September 19, 2008

Wine 101 - Ee is for Entre-Deux-Mers

g_bor_map.gifLiterally translated, entre-deux-mers means between two oceans or seas. And in lovely, scenic Bordeaux this identifies the appellation situated between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. There are 37 appellations in Bordeaux, all of which are situated along the Dordogne, the Garonne and the Gironde which flows from the Atlantic ocean and splits to form the other two. On the map above, entre-deux-mers is represented by the large green area in the middle of Bordeaux.

I'm not sure I could clearly explain Bordeaux in one little post so I'm going to send you on a jump, to Wiki land. The Wiki page offers the clearest, most thorough condensation (I've found) of the region as well as a handy numbered map for reference. It also clearly defines terminology associated with Bordeaux wines (ie. Left bank, Right Bank, Graves etc).

Back to the task at hand... Wine from the entre-deux mers appellation can be red, however the reds are fairly nondescript compared to its haughty left bank/right bank kin. Most often when you see entre-deux-mers on a label, it is on a white. Typically, they are sauvignon blanc based and blended with semillon, muscadelle and occasionally, ugni blanc. Vivacious and dry, they can run the gamut from stark and simple to lovely and layered, depending on on the blend, of course.

Start investigating the wines available in your area and buy 2007 vintages whenever possible... Or if you need a few suggestions, check these out:

etiq_23.jpgChateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers 2006
50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle
The higher proportion of sauvignon blanc in this blend provides a crisp, acidic backbone. While the sturdy dose of semillon softens the edges with ripe tropical fruit notes.


La Foret Blanc Entre-Deux-Mers 2006 $12
40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Muscadelle, 20% Sémillon
Much softer than the Bonnet, the La Foret benefits from an equal split of sauvignon blanc and muscadelle. The latter providing lovely aromatics and playful, almost floral notes. Not to be forgotten, the semillon provides a little depth and richness.
Bordeaux map via Great Wine Capitals

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

September 3, 2008

Wine 101 - Aa is for Albariño

Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in the Rias Baixes area of the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Considered by many to be Spain's premier quality white wine, Albariño is also known in Portugal as Alvarinho and often used as a component of Vinho Verde.

condesdealbarei.jpgWeather conditions in the Rias Baixes are generally cool, windy and rainy. Vines must be trained high and open to allow winds to dry them out and avoid the ongoing threat of rot, mildew and other fungal diseases. Notably, Albariño grapes develop thick skins here, contributing to their intense aromas.

Typically, wines made from Albariño are very aromatic, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, peaches, citrus, and flowers or grass. Albariño wines are particularly suited to seafood due to their bracing acidity This grape's inherent tartness should be embraced in youth, for wines made from Albariño do not age well, and the vibrant aromas begin to noticeably fade within months of bottling. (from Professional Friends of Wine)

As with all varietals you can find Albariños that range from thin and watery to ripe and lush. I would advise selecting one that has been recommended to you to avoid encountering the former. Also, be sure that the vintage is within a year or so, as these wines are meant to be enjoyed young. One of my favorites is from Adega Condes de Albarei. From the first whiff of citrus blossom, pineapple and melon I am completely enamored. Though it does maintain the vibrant and crisp characteristics true to the varietal, I find this Albariño to shape-shift on my palate with bursting flavors of ripe white peach, juicy grapefruit, tropical fruit-- all tempered with a clean subtly mineral finish. It is pretty tough for me to locate so I often look for substitutes. But I have yet to find another that is as interesting in the $12-$15 price range.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 28, 2008

FAZI BATTAGLIA TITULUS - Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico 2007


In 1953, Fazi Battaglia announced a national competition to create a new bottle in order to personalize its extraordinary production of Verdicchio. Architect Antonio Maiocchi, inspired by the ancient Etruscan amphora, created the acclaimed Fazi Battaglia emerald green "amphora", in 1954 recognized throughout the world as the ultimate icon for Verdicchio.

