Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Grape Spotlight: Catalonia Cariñena (Samsó)

Carignan (Cariñena in Spain) is a black-skinned wine grape variety, most likely native to Aragon. The variety is found in wines along the Mediterranean coast, particularly in northeastern Spain and in France's Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is used most commonly for blending with many of the region's other key varieties – most famously Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. In Spain the best Cariñena wines are found in the acclaimed Priorat region and in Catalonia it is often labeled as Samsó. Often found blended with the more plush Garnacha, Cariñena makes up just under a quarter of plantings (of red wine varieties) in the area.

Carignan prefers warm, dry climates when the grape can express high tannins, acid and color. This makes it an excellent addition to red wine blends that have plenty of aroma and flavor, but lack body and depth of color. Carignan is only rarely made as a varietal wine, but the best examples can show characteristics of dark and black fruits, pepper, licorice, and spicy and savory accents.

Carignan is usually grown as bush vines, many of which are very old and require hand-harvesting as the vines' stems are too tough for machines. It is a late-ripening variety that is known to produce high yields if not properly cropped. This was once considered an attractive attribute of the grape but, as this can make it difficult to achieve good flavor concentration, it also led to it falling out of favor. (

For a broader view of Catalonia Wines please read Catalan Wines USA Master Class -- Catalunya's Grapes, Designations, and Wine-making History.  During this tasting there were three expressions of 100% Cariñena poured all representing a different Catalonia appellation. 

Cellar Masroig is a century old winery located in Priorat County in the DO Montsant. This is a mountainous region known for their red wines and the owners of Cellar Masroig asserts that Cariñena is the foundation of their wines. Their Cellar Masroig Sola Fred 2022 ($15) is 100% Carignan and aged six months in stainless steel showing a bright fruit, very fruit forward, with a vibrant mouthfeel and refreshing acidity.  

Molí Parellada was founded in 1987 in the town of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (near Barcelona) as El Xamfra -- specializing in cava production. In 2016, they opened a second winery in the town of Torrelavit in the DO Penedes. Since the new winery was built within an old paper mill, the new cellar was named Molí Parellada.  Second generation Francisco Domínguez is now the winermaker and CEO and has envisioned the large expansion of production in both cava and still wines. The Molí Parellada Alabrent 2022 ($36) - is one of these still wines, made from 100% Samsó which is interestingly aged six months in a locust tree barrel. The wine has a chewy structured mouthfeel full of slightly spicy sour cherries and other red fruit which carries through the long finish. Imported by 

In 1985, Tomàs Cusiné Barber started making wine at the family-owned Castell del Remei winery, started the Cérvoles winery in 1997, and the Tomàs Cusiné winery in 2003.  All three within the borders of the DO Costers Del Segre. This is a dry, semi-arid Continental climate featuring limestone and clay spoils and Catalonia's northernmost DO. The 30 hectares of vineyards he manages are organically or biodynamically farmed. These vines are planted in high elevations and result in the slower ripening of grapes, thicker skins, optimal acidity, and vibrant colors. This is the situation regarding the Finca Barqueres Carignan 2018 ($53)  -- 100% Cariñena harvested from a 1.5 hectare plot of old vine Cariñena. After fermentation, the wine is aged twelve months in French oak barriques. The wine is delicious, layers of stewed plums and tobacco, some spice, and an approachable finish. Excellent. Imported by Valkyrie Selections.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Grape Spotlight: Louisiana Blanc Du Bois from Landry Vineyards

Pierce's disease is a bacterial disease caused by Xylella fastidiosa, which lives in the water-conducting system of grapevines and is spread from plant to plant by sap-feeding insects. Glassy-winged sharpshooter, an exotic plant pest, is a key vector. Symptoms of Pierce's disease in grapevines include leaf scorch, where leaves become yellow around the leaf margins or between the veins, and the outer leaf area may dry suddenly while the rest of the leaf remains green. Affected leaves are less vigorous and smaller than healthy leaves. 

Grape growers in the Southeast and Texas are susceptible to Pierce's disease primarily because of their humid climate. Native muscadine grapes are mostly resistant to the disease but not Vitis Viniferia or French Hybrids. Enter Blanc Du Bois. Researchers at the University of Florida’s Leesburg Research Station, began a program to create a new grape that was fully resistant to Pierce's disease. Led by Dr. John Mortenson, in 1968, the team was able to develop a complex hybrid grape from crossing a Florida-developed muscadine hybrid (Florida D 6-148) with the Cardinal (a Vitis vinifera L.) table grape. They called this new white grape Blanc Du Bois, after Emile DuBois, a noted grower who emigrated from France to the U.S. in 1882.  As a wine grape, it is known to create white wines with floral and citrus flavors with decent acidity. 

Blanc Du Bois is now found in parts of Texas as well as Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. In the Pelican State, Jeff Landry has been cultivating Blanc Du Bois since he founded Landry Vineyards in 1999. The winery and estate used to be located in eastern Louisiana, but moved post-Katrina to West Monroe, in north-central Louisiana, where the soils, hills and climate are more suitable to growing wine grapes. In the new estate, they cultivate 16 acres of vines, specializing in Blanc Du Bois, Lenoir/Black Spanish and Crimson Cabernet (I envision a few more spotlights).  Over the past 20 years, they have improved the quality of the their grapes through canopy management, cover crops, composting, leaf pulling, and other vineyard practices -- many from recommendation from Viticulturist, Fritz Westover.

I purchased this Landry Vineyards Louisiana Grown Blanc Du Bois ($13) while in Lafayette and this Louisiana Certified Craft Beverage is dry and flavorful with a floral aroma and citrus profile. There's also depth which hints at some type of oak treatment. Would only ask for a little more acidity - otherwise a pleasant wine at a very reasonable price. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Catalan Wines USA Master Class -- D.O. Cava

There was plenty of sparkling wine on display during the Catalan Wines USA Master Class & Wine Tasting last month.  For an overview of the region and Master Class, please see Catalan Wines USA Master Class -- Catalunya's Grapes, Designations, and Wine-making History. Here, we will focus on D.O. Cava and the many expressions poured at the event.

