Wine Club February 2021

Hello everyone, the February edition of Vine Arts Wine Club is now available for pickup from both Vine Arts locations. This month we’ve selected wines from 6 different countries, showcasing a broad range of styles and grape varieties. Included are two dry wines from areas best known for sweet wine styles – Tokaj and Rivesaltes. If you have any questions about any of the wines or would like any additional details, please let us know. Cheers!

2018 Cantine Marramiero Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DAMA

Abruzzo, Italy $25.17

Description courtesy of Alex Good, Spur Imports

Where

On the coast of Abruzzo, the ‘calf’ of the Italian peninsula. This is a culturally rich area with correspondingly rich wines that are full of character and personality. Like the area, the wines are warm, nourishing, and sun-kissed. Most of the wine from Abruzzo comes from the Adriatic coast, where the sea breezes have a moderating effect on the region that is colloquially referred to as ‘il forno’, or ‘the oven’.

What

Montepulciano – one of the most important red grape varieties grown in Italy. Montepulciano can be found in many Italian wine regions, but it arguably reaches its apogee in Abruzzo. In Abruzzo Montepulciano has a great range of styles, from light, juicy, bouncy reds all the way up to deep, brooding, wildly complex wines that require long aging. This wine shows the best aspects of both styles: it has youthful, vibrant fruit combined with a nice measure of complexity and nuance, and even has the potential to age a few years.

Who

The Marramiero family have been growing grapes for centuries in Abruzzo. They have some of the most well-situated old vines of Montepulciano and Trebbiano in the region. In many ways they are considered a ‘traditional’ producer for the Abruzzo, given their approach to old-school vineyard and winemaking techniques, and their wines follow suit, although with a touch of bright, rich, modern fruit. The family has some interesting historical ties: One of their wines is called “Inferi”, and features an artistic depiction of purgatory. It pays tribute to their ancestor Dante Alighieri, and the first part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy, otherwise known as Dante’s Inferno

Taste

The wine features a fairly deep red cherry colour. The nose is classic Montepulciano with damson plum, black cherry, cinnamon, toasted walnut, and a touch of terracotta-like earthiness. The palate is not short on complexity, displaying spicy black fruit, dried herbs, toasted rye bread, and a touch of cocoa. Structurally, the wine is quite muscular, with smooth tannins and energetic acidity.

Montepulciano is very versatile with food, but is best paired with simple fare, like pasta with meat sauce, pizza, burgers, and bbq ribs.

2017 Zsirai Tokaji Hárslevelű

Tokaj, Hungary $25.94

Where

The Zsirai winery produces wines from three different regions – Somló, Villány, and Tokaj. Of all the Hungarian wine regions, Tokaj is the most famous. It lies in the country’s far north eastern corner, near the border with Slovakia. Known by name since at least 1067, its vineyard area was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2002. Within its borders there are 28 named villages and 11,149 hectares of classified vineyards. The vineyards owned by the Zsirai winery are located in and around the town of Mád. The overall climate of Tokaj is fairly warm and moderate. The nearby Carpathian Mountains provide protection from extreme weather conditions.

What

For centuries Tokaj has been famous for the production of sweet dessert wines. Produced from grapes affected by the Botrytis cinerea fungus, these wines are decadent and concentrated. They are best served at the end of a meal with honeyed desserts and strong cheeses. Bottles of Tokaji Eszencia, which contain around 800 g/l of residual sugar, are capable of ageing for literally hundreds of years. In comparison, the dry wines of Tokaj are less known but are gaining in popularity. Most are made from the same dominant varieties used to make sweet Tokaji – Furmint and Hárslevelű. Richly flavoured with a honeyed texture, Hárslevelű typical has a smoky character with leafy aromas.

The Zsirai Tokaji Hárslevelű is made from grapes hand harvested from the Mád Középhegy and Rátka Padihegy vineyards. Vinified with natural yeasts, it was aged 8 months in 220 liter Hungarian oak barrels.

Who

The Zsirai winery was created in 2005 by Csaba Zsirai. Today management of the estate is in the hands of sisters Petra and Kata Zsirai, who own approximately 15 hectares of vineyards. Their production includes both dry and sweet wine styles. Their vineyards in Villány, in the far south Pannon region, are planted to both indegenous and international grape varieties. One of their holdings on the extinct volcanic slopes of Somló in western Transdanubia previously belonged to the Abbey of Zirc. Their largest plot is planted primarily to Olaszrizling (Riesling), with additional plantings of Furmint, Juhfark, and Hárslevelű. The sisters have been moving towards organic certification for their vines, and all of their wines are vinified naturally.

Taste

Medium gold hued in the glass, on the nose the Zsirai Tokaji Hárslevelű displays vivid aromas of white peaches, plump lemons, ground pepper, and grass. On the palate it is medium bodied with tight acidity and lean minerality. Expressive and dry on the finish, it’s a nimbly refreshing white wine that you can enjoy with or without food. A great match for classic Túrós Csusza (essentially the Hungarian version of mac n’cheese).

