Over the course of a week, I taste a bunch of wine, usually with friends, and almost always with my wife. Here are some of the wines we tasted over the past few weeks. These are wines that were not sent as samples—in most cases, I actually paid for these wines (although a few have been given as gifts).
NV Paul Berthelot Champagne Premier Cru Eminence, Champagne: Retail $45. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Another bottle from the second case of this wine that is a slight departure from the near-euphoric reaction I had from the bottles of the first dozen that I received from Last Bottle. A little less rich, a little more chalky. Golden in the glass with an active sparkle, which faded fairly quickly. Not much fruit on the nose but plenty of rich tree fruit on the palate and plenty of yeastiness all the way through. Excellent. 91 Points.
2007 Chapelle-St-Arnoux Vacqueyras Vieilles Vignes, Rhône Valley, France: Retail $25. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. I bought this what feels like a lifetime ago from a guy online, sight unseen without knowing one iota about the wine or producer (although I had a modicum of knowledge about the appellation). Upon opening? Wow–really stinky. As in really, really, really stinky. More Brett than a certain George on the ’80s Kansas City Royals. Yikes. I decided to let it sit and stew for a bit, but the Brett persisted, in gangbusters. OK. I decided to move past the heavy barnyard on this wine and I was rewarded: plenty of fruit, still considerable funk, but also a depth and breadth that I was not expecting. Sure, upon opening, this is more than off-putting. But as it warmed and incorporated some air? It improved. Maybe even drastically. Still some funk but closer to a Whoa. Excellent. 90 Points.
NV Champagne Collet Champagne Brut, France: Retail $42. 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. I saw this on sale for under thirty bucks at my local grocery store and I thought I would take a flyer. The first bottle was Very Good, so I went back and bought the remaining six bottles. After six bottles of this wine, all of which vacillated between 88 and 89 points, I just might be ready to bump this one up a bit. Quite nutty, yeasty, and creamy on the nose, this pale straw wine has a vibrant sparkle and subtle fruit in the glass. The palate is a bit aggressive–between the effervescence and tartness, this wine borders on combative. But as it warms? This actually approaches “Whoa status.” Sure, that vibrant tartness persists, but the luscious yeastiness pushes its way to the front, demanding attention. While this falls short of “mind-blowing” or “life-altering” it certainly falls under “way-too-good-for-the-surprise-visit-from-the-in-laws-who-live-around-the-corner.” Just sayin’ and now you know far too much about my world. Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 Firriato Etna Bianco Le Sabbie Dell’Etna, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $20. Diam 5 closure. Blend of Carricante and Catarratto which varies vintage to vintage, but is always close to 50/50. I was at the airport in Palermo with a bit of time before my flight to Rome and decided to meander a bit. I did what I always do–I went into the duty-free wine shop. Then I did something I never do–I bought a bottle of wine in the duty free wine shop. Why? It was listed at 30% off (which brought it down to reasonable retail) and I am a sucker for both Sicilian whites and a “sale.” I brought this home and then? Forgot about it. Until tonight. I made a Cioppino and was Jones-ing an Italian white. Bingo. Still very light in the glass, barely a light straw with aromas of pear, lime peel, wet rock. The palate needed a bit of time to warm up, but once it did? Delightful. Tart, but not overly so, with lime and minerality at the forefront here with a lovely mouthfeel and finish. Delicious. Excellent. 90 Points.
NV Mailly Champagne Grand Cru Brut Rosé, France: Retail $50. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. We opened this for the inauguration. Seemed appropriate. rich pink color, and plenty of fruit: cherry and peach. The palate is also fruity (but not as much as on the nose). Vibrant sparkle on the palate, really active. Fantastic. This has steadily increased in price over the course of the last twenty years, when I first discovered this producer on one of my bike tours through Champagne back when I was single and certainly more carefree (I am trying very hard not to get trapped on a tangent). It has risen to the point, I dare say, that there might be better values out there in rosé champagne, which is sad since I consistently love this wine. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, France: Retail $24. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. We have had a ton of this wine (it is pretty much our go-to when the in-laws come over, which is quite often—I just bought another case the other day) and while we can often find it at below $15, it punches well above its weight. I thought I would be able to pick this out fairly easily when I inserted it among seven other rosés from Champagne, but, honestly, I couldn’t. Good pink color with a bit of orange. A bit closed on the nose, but fruity on the palate and a tad sweet. Very Good. 88 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: This week, I had a healthy debate in my head over the Wine of the Week and it was only between two of the wines listed above, which had one over-arching commonality: they both caused me to recall the time when I was able to travel regularly. The first, the Mailly Grand Cru Rosé, reminded me of my days leading bike tours in Europe (mostly France), which defined my summers for almost twenty years. The second, and this week’s Wine of the Week, the 2016 Firriato Etna Bianco Le Sabbie Dell’Etna, Sicilia, represents more recent memories, those of press trips to various corners of the world to learn about the region, its cuisine, and of course, its wine. I have wondered, if given the choice, where would I go first once travel again makes sense and Sicily is certainly near the top of the list (of course, so is Champagne, but…).
What was your Wine of the Week?