Ahhh, the beautiful Adriatic Coast. I remember fondly early summer days driving east from Bologna, bobbing from seaside town to seaside town... Rimini... Riccione... Eating piadini and almost-frozen lemon yogurt at the beach by day and enjoying a bounty of fresh local seafood at night. The wine of choice was decidedly light and crisp and of course, fish friendly.

A little further down the coast lies the Marches region. Fazi-Battaglia is a renowned producer in this area and this verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a prime example of their pursuit of excellence. The Titulus is 100% verdicchio, hand harvested and then fermented in stainless steel tanks prior to additional time in the bottle. The resulting wine is quite a pale yellow-green. Gossamer light with hints of almond shell and golden apple on the nose, then softly fruity with a fresh, clean mineral finish. You'll want to slurp it with a straw, but control yourself. Practice a little decorum. A lovely aperitif, or as mentioned, ideal with light seafood (particularly shellfish). Mi piace molto.

VARIETAL: Verdicchio
REGION: Marches, Italy
PRICE: $11

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 25, 2008

Terruzzi e Puthod Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2005

t&pvernaccia.jpgVARIETAL: Vernaccia
REGION: San Gimignano (Tuscany), Italy
PRICE: $10

Blech. Ick. Yuk. Phooey. Lemonheads meet Pixie Stix with an undercurrent of Smarties.

But here is why: In my haste to pick up milk, yogurt and wine (my staples) in under three minutes, I mistakenly purchased this foul bottle of vernaccia. What should have been lovely and light with a floral nose and succulent pear-apple notes, turned into an unpleasant, sickly sweet and sour mess.

Here is a little piece of advice: don't buy wine when you're really rushed. Or if you do, remember to check the vintage! I feel like I've picked up quite a few bum bottles lately and every single mis-pick could have been avoided if I had just taken a breath and looked at the vintage. If you're buying a light Italian white--or any light bodied white--the vintage should be within 2 years, ideally within one year of the current date. Anything older is likely to bring disappointment. And, don't assume your favorite wine shop is on the ball. I bought this bottle at Whole Foods and though I feel they are a trusted purveyor, I also believe they do not want to get stuck with a bunch of old, fairly obscure Italian wines. Shame on them for over-buying and shame on me for not paying attention.

I do love vernaccia, so check back for the real review of this wine... Coming soon, I hope!

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 21, 2008

Domaine de la Batardiere Muscadet 2006

batardieremuscadet.jpgVARIETAL: Muscadet
REGION: Loire Valley, France
PRICE: $10

Also known as Melon de Borgogne, Muscadet is the perfect quaffer for the languid, hazy days of summer. If you find yourself feeling a little wilted and weary, chill a bottle of the Domaine de la Batardiere and prepare to be refreshed. The bouquet is all sweet smelling summer fruit. Succulent peach, melon and and citrus aromas are a little misleading. Though sweetly fragrant, this wine has very little residual sugar. Vivacious and vibrant with grapefruit and lime cleaning the palate. It is super crisp and clean with a distinctly Loire minerality that just begs for steamed crabs and fresh Maryland silver queen corn... or just a steamy evening on the porch swing.

Look for it at BevMo ( if you have one) or Whole Foods. But make sure you get the 2006. I initially, mistakenly picked up a leftover 2004 and though it wasn't terrible, it certainly was not a prime example of what a Muscadet can and should be.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 14, 2008

St. M Riesling 2006

saintM.jpgVARIETAL: Riesling
REGION: Pfalz, Germany
PRICE: $11

It is no surprise that the Saint M is a Dr. Loosen Estate wine. True to its roots, this riesling is soft and subtly sweet like ripe nectar pressed from early summer peaches and green pears. It thankfully resists the cloying sweetness that is often expressed in cheaper German rieslings, though it still has that slight twinge of kerosene that is so typical. Is that terrior? Or just an oddity of the varietal? I don't know, but it seems more pronounced in sweeter incarnations. The Saint M redeems itself with a light and lovely crispness that foils the sweet viscosity and cleanses the palate a bit. I'm partial to pairing rieslings with spicy noodle or rice dishes, but tonight I was adventurous and tried it with a jerked pork tenderloin. Good, but maybe better with a heavier riesling or gewurtz.

