Like A new Argyle Sweater: Fun Wines For Fall
As we move towards the middle of October, we thought we’d highlight some of our favorite “little wines that could”. Like that little engine in that old children’s book, these are wines that have defied our expectations and represent great values. We firmly believe that value is not the same as cheap- rather, these are wines whose quality stands above their peers in their price bracket, wines that are eminently drinkable and yet daring. This week finds us going from one of the oldest wine regions in Portugal to one of the hilliest alcoves in Italy, before dwelling on some of France’s most well known haunts. Let’s get into it!
Quinta Boavista Rufia Branco
Portuguese varietals are about as varied and unfamiliar to the rest of Europe as the Portuguese language itself. Though there are only about 250 native varietals (compared to Italy’s 850) that’s no small amount, especially when you consider how little land Portugal has under vine compared to its European counterparts.
The Dão is located in the heart of Portugal in the mountainous Beira Alta (“high border”) region. The rugged landscape plays a large part in why Portugal, and the Dão specifically, have resisted the invasion of international varietals.
For years, the winemaking here was steeped in the old methods - long macerations with whole clusters and long aging processes, resulting in wines that were not as inviting and fruity as the rest of the western world desired. This was further exacerbated by centralized control of all the wine production, with all of the wine made being submitted to a handful of cooperatives that would bend the profile to their will.
Since the 1980s, those old methods are slowly changing - the monopolization of the industry is no more, and winemakers are eager to show a rapidly expanding wine market that the Dão is more capable than ever of producing wines with elegance, structure, and fruit.
In Penalva do Castelo, João Tavares de Pina runs his organic vineyards from his 18th century home, where the nearby mountains provide shelter for mild winters and moderate summers. It’s relatively high up here too, at 550 meters, and the soils are made up of clay, schist, and deep granite. This combination allows for a slower ripening cycle for the grapes and the vineyards sit amongst beds of chamomile, lavender, and clover buttressed by oak and eucalyptus.
The Rufia Branco is a blend of 30% Encruzado, 20% Cerceal Branco, 20% Malvasia Fina, 15% Bical, and 15% Arinto. If you haven’t heard of half of those, that’s not a surprise, but what you should know is that Encruzado is considered Dão’s noble white with age worthy qualities that draw out hazelnutty notes as the wine gets older. Arinto and Bical are often paired with each other, with the former providing a bright and fresh acidity and the latter providing softer and more aromatic tones. Cerceal Branco is high in acidity, while Malvasia Fina is more subtle, with undertones of molasses and beeswax. The wine is co-fermented with skins for about two weeks and plays a high-wire balancing act of freshness with texture.
Quinta Boavista Rufia Branco Regular Price - $22.99 Sale Price - $20.69
Foradori Teroldego IGT Dolmiti
In the mountainous reaches of northeast Italy, just below Alto Adige lies the province of Trentino, where Elizabetta Foradori makes her home. Elizabetta is the third generation of the family winery, which was purchased in 1939, but she started when she was only 19, after her father passed away unexpectedly in her teen years. What has brought Foradori into high regard is her revitalization of an indigenous grape, Teroldego, which had suffered for most of the 20th century as a mass-produced grape varietal that was little thought of beyond blending.
Starting at a young age, Elizabetta took a risk, and devoted her time to studying Teroldego, finding older vineyards that weren’t filled with the genetically modified high-yield wines that were common in the marketplace.
That said, Teroldego isn’t a set and forget type of grape, it’s very fussy and transparent to how it has been treated, so it’s no small feat that Foradori has been able to produce exceptional wines. But what is Teroldego? It’s a sibling to the ancient grape Dureza, which was one of the parents to Syrah (along with Mondeuse Blanche) so think of it as a snappy, fresh red wine that expresses some gamey and herbal qualities while maintaining a character that’s light on its feet.
Foradori Teroldego IGT Dolmiti Regular Price - $29.99 Sale Price - $26.99
Domaine Thevenet & Fils Bourgogne Rouge Bussieres Les Clos
In the northwest of the Maconnais, the southern reach of proper Burgundy, we find the family estate of Domaine Thevenet & Fils in the town of Pierreclos. Burgundy is region built on reputation, and also some of the greatest soil that ever called for Pinot Noir and Burgundy, which is why prestigious houses from Cote de Nuit and Cote de Beaune are able to garner such high prices for their high quality bottlings. The Maconnais is somewhat of an underdog, it’s not quite as cold and the soils aren’t quite as rich, but they’re still making high quality wines from one of the better wine regions in the world.
The pinot noir for this wine is found in the village of Bussieres and is sourced from the lieu-dit « Les Clos ». The vines are south-facing at 350 feet above sea level on gently sloping hills that are principally composed of clay. The fruit tends to ripen early due to its excellent exposure. Pigeage and remontage are practiced during fermentation. This wine is marked by notes of black, ripe berries, often a touch “sauvage”.
Domaine Thevenet & Fils Bourgogne Rouge Bussieres Les Clos Regular Price - $24.99 Sale Price-$22.49
Chateau Moulin de Tricot Haut Medoc
Ah Bordeaux, the region that dominates French wine production, and one of the more well known regions in the entire world for wine making. Lately, the issue with Bordeaux has become the massive commercialization of the region, where tiny houses are no longer the norm, while big conglomerates of big name Bordeaux producers control the vast amount of wine pouring out of the region.
In the region of Medoc, on the left bank of the Gironde, the tiny property of Chateau Moulin de Tricot has been sticking to tradition since the 19th century by the Rey Family in the town of Arsac, just a couple minutes drive from Chateau Marguax. Now Bruno and Pascale Rey are responsible for the domaine, and they’ve been praised by the likes of Jon Bonne “for their raw, sinewy character—cabernet without bullshit.”¹ In big Bordeaux, the Rey’s have control over only 5 hectares, a insignificant amount of land in a significant region of Bordeaux that they were lucky to hold onto as old family property as the rest of the region has been snatched up by bigger houses looking to scale up their production.
Speaking about this bottle, Bonne wrote that the “humble Haut-Médoc is everything a Bordeaux should be: forceful, just ripe enough, with a decidedly savory side of cured tea leaves and celery seeds. This is Bordeaux that makes no apologies for not being a dedicated follower of fashion.”²
Bordeaux can be daunting, but it’s easy if you remember to split things up by the Gironde river. Appellations on the Left Bank, like our Tricot here, are Cabernet Sauvignon heavy, while regions on the Right Bank, like Pomeral, are Merlot heavy. There are exceptions here and there, but traditionally, that’s the easiest way to seperate the many different parts of Bordeaux.