D.O. Cava encompasses multiple areas within Catalonia but is almost 95% within Penedès. It was established in 1991 and highlights the traditional home to this sparkling wine, although today Aragon, Navarra, Rioja, Pais Vasco, Valencia and Extremadura have specific Cava demarcated areas.  The traditional grape varieties used in Cava were Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir now also being used. "Macabeo makes up around half of a typical Cava blend – not because of its flavor (it is quite bland), but because it represents a viticultural insurance policy. Macabeo vines bud relatively late in the spring, ensuring that their flowers and grapes are safe from early frosts. The interesting, slightly earthy flavors that distinguish Cava from most Champagnes are generally attributed to Xarel-lo grapes".  --

Finca Ca n'Estella is a small, third generation operated, and family owned winery located northwest of Barcelona and based out of an 1800 winery and farmhouse. The estate is protected from the north winds by the Montserrat mountains and its proximity to the Mediterranean sea provides a temperate climate.  They poured the Cava Rabetllat i Vidal Brut Nature ($20) which is composed of 60% Chardonnay, 20% Macabeo, and 20% Xarel-lo. Winemaker Miquel Medall allowed this non-vintage Cava to mature two years in the bottle. The bready - yeasty aroma leads to tight effervescence due to the fine bubbles and a delicious dried fruit profile. 

Canals & Munné is another small winery located just outside of Barcelona that was founded in 1915 by Josep Canals Capellades, great-grandfather of the current oenologist Òscar Canals.  The winery's name arises from the union of Josep's son, Josep Mª Canals Casanovas and Dolors Torres Munné -  the parents of current manager Montserrat Canals Torres. They operate two wineries, the original 1915 facility dedicated to weekend wine tourism, and a newer facility located between the vineyards.  They poured a trio of sparkling wine starting with the Insuperable Brut ($16). This is a fresh and textured blend of Macabeu 40%, Xarel·lo 30% & Parellada 30% aged 25 months with a floral nose and a yeasty dried nuts profile. The Dionysus Brut Nature  ($18) is a blend of 30% Chardonnay, 60% Macabeo, and 10% Xarel-lo aged 22 months with another floral nose and a lengthy dry profile. Finally, the Lola Rose Pinot Noir – Brut ($25) is 100% Pinot Noir aged 20 months and has a delicious concentration of red fruits balanced with delicate and persistent bubbles. 

Castell d'Age poured a single Cava in the Anne Marie Brut Nature Reserva ($20). This is a non-vintage blend of 40% Xarel·lo, 40% Macabeu, & 20% Parellada that is aged a minimum of two years. The fruit from this delicious sparkling wine are grown in slate and clay-limestone soils from three estates located in the D.O. Penedès and situated on the southern slope of the Montserrat mountains. The winery is the result of three generations of woman, Aurèlia Figueras, daughter Anne Marie Comtesse who pioneered the introduction of organic farming, and granddaughter Olivia Junyent.

Covides is a cooperative that was founded in 1963 and is comprised of 600 grape growers across the Penedès region. These estates amount to over 2,000 hectares of vines spread out over 50 municipalities. The cooperative operates three winery facilities distributed evenly through Penedès to ameliorate the distances, means of transport, and transit time for the member growers. Since 2013, most of the vineyards are organically farmed and these vineyards cover the four major sub-terriors: Coastal Vineyards, Massif Vineyards (high active lime content ), Vineyards of the Plain, and High altitude vineyards. The Covides Vineyards Elocuente Brut ($12) is an excellent entry level sparkling wine, aged 13 months, with tight persistent bubbles providing a bready and fruity profile. The Covides Vineyards Elocuente Rosé ($13) is 100% Trepat -- an indigenous grape that is known to make fresh, berry-flavored sparkling wine. Exactly.  Duc de Foix is the Covides premium brand and the Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2017 ($50) is a stately blend of mostly Xarel·lo with lesser amounts of Macabeu and Parellada that is aged a minimum of 30 months in the bottle. There's abundant texture of toasted nuts with candied fruit and a long effervescent finish. 

One of my favorite sparkling wines was the Panot Gaudi Reserva Brut ($19) from Ferrer Wines. This is a blend of 40% Xarel·lo, 20% Macabeu, and 15% Chardonnay aged at least 18 months. It's intoxicating and not from the 11.5% alcohol; complex, tight bubbles, and lasting fruit and toasted bread.  This is probably what one would expect from Pedro Ferrer Noguer and one of the oldest wineries in the D.O. Cava -- Cavas Hill founded in 1887.

The final Cava wines, and apologies to any that I missed, were the premium trio from Agusti Torello Mata. This winery was born in Penedès in 1955 by the winery's namesake and today produces over 500,000 bottles of Cava each year. They source from 150 organic vineyards in the Valls d'Anoia-Foix where the grapes are hand harvested from at least 30-year-old vines. Today the winery is operated by his children -- Àlex, who is the winemaker, technical and viticulture director, and Gemma, who is the lawyer and administrator of the company. Their Rosat Trepart 2021 ($29) is 100% Trepat from 30 year old organic vines from the Obach Estate in Mediona, located 800m high with clay and slate soils. The wine is aged 19 months in the bottle and is dry with a charming red fruit profile with lasting effervescence. The Barrica 2018 ($50) is 100% Macabeu that was vinified six months in French oak and then aged four years in the bottle. It provides plenty of  a floral and fruity aroma, yeasty toasted notes, with a textured and creamy body, and lasting finish. The Kripta Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2016 ($130) is their flagship cuvee bottled in a distinct, amphora-shaped bottle. It is a blend of 45%, Macabeu (from Vinya Vicari planted in 1962), 35% Parellada ()from Vinya Lola planted in 1969, and 20% Xarel·lo (from Vinya Mercader planted in 1974). Each bottle is hand-riddled and disgorged and spends 84 months on the lees. Yes, seven years. The wine starts with fine and persistent bubbles leading to a complex nature and a silky texture. Expect a very long finish. 

