2011 Corte Gardoni Becco Rosso, $16. Kermit Lynch Imports. While located in the Veneto Gianni Piccoli does not make Valpolicella or Amarone. I was drawn to this wine as it is made from 100% Corvina, the main grape in both Amarone and Valpolicella. I had never had a wine made from 100% Corvina before. It is a very interesting wine that possesses a light strawberry crystal hue with lively fruit, balance and character. I think there is a very good wine here that will emerge in a couple of years. I am told that Gianni’s wines possess incredible longevity. The bottom line here is that Kermit Lynch has done it once again…terrific wine at a terrific price.
Italy – Puglia/Sicily/Tuscany – Red
I have a very good friend, Gino, who has been in the wine business for sometime now. He has a great palate and passion for well-made wine. This year he started his own venture, Ginuzzo, importing wines from Italy, France and Spain. I must admit to being a bit skeptical when he told me he was also going to brand his own Italian wines. That skepticism quickly evaporated when I tasted these wines. While they are not going to compete with the top Italian producers, their high quality and low price may well capture the attention of the casual wine drinker looking for a good wine at a good price.
2011 Ginuzzo Salice Salentino, Puglia. A blend of 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera, this is a very well made wine. It has a very pretty and fruity palate, is nicely balanced and finishes with some length.
2012 Ginuzzo Negroamaro, Puglia. Made from 100% Negroamaro, but with grapes from outside the DOC, this was rich and complex, but lacked the finesse of the Salice Salentino.
2011 Ginuzzo Primitivo, Puglia. The Primitivo grape is also known as Zinfandel and if you like Zinfandel, this is a wine for you. While I am not a fan of Zinfandel, this wine had good character and body.
2011 Ginuzzo Nero d’Avola, Sicily. The Nero d’Avola grape is the most important grape in Sicily. It produces deep dark red wines with structure and balance. If you have not had the grape before, this would be an excellent wine to try it.
The complete Ginuzzo selection can be found at Wine Legend, Livingston for $15 a bottle. A phenomenal value. I am told that they will also soon be available at ShopRite Liquors in West Caldwell.
Italy – Piedmont – Red
The Nebbiolo grape of Piedmont has sired some of the most remarkable wines in the world, especially Barolo and Barbaresco. While other countries have tried to grow the grape, it really only thrives in the cooler and foggy climates of Piedmont. Its name is in fact derived from the Italian word nebbia which means "fog." In the hands of top winemakers it produces wines of extraordinary character, balance, complexity and elegance. The northernmost region of Piedmont, Gattinara and Valtellina specifically, also produce wonderfully expressive and elegant wines, that are a fraction of the cost of the more expensive Baroli and Barbaresci. This past year I had the good fortune to discover some new producers from the region.
2009 Guido Porro Langhe Nebbiolo, Seralunga d’Alba, $25. Kermit Lynch Imports. Under the direction of young Guido Porro, 4th generation at the estate, this “under the radar” producer is beginning to be discovered thanks to Kermit Lynch. Nebbiolo grapes of quality that do not make the cut to go into Barolo or Barbaresco, can still make very delicious wines, as is the case here with this Langhe Nebbiolo. This was pure, with clean ripe fruit, a soft earthy palate and lengthy finish. Here is a perfect wine to enjoy while your more expensive Nebbiolos mature in the cellar.
G.B. Burlotto is one of Piedmont’s glorious old Barolo estates. Founder Giovan Battista Burlotto made some of the most sought after wines in all the world until his death in 1927. After his death the wines faded into obscurity for decades until great-grandson Fabio Alessandria took over as wine maker a while ago. He is returning the estate to its fame as one of Piedmont’s great small producers of traditionally made Baroli. I tasted and purchased two of their wines this year and was delighted with their character, focus, purity, balance, complexity and elegance. The winery is located in Verduno, just a few miles north of Barolo.
2006 Burlotto Barolo, Verduno, $33 (375ml), Rare Wine Co.. This is the estate’s entry level Barolo and it is fantastic. The wine was marked with superb purity and balance with a long elegant finish. A wine with soul that is very affordable.
2012 Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga, Verduno, $18, Rare Wine Co.. The Pelaverga grape, native to Piedmont, is extremely rare. In fact only 6 producers in Piedmont continue to make the wine. I enjoyed it very much. The wine was marked by a light translucent hue, exhibited a peppery and spicy nose and possessed a palate similar to a Poulsard from the Jura or a Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire. Another terrific wine for the money.
