Friday, March 29, 2013

Toscana: Feminine

What does it mean to call a wine feminine--beautifully perfumed, supple texture, delicate even?  We were discussing this way of describing wine the other day in the shop and found ourselves gravitating towards the Tuscan section of our store. 

And of the Tuscan winemakers in the shop whose wines we feel embody what's great about their terroir almost all are women: Giovanni Morganti (Chianti Classico); Dora Forsoni (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano); Elisabetta Fagiuli (San Gimignano); and the Padovani twins (Montalcino). We are thrilled to declare that these brilliant women are leading the current revolution in natural winemaking in the center of Italy, making expressive, elegant wines that are as addictive as they are powerful. A brief word on each: 

In the Southern limit of the Chianti Classico zone, Giovanna Morganti worked at the research laboratory and vineyards of San Felice in Castelnuovo Berardenga. She has a mere three hectares of vineyards and works according to the traditional rhythms of her territory such that the wine takes a thirty month journey before becoming available to the public. She describes her wines as "ferociously elegant." We can't agree more. 
Dora Forsoni cultivates the Prugnolo Gentile clone of Sangiovese in Montepulciano with her partner Patricia Castiglioni, a unique strain surviving from the 16th century that she describes as difficult to stop drinking (she calls it a "drug"). She also makes a delicious white wine out of the grapes that USED to be blended with Sangiovese in the past when that was the way to make a more thirst-quenching wine, so imagine: Malvasia Verde, Malvasia Bianco. Biancame, Trebbiano, and Grechetto brought up in concrete. After a day of pounding the pavement, this is an ideal aperitif to precede her red Vino Nobile (Dora calls this white her Vino Nobile as well). 

Elisabetta Fagiuoli, born in Valpolicella, has high altitude vineyards in San Gimignano overlooking the rest of Tuscany. Because of this elevation, she's most famous for her white Vernaccias, of which she makes four different kinds(!), all of which are of the stature of her compadre in world class white wines, Mme. Bize-Leroy in Burgundy. We're selling her Tradizionale bottling, which is vinified one year "sur lie" (the raw good stuff) before bottling.  And her reds are divine too!
Twin-sisters from Milan, Margarita and Francesca Padovani took over their mother's small farm in Montalcino in the late nineties, with the goal of making drinkable, honest wines in a region plagued by Parkerization (over-extracted, magazine score-fetching wines that say look at me but are impossible to drink). Whatever your experience of the Brunello clone of Sangiovese, the Fonterenza sisters make a variety of wines in levels of intensity from the most accessible to the most potent, all of which harmonize with food instead of making loud speeches from the glass. 

Le Boncie Chianti Classico 2008, $41 
Poderi Sanguineto Bianco Toscana 2010, $19 
Poderi Sanguineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008, $42 
Sono Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano Tradizionale 2010, $21 
Sono Montenidoli Colorino Rosso Toscano 2010, $22 
Sono Montenidoli Chianti Colli Senesi Il Garullo 2009, $23 
Fonterenza Pettirosso Rosso Toscano 2010, $24 
Fonterenza Rosso di Montalcino 2009, $34 

Build your own Toscana six-pack from these wines and save ten percent!  Click here to order.

Spain by Other Means

Spain is a great example of how some traditions must survive, at all costs (Sherry), while others (new oak) simply must go.  Neither sustainable nor terroir revealing, the Tempranillo-based appellations were not thinkable without the use of wood until now.  Thanks to our intrepid friend Jose Pastor (aka "the Joe Dressner of Spain") small wineries that are getting back to basics are coming to light.
Write Ribera del Duero in your head and then cross it out; Alfredo Maestro's there but would rather not have his wines associated with the oak-bombs the region was famous for. His wines are super-natural in both senses--no additives and incredibly powerful, raw, think Paolo Bea but Tinto Fino and Grenache. This is the difference.

And instead of using the standard form of "Rioja" based on grape-assemblages, Abel and Maite Mendoza are making wines exclusively by soil type. This one's tempranillo collected only from limestone-laden ("limoso") vineyards in the Rioja Alta with no oak at all (only concrete!), one of the more fresh takes on Rioja we've had in a while!

Our Spanish re-assemblage would not be complete without Fabio Bartolomei's bonkers-good unfiltered wines from Madrid. Our wine club members get first dibs on our final re-stocking this vintage (our allocation is relatively large, but actually quite miniscule!).  His "Titulciano" is mostly old-vine tempranillo with some "Sirah" and Graciano, wonderfully spiced and complex, and the "Malvar" is from one hundred-year-old vines and made the way Lapierre and co. make their quaffable Beaujolais (Carbonic Maceration in shop talk), where the berries are fermented quasi-intact and then pressed afterwords.  The result is a new plateau of deliciousness: blood-orange wine.