Thursday, November 9, 2023

The Rías Baixas Roadshow 2023 - Part 2

Our previous post The Rías Baixas Roadshow 2023 - Part 1 provides an introduction into Rías Baixas pertaining to its history, wine regions, wine regulations and styles, as well as its signature grape - Albariño. And Grape Spotlight: Rías Baixas, Val Do Salnés, Attis Bodega y Viñedos Souson describes a new trend we discovered at the Roadshow -- the small, but rising production of Rías Baixas red wine. We will continue down that path and describe some of the interesting wines and trends highlighted at the event in terms of lees aging, blends, and sparkling Albariño.

Traditionally Albariño has been produced by fermenting the green skinned grape in stainless steel fermenters and then bottling quickly in order to encapsulate the high acidity,  salinity, and citrus flavors associated with the grape. In this style, expect noticeable aromas and minerality due to the granite soils and proximity to the ocean as well as notes of lemon, lime, grapefruit, and sometimes pear.  

This traditional style is evident in a wine from Bodegas Martín Códax -- a cooperative located in Val do Salnés and founded in 1985 by 270 member grape growers.  Since 2005 Katia Álvarez has managed the winemaking department that created the Martín Códax 2022 ($18.95) -- a classically styled Albariño that provides a crisp citrus minerality and bright acidity that carries through to a long, refreshing finish. On the more innovative side is the Burgans Albariño ($19.95) , a custom custom cuvée made for importer. European Cellars and reflects Celtic name for the hill on which the cooperative is located. The wine is aged on its lees, providing richness to the otherwise citrus and stone fruit profile.  Pressing even further, the Val de Burgáns ($60) is naturally fermented and aged for 7-8 months in French foudre providing a luscious wine that continues to show fresh acidity and minerality along with the stone and tropical fruit.

Staying within Val do Salnés, Paco & Lola is another winery that provides different expressions of Albariño. This is also a cooperative, founded in 2005, and today has over 400 members making it the largest cooperative in the DO Rías Baixas. Their portfolio ranges from the traditional Paco & Lola Albariño ($21) with its noticeable polka dots to the Paco & Lola Prime Albariño ($35) made from the free run must of a selection of grapes from the oldest vineyards and then aged on lees for 6 months. As expected, the texture and body increases while the fruit, acidity, and salinity remain constant. The Paco & Lola Vintage Albariño 2015 ($60) shows the ageability of these wines as this spent one year sur lees. We had heard in the Roadshow's Master Class about the quality of sparkling Albariño and this is expressed by the Lola P&L Sprkling Albariño 2017 ($55). It's bready, effervescent, minerally driven, and rather excellent.

Another sparkling Albariño came from Condado do Tea and Bodegas As Laxas, a family owned operation with a tradition of winemaking going back to 1862. It's 30-year-old vines are planted on granite terraces overlooking the Miño River which itself provides a little warmer environment for the grapes. That being said, the traditional Laxas Albariño 2022 ($19.99) has exuberant acidity lasting much longer than expected. Then there's the Sensum Laxas ($32.99), a sparkling Albariño with a mineral driven, bready and nutty wine with a full creamy mouthfeel and refreshing landing. A fantastic wine. 

Viña Caeira is another Condado do Tea winery founded by Carlos Moro. During the Roadshow, they poured a traditional Albariño in the Viña Caeira 2022 ($27.99) and a single vineyard sur lees Albariño in the CM Albariño 2022 ($36.99). The winery was founded just over 20 years ago and the 25 year-old vines are also planted on granite terraces (Caeiras) overlooking the Miño River. The first one is a delicious portrayal of Albariño -> aromatic, mineral driven, fresh acidity, and lasting fruit. The CM is structured with similar acidity and minerality. 

Interestingly, the wineries representing O Rosal featured mostly Albariño dominated blends or non-Albariño single varietal wines like the Adegas Valmiñor Davila L 2022 - 100% Loureiro. This is a light-skinned white grape that is most familiar in the Vinho Verde wines of Portugal's Minho region. They also poured several several blends featuring Albariño, Loureiro, and two other Galacian white grapes Treixadura and Caino Blanco. We have been fans of the Santiago Ruiz ($22) blend of for quite some time and this includes five Galacian varieties, the four already mentioned plus Godello. This is one of the oldest wineries in Rías Baixas, founded by Santiago Ruiz's grandfather in 1860 and reopended by Ruiz in 1984. Another long time favorite comes from Terras Gauda and their Terras Gauda O Rosal 2022 ($22.99) blend of Albariño, Caino Blanco, and Loureiro. A delicious wine. Finally, we sampled the Lagar de Cervera Pazo de Seoane Rosal 2021 ($22.99) a blend of Albariño, Loureiro, Treixadura, and Caino Blanco that provided more tropical fruit as well as white grapefruit. 

There's plenty of explore in Rías Baixas, not just traditional 100% Albariño wines, but white and red blends, sur lees wines, and sparkling Albariño.  Cheers.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Catalan Wines USA Master Class -- Catalunya's Grapes, Designations, and Wine-making History

Photo courtesy of Catalan Wines USA

Every so often Catalan Wines USA hosts Wine Tasting & Master Classes across the country and fortunately one landing in Washington D.C. last month. The Master Class was presented by Lucas Paya, former beverage director of Think Food Group by Jose Andres and the wine tasting featured a baker's dozen of producers from throughout the Catalunya DO appellation. *

This autonomous community is located "in the north-east of Spain. It stretches from the historic county of Montsia in the south to the border with France in the north with the Mediterranean Sea forming its eastern border...  The Catalunya DO appellation was Spain's first region-wide, cover-all DO title, created in 1999". Most of the wines within this region are covered by 12 DO designations, which includes an all-encompassing Catalonia DO for all the scattered vineyards not covered by the sub-regions and the Cava designation for the region's signature sparkling wine. 

Viticulture in Catalonia started from at least 400 B.C. through the Phoenicians and the Greeks and extended into the Roman period. It died out during the Moorish occupation and resurged after the Christian reconquest -- primarily through monasteries and convents. Some of the more famous are the Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, the Cistercian monasteries of Poblet and Santes Creus, and the Carthusian monastery of Escala Dei. The monks experimented with vine stock and crafting and improved winemaking techniques. This fostered cultural and social development and actually led to a strong export market which expanded further after the 1870s. This is when "José Raventós, founder of the Codorníu group, began producing sparkling wines around the town of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in Penedes, employing the traditional method used for Champagne" --  the birth of Cava.  