G.D. Vajra is another estate in Barolo that I had for the first time in 2013. Vajra’s family run winery is not well known, but they make wines that are complex, elegant and delicate and very reasonably priced.
2008 G.D Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole $55, Martin Scott Wines. Another first for me and another old world beauty that is now on my radar. The Bricco delle Viole vineyard is located on the highest part of the commune of Barolo. Only the oldest vines are used for this wine. The wine is aged from 42 to 48 months in large Slovanian oak before being bottled. This was elegant and has the acidity and structure for years of aging potential.
2010 G.D. Vajra di Aldo Langhe Rosso, $18, Martin Scott Wines. Made from grapes that do not make it into the Baroli, this 100% Nebbiolo, from what promises to be a great vintage in Piedmont, is loaded with lots of pure harmoniously balanced fruit. The finish is quite long and elegant. A wine with great pedigree and at a fantastic price.
2009 G.D. Vajra Freisa Kyé, $36, Martin Scott Wines. The Freisa grape is also indigenous to Piedmont, but most of the producers who make the wine do not export it to the U.S. Fortunately Vajra does. While the wine is a bit lighter than Barolo and lacks the focus of Barolo, it is a very good wine. On day two, the wine absolutely exploded, suggesting a few hours of decanting before really enjoying the wine. There is plenty of acidity here to allow the wine to age for a decade or more. Readers that may be interested in trying wines made with the Freisa grape may also want to check out 2010 Cavallotto Langhe Freisa Bricco Boschis, $20, Michael Skurnik Wines. I found this to be yet another superb example of this grape from a great old world wine maker.
2004 Vallana Gattinara, $30, Michael Skurnik Wines. Simply delicious wine made from 100% Spanna that possessed a beautiful expression of fruit and soil. It was complex with terrific balance and a long elegant finish. Definitely a wine with soul.
2010 Vallana Spanna Cuvee Bernardo Vallana, $22, Michael Skurnik Wines. A new bottling in honor of the founder of Vallana, this is a blend from Nebbiolo vines in Boca and Gattinara. The wine had a gorgeous translucent light red hue and a soft and velvety palate. The wine is very young and with its wonderful acidity and more cellar time, should develop into a terrific wine. The quality to price ratio of these two wines is extraordinary.
Since 1897, Nino Negri has been the premier estate producing wine in the region from Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo. All Nino Negri wines age for at least two years before they are released to ensure optimum maturity at the time of bottling. When I first tasted this wines my initial response was Oh My God, how good is this! If you are looking for affordable and delicious wines, look no further.
2009 Nino Negri Sfursat, $45, Fredrick Wildman. An elegant DOCG wine made from 100% Chiavennasca that grow on vines from steep, nearly vertical vineyards of about 3,000 foot elevations. The Sfursat is one of the estate’s top wine and is made from grapes dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo. The wine dances on the palate with gorgeous fruit, great acidity, impeccable balance and finishes with extended length and smoothness. In the vinification process, the wine rests for a short while in stainless steel and then part of the wine is put for 20 months into 80hl Slavonian oak casks, and part into 32 and 53hl French oak casks. It then ages for some months in glass before release.
2009 Nino Negri Inferno, $20, Fredrick Wildman. The wine is made from 90% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca), Pignola and Merlot and is aged in stainless steel for two months before spending 18 months in Slovanian Oak casks. It then ages for some months in glass. While lighter in both color and body than the Sfursat, the wine had a beautiful translucent red hue, with a medium-bodied and velvety palate. It was round and delicious and a stupendous value.
France – Provence – Red
The wines of Domaine Tempier stand as the benchmark for the wines of Porvence. The cult following they have attained can be attributed to the world class Rosé, white and red wines their winemaking passion enables them to consistently produce. Their wines are delicious, age for years and represent, in my opinion, one of the finest values in the entire wine world.
2010 Tempier Bandol Rouge, $45, Kermit Lynch Imports. This gorgeous wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah from 40+ year-old vines from the domaine’s different vineyards. Harvesting is done by hand, fermented with natural yeast and vinified for 2 to 3 weeks in stainless steel. The wine is then aged in large oak barrels for 18 to 20 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This was superb juice with phenomenal purity of fruit and exceptional balance. It reminded me of a great Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
The domaine’s single vineyard bottlings, 2010 Tempier Bandol Rouge Cuvée Spéciale La Migoua and 2010 Tempier Bandol Rouge La Tourtine, are comprised of the same grapes as the normal bottling. Like the normal bottling both were superb with impeccable balance and pure fruit. While these can be enjoyed in their youth, they will benefit from a couple more years in the cellar and last for a couple of decades at least. $60.