2019 Laberinto Vistalago Mezcla Blanca

Maule Valley, Chile $26.71

Where

Located within Chile’s Central Valley, the Maule Valley is one of the country’s largest wine producing regions. Situated 250 km south of Santiago, this was one of the first areas in Chile to be planted to vine. Today there are around 30,000 hectares of vineyards in total. The valley stretches 100km from north to south and sits between the Andes and the Coastal Mountains. Due to its southerly location, the climate is slightly cooler and the growing season is longer. An added influence is the east to west flowing Maule river, which moderates temperatures in the vineyards. Aside from these general qualities, it is hard to pin down a sweeping description of the Maule Valley, as there are a wide variety of microclimates and terroirs due to the region’s large size.

What

The Vistalago Mezcla Blanca (meaning “white mixture”) is made from a unique cuvée of 64% Riesling, 20% Chardonnay and 16% Semillon. It’s not very often that these varieties are blended together to form a single wine. Previous vintages of this wine included Torontel instead of Semillon. Thanks to Maule Valley’s cool climate, the grapes were harvested ripe while still retaining excellent acidity. To hang onto this freshness, the wine was fermented using natural yeasts at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks. To add texture and structure, the wine was kept on the lees for eight months in concrete tanks. By eschewing oak ageing and malolactic fermentation, winemaker Rafael Tirado has created a white wine with serious backbone and refreshing character.

Who

Overlooking Lake Colbún at the beginning of the Andes mountains is the Laberinto wine estate. It was created in 1990 by Rafael Tirado. Situated on predominantly volcanic soils, the wineries 23 hectares of vineyards are planted to a wide variety of grape varieties – Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pais and Pinot Noir. The estate gets its name from the vineyards which were planted to follow the bends and bumps of the landscape, forming a labyrinth of sorts. Rafael produces two tiers of wines. The Laberinto wines (Cenizas and Arcillas) are made from grapes from the coolest parts of the vineyards. The Vistalago wines are made from grapes harvested from the vineyards that face Lake Colbún, hence the name.

Taste

Compared with previous releases of the Mezcla Blanca, this vintage has a touch more structure thanks to the inclusion of Semillon in the cuvée. Pale gold in the glass, on the nose it expresses aromas of tropical and tree fruits – canned pineapple, ripe green apples, yellow pears and orange blossom. The high percentage of Riesling in the blend gives the wine plenty of acidity. Medium bodied on the palate and slightly oily in texture,  it has a prolonged dry and puckering finish. A wine that can be held for another 3-5 years, it would make an excellent pairing for strongly flavoured dishes like Thai coconut curry with prawns.

2018 Arnaud de Villeneuve Côté Nature

Roussillon, France $23.63

Where

The Arnaud de Villeneuve winery is located in the Roussillon village of Rivesaltes. Roussillon lies at the far southwestern corner of France, where the Pyrnees mountains separate northern Europe from the Iberian Peninsula. The region’s vineyards are mostly located on the foothills that lie between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. Further north in the Languedoc, most of the vineyards are located on broad coastal plains. Although the Roussillon is often paired with the Languedoc, it is this difference in favoured vineyard location that separates the two. The Roussillon has a distinctly ‘Catalan’ character, where the Languedoc is more ‘French’.

What

Rivesaltes is an area best known for the production of sweet vin doux naturel wines. Made through a technique known as mutage (a process to artificially stop or ‘mute’ the alcoholic fermentation of grape juice), these wines are made from Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Gris. Rivesaltes is France’s largest sweet-wine-producing area.

The Côté Nature red wine is made from a cuvée of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. The grapes were harvested from organically farmed vines located within the Côtes du Roussillon appellation. As in the Languedoc and Rhône Valley, this three grape combination is the most popular dry red blend with Roussillon winemakers.

Who

This co-operative winery gets its name from the man who discovered the process of fortifying wines. Arnaud de Villeneuve was born in Spain in 1240. A scholar and doctor, he wrote many medical papers and discovered the secret of distilling wine into alcohol. The Arnaud de Villeneuve winery was formed in 2007, with the merger of Caves de Salses (founded in 1909) and Cellars de Rivesaltes (founded in 1932). Including 300 member growers, the winery works with 2000 hectares of vineyards spread across the Côtes du Roussillon. Producing a wide range of styles, Arnaud de Villeneuve is most celebrated for traditional oxidative wines labelled as Rivesaltes ambré and Rancio sec. Jean-Pierre Papy and Anne Tixier are the managing winemakers.