Grape Varieties

Catalonia includes a wide range of grape varieties from the indigenous Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo to other Spanish varieties such as Tempranillo (known in Catalan as Ull de Llebre) and Garnacha to international varieties such as Chardonnay, Monastrell (Mourvedre), and red Bordeaux varieties. These grapes benefit from Catalonia's strong Mediterranean climate where the warm coastal areas experience moderate rainfall. Inland areas are more similar to Spain's arid central plateaus, although there are plenty of cooler zones among the foothills and on elevated sites where grapes for the region's signature Cava (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo) are grown. 

Macabeo is synonymous to Rioja's Viura and its "wines can be fresh, floral and aromatic when harvested sufficiently early and aged in stainless steel, but weighty, honeyed and nutty when aged in oak and harvested slightly later...Macabeo is also quite resistant to oxidation, in no small part due to its high levels of antioxidant resveratrol monomers".

Parellada is found almost exclusively in Catalonia and is used almost exclusively in the classic Cava blend where it provides aromas of blossom and green apple to the wine – ideal complements to the honeyed, grapefruit notes of Macabeo and the earthy flavors of Xarel-lo.  Parellada grows best at higher altitudes, where the growing season is both cooler and longer than in lower-lying areas.

Xarel-lo is also practically exclusive to Catalonia where the light-skinned grape is one of the region's most widely planted varieties. Although there is nothing distinct about the grape in the vineyard, Xarel-lo is valued by winemakers for the acid structure it brings to wines.

Denominación de Origen

There are twelve wine appellations in Catalonia that include ten distinct geographic designations as well as DO Cava and DO Catalunya where the geographic boundaries for each cover multiple sub-designations. 

DO Alella
This designation was created in 1955 and the designation is the closest to Barcelona and encompasses two small areas northeast of the city. For this reason it is constantly threatened by urban developmental pressure. Because of its coastal location, Alella's climate is broadly Mediterranean, but the area's complex topography makes for considerable variation between vineyard sites. The soils are mainly granite and sandy alluvial. The majority of Alella wines are crisp, dry, floral-scented whites made from local grape varieties Xarel-lo (known here as Pansa Blanca), Garnacha Blanca and Viura, and also the French "international" varieties, particularly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The red and rosé wines are based on Monastrell, Syrah, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo. 

DO Emporda
This designation was created in 1972 as  Empordà-Costa Brava and encompasses the extreme northeast of Catalonia bordering France's Roussillon region, and thus shares a similar winemaking heritage. The titled was shortened to Empordà in 2006. The Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea and mountains provides the DO tagline, "Wines of the Wind" as the strong Tramontana wind can stress the grapes. The limestone rich soil attracts several grape varieties Carinena (Carignan), Garnacha, Macabeo, and Garnacha Blanca.

DO Costers del Segre
This is Catalonia's northernmost DO, established in 1988, and a collection of subregions clustered around along the Segre river valley. It has a dry, semi-arid Continental climate featuring limestone and clay spoils. The DO is comprised of seven sub-zones, four of which are considered "mountain viticulture".  It also experiences a high diurnal temperature variation (70 degrees F) producing aromatic and structured wines. The cooler vineyards produce grapes for Cava (Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo), while the drier areas are suitable for growing red grapes, especially Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Trepat, Monastrell, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Varietal white wines are also produced, based on Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

DO Pla de Bages
This designation sits in the very middle of Catalonia, producing a range of wines from Macabeo, Parellada, Picpoul, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the native Sumoll. The climate is more Mediterranean than Continental, with another high diurnal temperature variation. The soils range from limestone in the higher elevations, to mostly clay to alluvial in the lower reaches.

DO Conca de Barbera
This is a very small region where the production centers on Cava and thus the Macabeo and Parellada grape varieties. It is located right at the heart of Catalan wine country and practically surrounded by other designations. Conca is Catalan for 'basin' and describes the DO's geography formed by the combined valleys of the Francolí and Anguera rivers, above which rise various low-lying mountain ranges. It has a Mediterranean climate with some Continental influences and predominately limestone soils. For red wines, Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carignan), Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most successful red wine grape varieties.

DO Tarragona
This region is immediately south of Conca de Barbera and received DO status back in 1947, making it one of Spain's older designations.  The terrain climbs gently from the Mediterranean sea towards the Serra de Montalt mountains in the north and east where elevations reach 1,310 feet. Here the soil is calcareous, stony and alluvial largely because of the Ebro River. Closer to the sea, the soils are calcareous, tending towards granite further inland. Garnacha and Carignan dominate the reds while Cava ((Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo) for whites.

DO Montsant
This designation, created in 2001, bisects DO Tarragona inland but retains a strong Mediterranean climate. Soils range from silty-loam, clay and granite, to sand and slate. This is another "mountain viticulture" area where elevations reach 2,300 feet. Even though the region is small, there is enough diversity for six sub-zones. Montsant has earned a reputation for its high-quality red wines, particularly those based on old Garnacha and Carinena (Carignan) vines. 

DOQ Priorat
This designation was created in 2006 out of older designations and is completely encircled within DO Montsant. It is one of only two DOCa - Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOQ) designations in Spain; the other being Rioja. The term Calificada translates as 'qualified' or 'guaranteed' and implies a guarantee of high wine quality. Like Montsant, this is a high altitude region with a combination of Mediterranean and Continental influences. Soils are quartz and slate and known as llicorella. These conditions have lead to the "intense, full-bodied red wines; the classic Priorat wine is made from old-vine Garnacha and Samso/Cariñena, and has concentrated aromas of licorice, tar and brandied cherries".

DO Terra Alta
This is the most southern designation bordering the inland section of Tarragona and has the highest altitude with the mountain peaks reaching 3,000 feet. The vineyards are located down in the foothills and valley floors. The climate is mostly Mediterranean with some Continental influences with long, hot summers and very cold winters. El Cierzo, a local dry wind which originates in the Ebro River valley to the west, plays a vital role in moderating temperatures during the growing season, as well as helping to prevent mildew diseases on the vines. The soils are clay and coastal limestone, with good drainage. Garnacha Blanca is the key white grape variety and not surprisingly Garnacha for red.

