About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recent Discoveries Under $40 - White Wines

A few years back I wrote about a number of great wines I had found that were under $40 a bottle, great-wines-under-40.  I have continued that quest and am happy to say that there is no shortage of wines in this category. Crafted by artisan wine makers they provide glorious drinking experiences. Here are my finds since that last post.  There is certainly no shortage of wonderful white wines in Italy, France, Germany and the United States.

I have a particular fondness for French Chablis.   Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, they rarely see any new wood, if any wood at all.  I love the crisp, clean purity they impart on the palate and the elegance with which they finish.  Grand Cru Chablis from producers like Raveneau, Dauvissat and Fevre to name a few can be very expensive.  The following are much less so, and continue to bring big smiles to my face when I drink them.

Patrick Piuze is one of the rising superstars of Chablis.  He owns no vineyards of his own.   His reputation was established while working for some of the top producers in Chablis.  This reputation has allowed him to enter into a long-term partnership with wine growers.  He purchases his fruit only from top wine growers in Chablis. This enables him to pick the best lots in Chablis, most of them of very old vineyards, to collect high quality grapes.  His first vintage was 2008.  His wines are full of finesse.  They exhibit pure fruit, complexity and a crisp lengthy finish.  NY Wine Warehouse carries the entire Piuze lineup.

2009 Patrick Piuze Chablis La Forets $38
2011 Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis $25

Alice and Olivier De Moor began their estate in 1989 and produced their first vintage five years later in 1994. Their wines are spectacular, especially the Rosette, which they consider to be their best plot.  They also make a delicious white from the Aligote grape.  Very similar to Chardonnay in its crispness and purity, the wines are aged in old oak for 12 months with only a slight addition of sulfur dioxide at the time of bottling.

2010 De Moor Chablis Rosette $37
2010 De Moor Chablis Chablis Bel Air et Clardy $30

2011 De Moor Chablis Aligote Plantation $24
2010 De Moor Bourgogne Aligote $20

Thomas Pico, another of the young phenomenons in Chablis, crafts extraordinary wines marked by pristine purity, a briny minerality and impeccable balance.  A disciple of the De Moor’s he began his estate in 2005. Grapes The Wine Company.

 2011 Pattes Loup Chablis $35

Years ago I remember reading somewhere that Italian white wines were terrible.  As I have learned over the last 20 years, nothing could be further from the truth.  Italy, especially in the Friuli-Venezia and Alto Adige regions, makes some of the most compelling wines I have ever tasted.  Dario Raccaro is a former Italian professional basketball player who abandoned his career in the 80’s to join his grandfather at the estate.  Located in Cormons (Friuli), Italy, Dario is adamant about vinification in steel for his whites in order to retain the purest expression of the fruit and the terroir. Production is very small with 4,000 and 12,000 bottles respectively for the wines listed below.  Both of these wines showed terrific depth on the palate with excellent acidity and a wonderful fruity finish.    The Manhattan Wine Co.

2012 Raccaro Collio Malvasia (100% Malvasia) $33
2012 Raccaro Collio Friulano Vigna del Rolat (100% Tocai Friulano) $34

Located in Brazzano, Italy, less than a mile from Cormons, is the estate of Nicola Manferrari, Borgo del Tiglio.  Nicola allows his wines to undergo a gentle oxidation in winemaking, something that is also seen in Burgundy. All of the Borgo del Tiglio whites are fermented in barrel. Borgo del Tiglio makes two ranges; the white labels are considered the entry and mid-tier wines (under $40), while the dark green label is reserved for the Selezioni, or the top selection bottlings that vary from year to year.  His wines are simply superb, exhibiting pure fruit, harmonious balance and wonderful acidity that allow his wines to age gracefully.  They are simply round and delicious wines with a lot of soul.  Not easy to find.  Wine Searcher

2011 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Bianco (Friulano, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Riesling and Sauvignon blend).  $35  

175 miles slightly Northwest of Friuli is the Province of Trentino-Alto Adige, home of Cantina Terlano Winery.  The winery is now one of the leading wine growers’ cooperatives in the region, with a current membership of 143 growers working a total area of 165 hectares. The members have long had a strong focus on quality. Terlano compensates their growers for the quality of their grapes, not the quantity. The wines have attracted praise and recognition on the Italian and international wine markets in spite of its relatively small size. The winery produces 30 percent red and 70 percent white wines, all of them of DOC quality (Controlled Designation of Origin).

Manual harvest and selection of the grapes; gentle whole cluster pressing and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation; slow fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks, aging on the lees in steel tanks for 5-7 months produces wines of striking quality. Crisp, pure, round and delicious on the palate with a lengthy finish, they are amongst the best white wines I have had this year.  Wine Searcher.