I found mine at my nearest market, but if you have trouble getting it locally, you can find it here: Saint M Riesling

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 4, 2008

Washington Hills Gewurztraminer 2006

small_Gewurzt_label.jpgVARIETAL: Gewurztraminer
REGION: Columbia Valley, Washington
PRICE: $7.99

It isn't often that I take three sips of a wine and hastily dispose of the remainder in my sink. I have only one word to adequately describe my experience with this wine: blech! I bought it to accompany my weekly Indian fix and as usual, before dinner, I readied my notepad and poured myself a glass. It smelled fine. Not as aromatic as Gewurtz should be in my opinion, but it seemed drinkable. And then, BLECH!! Pixie stix meets overripe grapes. I spit it out and did my due diligence. I waited to taste it with dinner before making my final judgment. After all, sometimes wine tastes better with food. Ugh. Why did I bother? Unappealing and overall undrinkable. If you want to give it the benefit of the doubt it could very well be a bad bottle or just past its prime. But as for me, I'll be steering clear of Washington Hills wines for a while. I'm still shuddering. . .

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

July 29, 2008

Cat's Phee on a Gooseberry Bush 2007

catspheeLABEL.jpgVARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: New Zealand
PRICE: $10

Remember that pucker you got when you first popped a Lemonhead in your mouth? Well amplify that about ten times and you'll get this extremely vibrant New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of cut grass and a certain l'eau du chat that the name implies are a little sharp. Explosions of zesty lime follow on your palate and reinforce the racy nature of this wine. I love the irreverence of the name, but I do wish the wine was a little more well rounded. Fun and refreshing, but a little one-dimensional.

I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, but if you require further investigation, check out the Coopers Creek site.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

July 16, 2008

Snoqualmie Nearly Naked Gewürztraminer 2006

06_NearlyNaked_Gewurz_Label.jpgVARIETAL: Gewurztraminer
REGION: Columbia Valley, Washington
PRICE: $12

From the folks at Snoqualmie, their 'Nearly Naked' designation indicates that minimal non-organic production methods are used--in other words, the grapes are organic (though not certified) and as much as possible, they've tried to let the grapes do all the work. And, as many certified organic wines die on your palate before they've fully evolved, I think they have made the right decision. This wine is both delicate and unctuous. A lovely orange blossom bouquet is punctuated with shots of fragrant spice. In true Gewurz style, the floral and spice notes are layered with juicy fruit viscosity that clings to your taste buds, bursting with ripe stone fruit flavors. A refreshingly crisp mineral finish adds polish and dimension. We took this when invited to dinner with some friends--they prepared a sumptuous Indian dinner for us and the Nearly Naked Gewurztraminer was the perfect complement to every dish.

I found mine at Whole Foods, but they have a retail distribution page on their site that is fairly up-to-date. Snoqualmie Winery

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

July 7, 2008

Silverado Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2006

silveradoSBlabel.jpgVARIETAL(S): Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
REGION: Napa Valley, California
PRICE: $15
Lovely, light and oh-so-summery, this sauvignon blanc shines. It is a pale golden yellow with bright citrus scents accentuated by a palate that is soft, yet crisp with ripe melon and golden apple flavors. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, stand by for the palate cleansing citrus and a clean stony finish. It s so easy to drink I found myself slurping a little. Great on its own, but even more lovely with light seafood fare.

I probably wouldn't pay full price for it, but luckily I found mine on sale at a local market. If you can't find it locally, you can find it here: Silverado Sauvignon Blanc

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking
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