DO Penedès
This designation was created in 1960 and is the most important viticultural area in Catalonia in terms of both volume and the diversity of wine styles. The region starts at the coast south of Barcelona and extends inland where elevation reaches close to 3,000 feet. The Mediterranean climate provides warm summers, mild winters, and moderate rainfall for the calcareous, clay and limestone soils.  Red Penedès wines have traditionally been made from Garnacha, Carinena, Monastrell, Tempranillo, and lately Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The white wines are made from the varieties otherwise used for Cava: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo, and more recently Chardonnay. 

DO Cava
This designation encompasses multiple areas within Catalonia but is almost 95% within Penedès. It was established in 1991 and highlights the traditional home to this sparkling wine, although today Aragon, Navarra, Rioja, Pais Vasco, Valencia and Extremadura have specific Cava demarcated areas.  The traditional grape varieties used in Cava were Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir now also being used. "Macabeo makes up around half of a typical Cava blend – not because of its flavor (it is quite bland), but because it represents a viticultural insurance policy. Macabeo vines bud relatively late in the spring, ensuring that their flowers and grapes are safe from early frosts. The interesting, slightly earthy flavors that distinguish Cava from most Champagnes are generally attributed to Xarel-lo grapes". 

* Source for this article: and Master Class Presentation

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Grape Spotlight: Rías Baixas, Val Do Salnés, Attis Bodega y Viñedos Souson

Did you know that red wine is being produced in Rías Baixas?

Val Do Salnés is the oldest of the five sub-regions in Rías Baixas and contains 64% of the region's vineyards. It features the most coastline with the Atlantic Ocean and is thus the coolest and dampest of the sub-regions with an average temperature of 59 degrees F.  The soils here are granite-based and quite rocky. These factors give the wines of  Val do Salnés abundant acidity and noticeable salinity. Like all of the sub-regions in Rías Baixas (See The Rías Baixas Roadshow 2023 - Part 1), the vast majority of the wines here are Albariño but Rías Baixas Tinto is a permitted class of wine that accounts for 1% of all production.  

One of these red grapes is Souson, which is synonymous to Vinhao (or Sousao) from just below the border in Portugal's Minho region and composing red Vinho Verde wines.  This is a dark-skinned grape variety indigenous to the western Iberian Peninsula. "It is used to make relatively light red-wine styles which are nonetheless deeply colored thanks to the grape skin's strong pigmentation. Its budding season is mid-late and its maturation cycle is long, so its location predominates in areas that are favorable for early ripening. It has high sensitivity to powdery mildew, medium to mildew and low to Botrytis". (wine-searcher)

Attis Bodega y Viñedos is situating in the center of Val do Salnés. Although dominate in Albariño, the winery also produces a Souson. All the vines grow on traditional pergolas and thus the grapes are somewhat protected from the humidity and moisture. The grapes must be tediously hand harvested and then are naturally fermented in open 500 liter barrels. The wine is then aged 12 months in new French oak barrels and fined with eggs and sea water. 

During The Rías Baixas Roadshow 2023 - Part 1, I sampled the Attis Souson 2016 ($40), where the intense color matches the fruit forward character. There's lively acidity and noticeable saline that extends long into each sip. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Wines with Altitude: Domaine Bousquet from Gualtallary, Argentina

Imagine a 240 hectare wine estate located in the Andes foothills at an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level.  The highest peaks in California's Sierra Nevada, Washington's Cascade Range, or many of Colorado's peaks are only 300-500 feet higher. In this environment, rainfall is scant, sunshine is plentiful, and the desert-like climate creates a massive 59° F day/night temperature differential. The area also has poor stony and alluvial soils that are interlaced with layers of sand and limestone. This diverse combination creates free-draining soils that, due to the already mentioned limited water availability, stress the vines.  The grapes react to these conditions by increasing skin tannins, concentrating flavor, and retaining acidity and aromas. 

The Domaine Bousquet estate is situated in the northern reaches of the Uco Valley, specifically in Gualtallary within the Tupungato mountain range. This massive Andean lava dome is one of the highest mountains in the Americas rising to 21,560 feet above sea level.  The winery's founder, Jean Bousquet, fell in love with the region during a vacation and returned in 1977 to plant this estate -- close to the very highest extremes of Mendoza's viticultural limits. There were many naysayers who doubted Bousquet's endeavor, but Jean believed "he’d found the perfect blend between his French homeland and the New World (sunny, with high natural acidity and a potential for relatively fruit-forward wines)". This feat was within the family winemaking tradition which goes back four generations in the South of France.  This tradition continued as Bousquet’s daughter, Anne Bousquet, and her husband Labid Al Ameri became investors and eventual owners of the family operation. And one last important feature, the estate is 100% certified organic.

Domaine Bousquet produces a range of still and sparkling wines released through almost a dozen brands leveraging the ability to plant multiple grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot  Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and the focus of this post: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We received samples of two Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wines, the Méthode Traditionnelle Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Brut NV ($18) and Méthode Traditionnelle Pinot Noir-Chardonnay Brut Rosé NV ($18). The first grape in each listing accounts for 75% of the blend and as expected the Rosé had a more red fruit character whereas the Chardonnay dominate Brut was more citrus and floral. And both shared a bready - yeasty character. What was unexpected was the softness of the effervescence and their lasting nature as well as noticeable minerality in both wines. Gualtallary's limestone soils may have something to do with this. 

At $18 retail SRP, these are tremendous values which we plan to have on hand during our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Cheers. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Rías Baixas Roadshow 2023 - Part 1

Rías Baixas, Galician for "Lower Estuaries"

Recently I attended one stop on the Rías Baixas Roadshow 2023 that featured a masterclass presented by Advanced Sommelier, Erik Segelbaum and Master of Wine, Caroline Hermann. It also included a showroom tasting of the wines of Rías Baixas hosted by visiting wineries and representatives from the region. Whereas Albariño was the focus we learned several exciting new trends coming from Galicia. But first, a primer.