Taste

A generously concentrated red wine, the Côté Nature is a bold expression of the classic Mediteranean GSM blend. Deep garnet red in the glass, on the nose it exhibits lush aromas of blackberries, wild raspberries, sun baked plums, anise, picholine olive and lavender. Medium bodied with fine grained tannins, on the finish it is peppery and dry. A wine that reflects the wild terroir of the Roussillon. Well suited to grilled or slow-roasted red meats, it’s an excellent match for southern French Clapassade. Originating in the city of Montpellier, this traditional stew consists of slowly simmered lamb, honey, olives, and star anise.

2017 Elderton E Series Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon

Langhorne Creek and Barossa Valley, Australia $20.41

Where

The Elderton E Series Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes grown in Langhorne Creek and the Barossa Valley. Both appellations are located within the larger zone of South Australia. One of the country’s six states, it is the main area for wine production in Australia. Langhorne Creek is located in the Fleurieu Peninsula, some 50 minutes away southeast of Adelaide. One of Australia’s best known wine regions with some extremely old vineyards, the Barossa Valley sits northeast of the city. Both appellations are situated at South Australia’s cool (compared to the rest of the region) far south-eastern corner. Moderated by two large bodies of water, the climate is mostly temperate with long growing seasons.

What

Australia has a long history of blending grapes from different appellations. Unheard of in some parts of the world, this method is deeply rooted in Australia’s wine culture. The practice has allowed winemakers to consistently bottle great wines even in difficult years. In the case of this wine we have grapes from two areas in South Australia, where the focus has long been given to full bodied red wines. This cuvée consists of 71% Shiraz and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon. Rarely joined in their homeland of France, these two grape varieties are often blended together in Australia. Once vinified, the wine was aged for a short period of time in mature American oak puncheons.
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Who

Based in the town of Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley, Elderton Wines was created by Neil and Lorraine Ashmead in 1980. The property itself was first planted to vine in 1894 by a pioneer family of German descent. In 1916 it was sold to Samuel Elderton Tolley, who built a large homestead. By the time the Ashmead’s purchased the property, most of the 29 hectares vines were overgrown and neglected. It took Neil and Lorraine three years to rehabilitate the vineyard and release their first vintage. Since 2003 the winery has been managed by their sons, Cameron and Allister, who purchased additional vineyards in Craneford and Greenock. Their top wine, the Elderton Command Shiraz, is an icon of the Australian wine industry.

Taste

Generously full flavoured, this is a classic example of Aussie Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. Purplish ruby in colour, it exhibits robust aromas of jammy blackberries, candied plums, licorice, allspice, and vanilla. Medium-full bodied, the palate is plush with silky tannins and peppery spice. Culminating in a round and easy finish, it’s the kind of wine you can enjoy with or without food. As one would expect, it is a great match for barbecued meats or burgers.

2019 Bodegas Bleda “Castillo de Jumilla” Monastrell

Jumilla, Spain $18.92

Description courtesy of Alex Good, Spur Imports

Where

In the warm, arid Jumilla region of Spain. Jumilla is an area where some of Spain’s most fearsomely powerful wines come from. It is very dry, and tends to favour grape varieties that can handle intense heat and lack of moisture. It is mostly rural and agricultural, although the town is quite beautiful and features a wonderfully preserved gothic castle (the “Castillo” that the winery takes its name from). The area is extremely historic, having been occupied by a mishmash of cultures over the centuries, from the Phoenicians, to the Romans, to Berbers, and even the French.

What

Monastrell is the Spanish moniker for a grape that goes by many names around the world, such as Mourvèdre, Mataro, and the ominously-named Etrangle-Chien (dog strangler). Monastrell is a grape of great importance wherever it is grown. In the context of Jumilla, it is the de facto grape of the region, like Pinot Noir is to Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon is to Napa, or Riesling is to the Mosel. In other parts of the world, it plays a role of support, adding crucial character and structure to the wines of the Rhône Valley in France, especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It also has a huge role in the wines of Bandol in Provence, making long aging reds and fresh, vibrant rosé. In Jumilla, Monastrell gets to show off all of its muscle and dark, rich character.

Who

Bodegas Bleda is one of, if not the most historical producer in Jumilla, dating back to 1902. They were the first to bottle their own production, and the first to export wine out of their region, and abroad from Spain. Their viticulture is organic, and everything is done by hand in the vineyards. In the winery, things are kept fairly traditional with respect to winemaking techniques, despite being outfitted with modern equipment. Older oak barrels are preferred for the most part, allowing the fruit and varietal character of the Monastrell to shine through. Throughout the decades, Bodegas Bleda has remained a family affair, being passed down through successive generations.

Taste

Dark purple/ruby in colour, saturated all the way to the rim. Textbook Monastrell on the nose, showing and earthy mix of crushed rock, blueberry, cracked pepper, cinnamon, black raspberry, and bitter chocolate. Big, broad, and nourishing on the palate, with chalky tannins, spiced black fruit flavours, and a charming finish.