2012 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Alto Adige $18
2011 Cantina Terlano Pinot Grigio Classico $22
2011 Cantina Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva $30

At the base of Mt. Etna in Sicily Andrea Franchetti produces a 100% Chardonnay that sees no wood in the vinification process.  The grapes are hand harvested at night when the temperature is around 60ºF. The wine has a dazzling purity on the palate, with subtle hints of bubble gum and a crisp, clean & lengthy finish.  A beautifully round and delicious wine where you taste the grape instead of the barrel.  Amanti Vino.

2010 Passopisciaro Guardiola.  $40

Piedmont is home to famous wine regions like Barolo and Barbaresco.  A lesser known area, Roero produces a light and refreshing white wine made from the Arneis grape, which is little known outside the region. It has long been my wife’s favorite white wine grape. Roero is a geographical area in the Northeast corner of the province of Cuneo in Piedmont.  This hilly region is known for its wines and for its fruit production: particularly the peaches of Canale and the local variety of pear known as Madernassa.

Top producers of the wine include Bruno Giacosa and Cerreto. The estate of Giovanni Almondo makes perhaps the best Arneis I have tasted.  It is full-bodied, with crisp ripe fruit and a lush minerality on the palate.  Absolutely round and delicious.  Amanti Vino.

2012 Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie Giovanni Almondo $25.

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, West of Italy, Southeast of the French mainland, and North of the Italian island of Sardinia.  The island belongs to France.  I have been smitten by the wines that are made here, especially the whites made from the Vermentino grape by producers Comte Abbatucci and Domaine de Gioielli. Old world in style, the grapes are all hand harvested, use indigenous yeasts and stainless steel in the vinification process.  The resulting wines are delicious, crisp with finesse and focus.  They also offer some of the best values in wine today, in my opinion.  Wine-Searcher.

2011 Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Blanc "Cuvée Faustine” $38
2012 Comte Abbatucci Faustine Blanc VV $38
2011 Domaine de Gioielli Cap Corse Blanc $27

I firmly believe that  New York State produces some of the finest and most reasonably priced white wines you will ever find. Hermann J. Wiemer is regarded as one of the pioneers of viticulture and winemaking in the Finger Lakes.  A native of Bernkastel, Germany who emigrated to the Finger Lakes in the 1960s, he was uniquely qualified to help establish and create a wine region now known for its Riesling identity. His mother’s family had been making wine in Germany’s Mosel Valley for more than 300 years. His winemaking processes pay homage to the ancient winemaking tradition and winemaking history of Hermann’s ancestry while incorporating the best of modern practices. The wines are crafted in very small lots to focus on subtle differences between site blocks within vineyards and even clones within varieties. They utilize up to 25 different fermentation tanks within the winery to isolate vineyard sections and pickings dates to best showcase the varietal’s characteristics. Long fermentation on indigenous yeast is made possible by the ecologically balanced viticultural methods in the vineyards.

2012 Wiemer Dry Riesling Reserve is simply delicious juice.  It is a terrific dry Riesling with a delicate, citrus palate and long and glorious finish.  $29.  Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard.

Closer to NYC on the North Fork Peninsula of Suffolk County is the Channing Daughters Winery. At the estate they grow and create wines from the white varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Malvasia, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Bianco along with a number of red varietals.  I have been captivated by their whites, especially the Chardonnays, which display crisp, fresh fruit along with impeccable balance and stunning acidity.  The wines remind me of beautiful medium-bodied Chablis from Burgundy, France.  The wines are available for purchase on-line at the winery.  Channing Daughters.

2011 Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18
2011 Channing Daughters Brick Kiln Chardonnay $22

Germany has a reputation for making outstanding white wines, especially Riesling, in all price ranges.  The Nahe region of Germany is especially known for producing very high quality wines.  I certainly found this to be the case with Harald Hexamer.  Hexamer holds 7.5 hectares in the Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg, a steep south-east facing slope of red sandstone with deposits of quartzite, which is known for producing especially small berries. Hexamer’s meticulous work in the vineyard is marked by pruning to control yields (“often six to eight bunches per wine”) and hand-harvesting. The grapes are picked exclusively by hand and fermented very cold (below 12 degrees celsius) with cooling utilized only when necessary.  He handles the wine as little as possible, uses only native yeasts, and all wines are whole-cluster pressed.  95% of all Rieslings at Hexamer are made in stainless steel and racked only once, three to six weeks after fermentation is complete.

The wines are just superb. Crisp, clean with beautifully balanced residual sugar and a monster finish, all at a great price.  $35.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Hochsgewachs 

Stay tuned for part 2 on Red wines and Rosé wines.


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