During the height of Greek civilization between 800-400 B.C., the Celts, who we now associate with Scotland and Ireland, ruled over most of Central and Western Europe. In fact, the Alps mountain range is named from the Celtic Alpes, which itself is derived from a pre-Indo-European base alb (hill). Over time the Celts were pushed to the extremes of Europe - including Galacia where the Romans referred to them as Celtiberians - regardless whether they were ethnic Celts or a mix with Iberian tribes. One of these tribes was known as the Gallaeci and they left behind cultural remnants like language, pagan festivals and bagpipes that endure today. The first winemakers were Roman, who conquered the Celts and firmly established viticulture and global trading. Winemaking practices in the region evolved further in the 12th Century with the arrival of Cistercian monks from France.

Spanish wine regions are usually noted for their dry desert-like conditions and bold red wines. The major exception to this rule is the Galicia region of north-western Spain, located along the Atlantic coastline and bordering Portugal to its south. This is a wet and green region, plenty of vegetation that feeds off the 71 inches of rain per year.   In this  moisture rich environment red wines are a rarity and the white Albariño grape dominates. In fact it consists of 95% of all grape plantings and is the primary reason that the DO Rías Baixas denomination was created in 1980.

DO Rías Baixas encompasses five distinct sub-regions which form around the lower estuaries. Ribeira do Ulla is the newest (formed in 2000) and is the most northern region. Val do Salnés is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape. This is the original and oldest sub-region and it's fingers reach out into the Atlantic.  Soutomaior is the smallest of the sub-regions and was registered in 1996. Soils are light and sandy over granite bedrock. Condado do Tea (The County of Tea) is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River which separates the border with Portugal. O Rosal also resides against the Miño River -- adjacent to the Atlantic.

Because of the high rainfall and humidity grape vines are widely spaced and trained on stone pergolas and a wire trellis called a “parra".  These parras can reach up to seven feet tall, allowing breezes to prevent mildew and to promote even ripening. During harvest, workers must stand on grape bins in order to collect the grape bunches.

Despite the high rainfall amounts,  Rías Baixas vineyards are blessed with ample sunshine - averaging over 2,200 hours of sunshine per year. This sunshine in conjunction with the cooler climate provides an environment for high natural grape acidity. Albariño wines are also known for their floral and mineral character, most likely impacted soil composition within Rías Baixas. The bedrock is primarily hard granite with a top layer of  mineral-rich alluvial (a combination of clay, silt, sand and gravel) formed from deposits eroded from flowing water.

DO Rías Baixas Wine Types:
  • Rías Baixas - 100% sourced from DO Rías Baixas.
  • Rías Baixas Albariño -100% Albariño, grapes can be sourced from any sub-zone.
  • Rías Baixas Val do Salnés - 100% Val do Salnés, 70% Albariño.
  • Rías Baixas Condada do Tea - 100% Condada do Tea, 70% Albariño & Treixadura.
  • Rías Baixas Rosal - minimum blend 70% Albariño & Loureiro.
  • Rías Baixas Barrica – wines aged in oak (red or white), minimum 11.5% abv.
  • Rías Baixas Tinto – red wine, less than 1% of all production. 
  • Rías Baixas Espumoso – traditional method sparkling, minimum nine months on less.
According to the Roadshow, "the accepted theory regarding the origin of Albariño, which is now backed by genetic research, is that the renowned grape is native to Rías Baixas. This evidence is further supported by Albariño’s ability to naturally thrive in the region’s cool, wet growing conditions. Given Albariño’s distinct characteristics, it is perfectly suited to the region's climate and terroir, producing wines that are truly unique. The influence from the Atlantic Ocean air, long sunshine hours, cool nights, heavy rainfall and mineral-rich granite and schist soils create an environment that yields the purest expression of Albariño which cannot be found anywhere else in the world".

Check back for Part 2 when we discuss these Albariño expressions.

Friday, October 20, 2023

East Tennessee History at Old Tennessee Distilling Company

Sevierville is a popular exit off Route 40, not only because it is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and feeds into Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg but because, itself, has multiple tourist attractions such as hiking, rafting, kayaking, Brass Pro, Buc-ee's, Tennessee Smokies MiLB, Harley Davidson, and, of course, Old Tennessee Distilling Company.

This distillery was first known as Thunder Road Distillery when it debuted in 2014 but rebranded to Old Tennessee Distilling Co. in Jan 2019 in order to "celebrate the culture, people, history and spirits of this great state". And during a visit make sure you take time to learn about this history. For instance, their Dumplin Creek brand of moonshine, vodka and gin honors the Treaty of Dumplin Creek: the last treaty of the State of Franklin and the Great Cherokee Nation. This treaty ceded the territory now known as East Tennessee to residents of the unrecognized proposed state that eventually returned to North Carolina. In addition, their Caldonia Fackler Johnson Rum brand celebrates the life of this former slave who became a prominent Knoxville racetrack and saloon owner. By the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest African-Americans in the state.

Old Tennessee Distilling Company specializes in farm to bottle spirits made from "local ingenuity and produce". Their master distillers (Dwight Bearden, Adam Gratz, & Kent Merritt) use "recipes handed down through the generations to create whiskey, moonshine, gin, vodka and bourbon that honors the name “Tennessee” on every label". One of these is their Apple Brandy, distilled from Gala apples based on a recipe from a member of the Moonshiner's show, and full of bright apple flavors. For the moonshine, their Coffee was my favorite. And don't overlook their Corn Whiskey which is distilled from 100% corn mash. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Navigating the Bayou Teche

A bayou is a body of water typically found in a flat, low-lying area. It may refer to an extremely slow-moving stream, river (often with a poorly defined shoreline), marshy lake, wetland, or creek.

The Bayou Teche is the most famous bayou in The Pelican State, curling for miles through south central Louisiana, west of the Atchafalaya Swamp.  This bayou runs through multiple parishes and there are several notable towns that were built along the Bayou Teche such as Breaux Bridge (the crawfish capital), St. Martinville (of Evangeline fame), New Iberia (home to rice, sugar cane and TABASCO), Charenton (the site of the Chitimacha Indian reservation, noted for its exquisite double-walled cane baskets), Patterson (Louisiana Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum) and Morgan City (home to the first submersible oil drilling rig, the Mr. Charlie).  And let's not forget Arnaudville, the home of Bayou Teche Brewing.

