Sat 8 Nov 2008
I tasted these wines, imported by Kysela Pere et Fils of Winchester, Va., a couple of nights ago and was knocked out by the quality as well as the reasonable prices. Does anything else matter?
The complete portfolio, with suggested retail prices, is available at kysela.com.
My first note on El Ganador Malbec 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, is “Wonderful!” For the price the sense of character is amazing. Six months in American oak give the wine a sheen of spice and an edge of brambles that bolster vivid black currant and black plum flavors infused with violets, lavender and bitter chocolate. The wine is boundlessly earthy and minerally, with a burgeoning aspect of underbrush and dried porcini. The texture is dense and chewy and vibrant with acid. Very Good+ and at about $11 a Great Bargain.
Here’s another Great Bargain. The Maipe Bonarda 2008, also from the Mendoza region of Argentina, is a bristly melange of earth and minerals, briers and brambles and intense and concentrated black currant, blueberry and plum flavors, all woven with smoke and rollicking spice. Yes, it’s a robust and rustic wine and certainly requires hearty fare, but it offers tremendous personality and appeal. The bonarda grapes presents one of those mysteries of which the rarefied world of grape DNA analysis is so fond. The bonarda of Argentina is probably not the bonarda of Piedmont and Lombardy, and it may be related to the charbono grape, now alas seen so seldom in California, and hence of distant cousinage to dolcetto, which brings us back to Piedmont. Or not. Anyway this bottle I rate Very Good. It sells for about $11.
First note on the Thorne Clark Pinot Grigio 2007, Eden Valley, Australia: “Oh, that’s great!” This wine used to be labeled “pinot gris” (the illustration here is a label of a previous vintage), but Americans will reach much faster for a wine labeled “pinot grigio,” hence the name change. Anyway, this is a pinot grigio of detail and dimension not often found in pinot grigios from northeastern Italy, the grape’s home base, or anywhere else; it’s elegant and moderately lush, crisp and vibrant, packed with stone fruit, quince and lemon balm flavors permeated by dried spice and limestone, with hints of almond blossom in the nose. The texture is firm, resonant and silky. Drink through 2010. Excellent. About $15, a Terrific Value.
Ambition, in winemaking, often means using oak in amounts really unnecessary for the quality of the grapes and the intention of the wine. That fate befalls the Cueva de las Manos Malbec Reserve 2007, Lujon de Cuyo, Mendoza. This is a stylish wine that’s too toasty with oak and too New Worldish for my palate; yes, I understand that South America in part of the so-called New World, but still. Anyway, there’s a lot of fruit here, too, dark and spicy, and layers of clean earth and minerals and a firm, progressively more tannic structure. So, many will find the wine attractive, but, again, for my taste there’s too much wood influence. (The regimen is 12 months in oak, half French and half American.) Perhaps the wine will be more balanced after 2010. Very good. About $15-$16.
The Adegas Valmiñor Albariño 2006, from Spain’s Rias Baixas region, is clean, brisk and sprightly (or maybe spritely), bursting with notes of peach, pear and melon, almond and almond blossom with a hint of orange blossom. It hits the palate with a refreshing tide of crisp vibrancy and liveliness, while flavors of pear (slightly roasted), lime and limestone make it delicious. A delightful wine with satisfying weight and presence. Drink through the end of 2009. Very good+. About $20.
Domaine Grand Veneur is a label from Alain Jaume et Fils, a family that under its name produces a variety of Southern Rhone wines, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Look, though, for the Grand Veneur Les Champauvins Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2006. A blend of 70 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvèdre, this is a wine of amazing density and intensity. Here’s everything you want from such a wine: deep and dark black fruit flavors; smoke and leather; earth and minerals; crushed violets and lavender and dried spice; a resolute structure composed of vibrant acid, firm oak and slightly grainy tannins, lots of tannins, in fact, giving the finish an edge of austerity. Drink this with braised meat dishes through 2012 or ’13. Excellent and Great Value. About $20-$22.