France – Loire – Red
I have sung the praises of the wines of the Loire Valley ever since I began this blog. Once again in 2013 I had the good fortune to continue to discover a few winemaking geniuses. Charles Joguet ran the domaine with his name from 1957 until his retirement in 2004. During this period he made some of the finest Cabernet Franc wines in the Chinon. I was able to pick up a couple of library releases of the ’95 and '96 vintages.
1995 Charles Joguet Chinon Clos du Chene Verts, $50, Kermit Lynch Imports. Big funky barnyard bouquet upon opening with a deep earthiness on the palate. The wine began to reveal its true sense after a couple of hours as the fruit emerged with focus and finesse. The next day the funkiness blew off and the purity of its fruit shone through. The palate and finish were elegant. I would uggest decanting this for at least 6 hours before drinking.
1996 Charles Joguet Chinon les Varennes du Grand Clos, $50, Kermit Lynch Imports. Decanted for 4+ hours. A bit of barnyard funk upon opening but less so than the Clos du Chene Verts from the same vintage. Funk was replaced within 30 minutes with an enticing earthy bouquet and earthy palate. Not for everybody, but I loved it.
2004 Domaine de Nerleux Saumur Champigny Les Loups Noirs, $37. This 100% Cabernet Franc from the Saumur is an absolutely stunning wine. It had a big earthy bouquet, ripe and focused fruit on the palate with a lengthy & elegant finish.
France – Northern Rhone – Red
The most famous and historic home of the Syrah grape is in the Hermitage and Cote-Rotie vineyards of the Northern Rhone. In my opinion it is here that one gets to appreciate this grape and its elegant character. Here it produces wines of exacting harmony when made by top producers, compared to the gigantic over-extracted fruit bombs that are too often the expression of Syrah (Shiraz) from Australia and California. Jean Louis Chave is probably the most revered property in the Northern Rhone making spectacular wines from 100% Syrah. Alas, they are not all that easy to find and very, very expensive when you do. Thanks again to the importer Kermit Lynch, there are under the radar estates that do a superb job in crafting beautiful wines from the grape and at much more affordable prices.
Louis Barruol is one of these extraordinary wine makers. His wines are sophisticated, combining depth of flavor with focus and finesse.
2010 Louis Barruol Crozes Hermitage "Tiercerolles", $30, Kermit Lynch Imports. 2010 was a superb vintage in France and the Northern Rhone and this wine was a prime example of the vintage. In the glass it showed off a dark purple hue with a fantastic nose of ripe fruits and pepper. The palate echoed the nose with a fruity, peppery and balanced finesse. At $30, this is a fantastic bargain.
A bit more expensive at $70 is 2010 Louis Barruol Cote Rotie Les Roses. This is another beautiful example of a gorgeous old-world Cote-Rotie with it’s peppery, yet refined palate and a very long, elegant finish. This is still very much a baby, and will benefit from a few more years asleep in the cellar.
2011 Comte Abbatucci 2011 Ajaccio Rouge "Cuvée Faustine” ($38). Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. Made from a blend of red grapes indigenous to Corsica Sciaccarellu and Nielluccio, this wine possessed a gorgeous translucent red hue, pristine fruit, balance and good acidity and finished with length and elegance. A wine with soul! In part 1 of this post I wrote how Jean-Charles Abbatucci is known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs over loudspeakers to keep his vines happy. As I said then the results speak for themselves, as this is another outrageously delicious wine from his estate.
Many of these wines can be found at 56º Wine, Bernardsville, Wine Legend, Livingston, The Pluckemin Inn Wineshop, Bedminster, The Manhattan Wine Co., Clifton and Chambers Street Wines, NYC. Wine-Searcher will also help you track them down.
As you may have noticed many of the wines in both part one and part two are imported by Kermit Lynch. Whenever I see his name as the importer on a bottle of wine I am not familiar with, I will always try it. I have yet to taste a wine from him I have not liked. A new release of his fantastic book, Adventures on the Wine Route, has recently been released. If you are interested in passionate wine making, pick up a copy.