Can you name the most exciting new wine (by “new” I mean new to you) that you’ve enjoyed in recent weeks or months–something that really grabbed your attention. What did you particularly like about the wine? If you enjoyed it with a meal, what did you pair it with?
Philippe Cambie, consulting enologist (southern Rhône, France). Red wine is my favorite this summer, especially the Chateau Juvenal 2011 Les Ribes du Vallat Coteaux du Ventoux, a blend of 50% grenache, 25% carignan and 25% syrah vinified entirely in tank, with no wood. It has a fantastically deep red color with a suggestion of violet. On the nose we discover a wonderful blend of aromas, from cherry, dragon fruit and wild raspberry to undertones of tonka beans and cardamom. This deliciously smooth, round wine carries hints of nectarine and sloe jam with associations of licorice. It makes a great BBQ wine.
Roberto de la Mota, Mendel Wines (Argentina). The most exciting new wine that I tasted was last Sunday. Yes, I was in Cafayate, Salta (in the north of Argentina) with a group of winemakers and friends. At one of the rarest and and nicest places that you can visit, called La Turbina, (a house built in 1950 for Michel Torino at 2,030 meters altitude), we tasted samples of cabernet sauvignon and malbec from the Santa Maria Vineyard. The vineyard is owned by El Esteco and the wine is made in a new winery owned by the Trapiche group in the province of Catamarca.
Those samples were a revelation for me. Both were black in color, really fruity with fresh and ripe red fruits like raspberries and black fruits too, with big structure, sweet tannins and good acidity. Of course the roast lamb grilled for hours with local wood was extremely important for that moment. Finally we drank Altimus 2009 from El Esteco. This blend of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, bonarda and syrah is an excellent example of the intensity, elegance and complexity that you can find in some wines from those high valleys in the north of Argentina.
Bob Betz, Betz Family Winery (Washington). All these wines, how can I pin it down to one? A wine that caught my attention recently, probably because of the season, was the 2011 La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas. It’s summer, it’s warm, the wine was chilled, and it matched the moment just right. And for $15. Crisp, fresh and lively, it opened slowly and delicately at first, and then burst forth with a whole bunch of fruit. Peach, spice and orange peel were dominant but also some faint floral notes emerged. Uncomplicated by oxidative handling or time in wood, the wine was a bit racy but had enough weight and texture to be more than just a quick quaffer. No meal, just a glass of refreshingly good wine.
Marc Hugel, Hugel et Fils (Alsace, France). A real coup de coeur, and I still have the wine on the front of my tongue (and mind)! I discovered this wine a few weeks ago in the formidable restaurant La Taverne Alsacienne in Ingersheim, seven kilometers from Riquewihr. Their wine list is so huge and endless that I asked the adorable owner Madame Groell to choose a bottle for us. She picked a Vin de Pays de l’Hérault Les Terrasses d’Elise Cuvée Le Pigeonnier 2009 from Xavier Braujou, a 100% carignan (I took it for a shiraz!) made in Saint Jean de Fos, a few kilometers from Aniane (home of Grange des Pères, Daumas Gassac, etc.).
Not only was this wine cheap (about 20 euros for the bottle) but it was absolutely delicious. Plenty of fruit, beautiful freshness of aromas, plenty of volume but at the same time an incredible drinkability (the speed at which the bottle is emptied), perfect balance, beautiful acidity (thanks to the carignan) and even some class. It reminded me a little bit of a good Côte-Rôtie (for one-third of the price, at most). We had some grilled lamb with the wine and the pairing was exquisite.
The grower also makes a pure syrah, a pure merlot (!), and a pure cinsault (!!), plus a pure chardonnay, all of which I will try as soon as I can. I think we will soon hear more about Xavier Braujou. Vive le Languedoc!
NB: I remember I felt the same excitement the first time I tried a wine from J. F. Gannevat in the Jura.