The brewery was founded in 2009 by brothers Karlos, Byron and Dorsey Knott within a converted old rail car near the banks of the Bayou Teche. Their goal is to brew beers that complement the unique foods and lifestyles of South Louisiana. This includes offering brewery tours in French and English and naming most of the beers in Cajun French in an effort to help preserve and promote the native language. These beers include LA 31 Acadie, name in memory of their Acadian homeland in Eastern Canada; LA-31 Bière Pâle, brewed to pair with dishes savored in South Louisiana (boudin, crab and shrimp gumbo, fried catfish, sauce piquant); and LA 31 Cocodrie DDH IPA, where Cocodrie is Cajun-French for alligator. Many of these beers are prefaced with LA-31 which honors part of the Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway which shadows the Bayou Teche from Arnaudville to Morgan City.

On our visit I paired a delicious pizza with a flight containing the LA-31 Bière Pâle, LA-31 Swamp Thing IPA, Ragin' Cajuns Kölsch, and a Zwickelbier. I love the Pale Ale, the brewery's flagship, brewed with pilsner and oats, slightly hazy, and with a decent supply of Mosaic and Citra hops. The Swamp Thing is a very clean and drinkable "Louisiana-style" IPA brewed with Mosaic, Citra and Chinook hops. How could I not try the Kölsch - one of my favorite styles and this one "made to represent the culture and heritage of Acadiana and the University of Louisiana: ça va mieux avec des amis - It's better with Friends." Finally the Zwick or Kellerbier is a very refreshing unfiltered lager brewed for German Fest. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Avery Island & TABASCO®: Where Bourbon Barrels Find Rest

"TABASCO® Brand products are made by McIlhenny Company, founded by Edmund McIlhenny in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. It was here that he developed the recipe for TABASCO® Original Red Pepper Sauce that's been passed down from generation to generation. To this day, the company is still family-owned and -operated on that very same island". -- TABASCO® Brand Website

During this trip to Cajun Country we allocated time to visit the TABASCO® Brand Factory Tour & Museum, located southwest of New Iberia on Avery Island. This is not an island in the traditional sense. Instead it is one of five salt domes formed as the weight of younger sediment pushed up a column of salt deposited over 165 million years ago creating a topographic rise. Locally, the geological formation is known as “island” because of its height relative to the neighboring land and insular appearance from a distance.  The five islands are also surrounded by salt marshes, cypress swamps, and\or bayous. Over the last two centuries these island have served as wildlife sanctuaries as well as salt and petroleum fields. Not without mishaps. During a visit to Jefferson Island and their gardens we learned of the Lake Peigneur catastrophe. 

Before the Civil War, Hagerstown Maryland born Edmund McIlhenny was a successful and wealthy independent bank owner married to Mary Eliza Avery -- who's family lived on a plantation house on Avery Island. By the end of the war and with the South's economic collapse, McIlhenny had lost everything. He and Mary Eliza moved in with her parents on Avery Island where McIlhenny started experimenting with Capsicum frutescens -- now known as Tabasco peppers. His goal was to invigorate the bland southern cuisine with a new pepper sauce.  

"McIlhenny grew his first commercial pepper crop in 1868. The next year, he sent out 658 bottles of sauce at one dollar apiece wholesale to grocers around the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans. He labeled it “Tabasco,” a word of Mexican Indian origin believed to mean “place where the soil is humid” or “place of the coral or oyster shell.” McIlhenny secured a patent in 1870, and TABASCO® Sauce began its journey to set the culinary world on fire. Sales grew, and by the late 1870s, he sold his sauce throughout the U.S. and even in Europe".

While today the production process is mostly automated and the peppers are grown worldwide , the recipe and process are relatively the same as in the early years. Only the oak aging takes a little longer. The peppers are crushed and the mash is stored for three years in white oak barrels (which previously held bourbon or whiskies).  The inside of each barrel is de-charred (top layer of wood is removed), torched, and cleaned, to minimize the presence of any residual whiskey. In addition, the barrels are rehooped with stainless steel rings.. Once closed, the barrel tops are then sealed with salt to form a natural protective barrier that also allows for the release of gases produced during the slow fermentation process. After three years the mash is mixed with distilled vinegar and stirred occasionally for a month. The resulting liquid is strained to remove skins and seeds and then bottled as a finished sauce. 

The McIlhenny Company produced only the original version up until 1993, when the company released the Green Pepper Sauce. Today they have nine varieties, all conveniently available for purchase at the TABASCO® Country Store.  This store is located next to the museum entrance where the self-guided walking factory tour begins.  The entire Avery Island Experience which includes the factory tour and Jungle Gardens & Bird City driving tour is highly recommended. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Grape Spotlight: Masciarelli Trebbiano d'Abruzzo

Abruzzo is a naturalist's dream "as half of the region's territory is protected through national parks and nature reserves, more than any administrative region on the continent, leading it to be dubbed 'the greenest region in Europe'".  That could be why it has been occupied since the "Neolithic era, with the earliest artifacts dating to beyond 6,500 BC. In the 6th century BC, the Etruscans introduced viticulture into the area which continued with the Romans -- who contributed to much of Abruzzo’s recognizable history.  Even after the fall of Rome, the Lombards, Byzantines, Magyars, and Normans successively imparted some type of influence in Abruzzo.   Throughout these periods, viticulture has been a constant with multi-generation small plots, sometimes less than a few hectares, being passed down through successive generations. 

Abruzzo is located directly east of Rome and bordered by the Molise wine region to the south, the Marche to the north, the Lazio to the west, and the Adriatic to its east.  It is further divided into several sub-regions: Chieti, Pescara, Controguerra, Teramo, and L’Aquila (L’Aquilano) -- with Chieti being the prime winemaking region (75% of vineyards).  Most of Abruzzo is rugged with  65% mountainous with this landscape assisting grape growing by blocking most storms from the west. And to the east, the Adriatic Sea provides a moderating Mediterranean climate for these vineyards; vines that are predominately planted in calcareous clay soils.