Sherry, we mentioned, should not change at all, but is rarely organic.  We found you one that's both--a half-bottle of Manzanilla is heading your way--if you like it, come get some Fino or Oloroso in our shop!  Serve the sherry with green olives, salted nuts, and lighter fish tapas, and the reds with anything you can get your roast on.

(If you're curious to join the club, rsvp and we'll get you started.)
the Thirst team

Friday, March 8, 2013

Real Wine All The Time

When we were living in the Bay Area and first discovered the wines of Kermit Lynch, one of the first mixed cases we compiled was made up entirely of wines from the Loire Valley.  If there’s a single region in France whose stylistic bent is geared towards wines of “thirst” (vin de soif), we decided early on this is it.  The whites can be highly nuanced, crisp without being bracing, and somehow deeply supple too, and the reds as chillable and refreshing as the whites but with an abundance of fruit and herbs that never tire the palate.

Since that idyllic time of drinking the Loire in San Francisco, a new generation of intrepid wine importers have made available to us a new cast of characters from the Loire coming not only from other wine regions but other walks of life.

THE REDS Part 1: Anjou
Nicholas Reau was a rugby-playing blues and jazz pianist who did a one-eighty after nearing the end of his business studies. He dropped his briefcase and scraped together the funds to buy a vineyard, Clos des Treilles, and immediately started getting his hands dirty.  Even though Nicolas had studied in Bordeaux, there was something about Anjou which drew him in—as with Benoit Courault, who also started in a more mainstream region (Burgundy) only to find a sense of in-authenticity that left him seeking truer mentors elsewhere (causing him to spend a couple years working with Eric Pfifferling of L’Anglore in Tavel, as well as learning how to make a horse his vineyard manager from the likes of Olivier Cousin).

If there’s a way to describe both the jazz musician’s and the equestrian’s approaches to vineyard tending and winemaking, it would be natural improvisation.  While Nicolas harvests from the older vines he found already in his Clos des Treilles vineyard, allowing the resulting grape juice to turn itself into wine auto-poetically through a path that starts in cement, then used oak, and finally settling into the bottle without any fining/filtering/sulfuring or other interferences, Benoit converted the old farm house on his six hectare property into a winery and decided to create his own living inhabitation directly in the vineyard itself with a trailer, not fussing with the soil (but allowing his horse Norway to take care of that) so that the itinerary from harvest to cuvaison is entirely ecosystemic.  He also uses an old apple press from Brittany that is then gravity fed so that only the earth’s native forces enable the wine to come into its own.

When you drink both Nicolas’ and Benoit’s wines, their versatility will allow you to improvise too, in the kitchen, as the structure of these wines are wound differently—Nicolas Reau’s Pompois Anjou Rouge 2010 at a looser coil, with boisterous vibrancy, and the Benoit Courault Les Rouliers Vin de France 2010 more densely woven in a way that your own letting it be will be rewarded with a good, long decantation.

Part Two: Touraine
Further inland along the river valley is Touraine, home to one of our favorite of the greatest small appellations in France, Cheverny.  Less people live in Cheverny than in Fort Greene but the wine scene there is beyond urbane.  Christian Venier, one of seven siblings, took over his family’s domaine as the only child who took up the winemaking call, and makes nearly a dozen single parcel wines.  With trouble just picking one (we cherish them all!) we’ve decided to give you one of his reds, “La Pierre aux Chiens,” a lovely filigreed and potpourri’d pinot noir.  This is natural winemaking at its most balanced, ripened to only 12% alcohol. Also on offer is Philippe Tessier’s Cheverny Blanc, which is by law a blend of Sauvignon Blanc with at least 20% and no more than 25% of another grape (candidates being either Chardonnay or Menu Pineau, Tessier opting for the former), a wine that many of you have been ordering second glasses of at THIRSTBARÀVIN.

To complete the bag is a dry bottle of classic Vouvray from Catherine and Pierre Breton, who were one of the earlier pioneers of biodynamics in the region after Nicolas Joly and Domaine Huet.  Enjoy!

Have an indoor picnic! Spread your best table cloth on the floor and pair these wines with rillettes, spicy tripe sausages, and an assortment of goat cheeses.

If these wines pique your interest, click here to sign up for our club at the $25, $50, or $100 level and we'll get you started.