfect representation of their home, whether it be Piedirosso from the volcanic soils of Mt. Vesuvius or the limestone of Graves where Sémillon excels with a surprisingly mineral-inflected tone.
Red Pack - $123
2013 Villa Dora Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso Gelsonero
From organically farmed vines on the lower slopes of the infamous (and active) Mt. Vesuvius volcano. 80% Piedirosso and 20% Aglianico aged in large neutral barrel. Dark fruits, but light in body. Smoke and wild herbs meld with the fruit so well in glass that this warrants a few minutes to simply sit with the aroma.
2015 De Forville Barbera d'Asti Ca del Buc
A banner year for Barbera and Dolcetto in Piedmont. De Forville always over-delivers for their modest price point, and this is the most exciting Ca del Buc to date. Dark and juicy with bright acids. There's a zippy quality to the Asti Barberas that makes them prime for this time of year vs. those weightier Alba renditions.
2015 Baron Widmann Vernatsch
Vernatsch AKA Trollinger AKA Schiava is where you want to turn for reds in Alto Adige this time of year. The alpine region is perfectly suited for this variety, and again 2015 brings out the very best in this bouyant, light-bodied red with a gossamer texture that can only come from the wizard himself, Baron Widmann.
2015 Le Grappin Beaujolais-Villages Nature
Andrew Nielsen has been turning out exquisite Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Beaunefor years. More recently his Beaujolais project has caught everyone's attention. His natural Gamay is the stuff legendary spring picnics were made of. Ripe and fleshy with superb freshness, and dare I say the most gulpable of the lineup today. If you serve with a slight chill please remember one will not be enough.
2015 McKinlay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
I'm not shy about our love for Matt Kinne's ultra-micro-production lineup from Willamette Valley. When American Pinot Noir is on your mind this bottling is the first place I like to turn. The intersection between serious value and the the finicky Pinot Noir grape can be hard to spot, but this is as good as it gets. Earthy and floral Pinot Noir that drinks like a wine twice its price thanks to concentration of flavor from those minuscule yields Kinne works with.
2014 Louis-Antoine Luyt Cuvée Paloma Nature "Sereine" (Syrah)
I met this young gent at his home wine bar in Villié-Morgon in 2012 and knew if his wines were half as strong as his enthusiasm we'd be in store for some stellar juice. Luyt actually produces wines in Chile from very old vines, but his sensibilities are more tied into his time working alongside the Lapierres in Morgon. The Sereine clone is usually an extra dark, peppery, and meaty version of Syrah, but the carbonic fermentation Luyt employs gives this a levity and vitality that's just so damn fun to drink.
White Pack - $129
2015 Clos des Rocs Mâcon Loché En Prés Forét
At the southern tip of Burgundy, Mâcon Chardonnay often really shows that sun-kissed quality, but Clos des Rocs has a verve and salinity to it that's very rare. It has textural richness that's appropriate for the terroir, but aging in stainless steel helps make their En Près Forét just about the most crisp and refreshing Chardonnay in all the Mâcon.
2015 Weiser-Kunstler Estate Riesling
Like their close friends at Weingut Willi Schaefer, Konstantin Weiser and Alexandra Künstler also farm just 4 hectares of Riesling on the famed steep slate vineyards above the Mosel river. And like the Schaefer wines, here it's as crystalline as one could ask for. Their Estate Riesling is dry-tasting and sees a combination of stainless steel and old fuder. This is precise and refined, and the single best value in dry Mosel Riesling from the spellbinding 2015 vintage.
2015 Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves Blanc
Bordeaux Blanc can go in so many different directions. We prefer examples like this that are built on brightness of fruit. Stainless steel helps here, where so many other whites from the region succumb to reliance on new oak, in turn really obscuring the delicious fruit that we like to see front and center. Honeysuckle and grapefruit burst from the glass in this blend of 75% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 5% Muscadelle.
2012 Ciro Picariello Greco di Tufo
Picariello is producing some of the very best whites in all of Italy. In Campania he focuses on Fiano and Greco. His Greco comes from a sandy/clay parcel of volcanic origin. Ciro goes to great lengths ensuring the top quality of his wines - This is picked in tiny baskets and pressed immediately to preserve all the fresh flavors. Orange blossom, melon, and faint smoke make Greco a wine unlike any on earth.
2012 Domaine de l'Ecu Muscadet Granite
Melon de Bourgogne is the variety at the heart Muscadet. Although the tried-and-true oyster pairing is wonderful, examples like this from L'Ecu show much more depth and concentration than is the norm. L'Ecu separates each bottling of Muscadet into the origin soil. Granite has always been a favorite for how it marries texture, fruit, and minerality so brilliantly.
2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit
Martin Nigl carries on the family legacy in the Kremstal dating back 200 years. He works exclusively with stainless steel for aging, avoids fining his wine, and relies on native yeasts for fermentation. This textbook Grüner is one I always recommend to those wanting to explore Austria, and 2013 might just be the most complete vintage since 1997.