The most popular grape varieties in all sub-regions are Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.  Last week we focused on Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and now Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, both through the wines of Masciarelli. Trebbiano is grown throughout Italy, but in Abruzzo, Trebbiano Abruzzese is a different clone, an ancient version indigenous to the region.  The wines are generally "golden in color, typically dry but fruit-forward, with a delicate bouquet and refreshing, crisp acidity".  --

The only Abruzzo producer with vineyards in all four provinces (Chieti, Pescara, Teramo, l’Aquila), Masciarelli wines demonstrate the diversity of Abruzzo terroir.  The winery was founded in the early 1980s by Gianna Masciarelli when produced the first vintage of wine from 2.5 hectares of vines he had planted in land owned by his grandfather near the family home in the province of Chieti. Over the next couple decades production increased as more estates were planted and Gianna introduced several innovations to the region. He was the first to introduce the Guyot training system in Abruzzo and use French oak barrels to age Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Tragically Gianna died suddenly in 2008 but his wifie of almost 20 years, Marina Cvetić, seamlessly continued the progress towards higher quality and expansion. Today, their eldest daughter Miriam Lee manages the winery with Marina and they focus on keeping all wines estate grown while expanding plantings, transitioning to organic viticulture, and dialing back the use of oak.

The Masciarelli Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC 2022 ($16) is a friendly wine with a floral aroma, flavors of stone peaches and creamy lemons and a refreshingly acidic finish. It is fermented and aged in stainless steel and like the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, the grapes are sourced from several of the estate vineyards in Chieti, Pescara, & Teramo. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Academy du Rhône Wine - Washington D.C. Edition

"Vinsobres or sober wine, drink it soberly".. Monseigneur Joseph Marie de Suarès (Bishop of Vaison-La-Romaine) in1633

The Rhône Valley is a diverse and complex wine region that I've been slowly trying to comprehend. In 2023 I started with a Côtes du Rhône Online Wine Academy course in April and attended the Academy du Rhône Wine this month in Washington D.C. The Academy was hosted by Master Sommelier David Keck and showcased 18 wines from various appellations within the Rhône Valley all the while discussing the grapes and terrior within each region. The Rhône Valley is located in southeast France between Lyon and Marseille and is sub-divided into Northern and Southern regions. Southern Rhône is sandwiched between Provence to the east and Languedoc-Roussillon to the west and is known for its Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (GSM) blends. On the other hand, Syrah is the champion of the Northern Rhône with  Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier its white counterparts. Overall, the Rhône Valley accounts for 9% of all French vineyards and ranks 2nd by volume for all French AOC wine regions.

The Rhône Valley's wine history is quite fascinating and starts three hundred million years ago as the Massif Central clashed with the Alps creating the valley and then flooding from the Mediterranean populated the valley’s soils with four different types of rock: granite, sandy silica, limestone and clay. This created conditions for the Greeks & Romans to apply viticulture which continued through the Avignon Popes up to the 1930's when Baron Le Roy championed the creation of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system. The Rhône Valley was granted AOC status in 1933. Read more of the Rhône Valley's entire history at the Vins Rhône website. 

In brief, there are 34 different grape varieties planted in the Rhône Valley and red wines account for 76% of production, rosé 13%, and whites 11%. The diverse landscape consists of five major soil types: clay, stony, limestone, granitic, and sandy soils. Again see Vins Rhône for a more detailed presentation. There are 31 appellations grouped within two major areas: Côtes du Rhône AOCs and Rhône Valley AOCs. The Côtes du Rhône AOC accounts for 75% of the overall production in the Rhône Valley and itself consists of a hierarchy starting with the  Côtes du Rhône CrusCôtes du Rhône Villages with a geographic nameCôtes du Rhône Villages, and  Côtes du Rhône. Red wine accounts for 86% of overall Côtes du Rhône production,  rosé 8%, and whites 6%. The Rhône Valley AOCs are more prevalent in the Southern Rhône and are distributed in a wider area from the Rhone River. 

Whereas most of the 18 wines we sampled were from the Côtes du Rhône there were a handful from Rhône Valley AOCs with one I especially enjoyed, the M. Chapoutier La Ciboise Luberon 2022. This wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino from the Luberon AOC. The vineyards for this appellation and high in elevation and surround the Luberon Natural Regional Park, part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Luberon is dominated by small farmers and cooperatives and this region is one of France's sunniest with 320 sunny days each year. It also straddles Provence so the wines closely resemble that style in the sense of easy-drinking and value. This La Ciboise is a fresh and lively wine, yet creamy and structured, with noticeable citrus and stone fruit. 

Turning to the Côtes du Rhône, I want to focus on two wines from the tasting starting with the Southern Rhône Chateau de Rouanne 2020 AOC Vinsobres. The Vinsobres Crus commune has a long history of viticulture and the name is derived from "Vinzobrio, the oldest recorded version of the village name, dating back to 1137; this in turn is thought to derive from the pre-Celtic Vintio, meaning height, and the Celtic suffix briga (mountain)". It is one of the most northernly southern communes and thus shares many notable northern characteristics such as exposure to the mistral winds and a stronger reliance on Syrah. The vineyards are at high elevations and the vines are planted in very stony, red to brown soils where their warmth allows the vines to ripen early. This wine is a GSM blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre  where whole clusters were vinified and aged in concrete vats using native yeasts. This is an elegant and complex wine, with juicy dark fruit, black pepper and earth, and silky tannins.  As the quote relates above, this is a sober (and serious) wine. 

Returning to the beginning of the session, the first flight featured wines from the AOC Côtes du Rhône. The entire appellation stretches from Vienne to Avignon and includes 171 communes across six departments: Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, Loire, Rhône and Vaucluse), covering an area of around 30,000 hectares. The climate is Mediterranean, refreshed by the cleansing and cooling Mistral wind. Summers are hot and dry, with occasional violent storms. Rainfall is low, and snow is rare.  One of my favorites of the initial flight was the Domaine de l'Odylée. La Talentuese 2020 -- a certified organic blend of Grenache and Syrah.  The wine ages 14 months in oak barrels and demi-muids which contributes to a it's depth and complexity. There's a slight earthiness and  herbaciousness on the nose followed by plums and raspberries and a spicy and firm finish. 

Hopefully I will have more content to post n this tasting and further exploration of the Rhône Valley.