2009 d’Arenberg “The Laughing Magpie”, McLaren Vale, Australia

The Wine of the Week
by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Laughing Magpie2009, d’Arenberg, The Laughing Magpie, Shiraz-Viognier, McLaren Vale, Australia

Australia is comprised of 6 states; one of them, South Australia, is home to several of the most internationally recognized wine regions and Australia’s most significant wines (in quality, not quantity). In 1993 Australia instituted the Geographical Indication (GI) system for classifying wine growing regions. In 1997, McLaren Vale, one of Australia’s oldest wine regions (established in the early 19th-century), was assigned its own GI status.

McLaren Vale encompasses multiple mesoclimates affected by proximity to mountains, distance from the climatic effects of the sea, and varying soil conditions. A large variety of grapes grow well here, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mouvedre, and – of course – Shiraz, the grape that put this region (and Australia in general) on the world’s wine map.

Shiraz is the Australian name for the Syrah grape, most commonly associated with the northern Rhône Valley region of France. Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape that adapts well to challenging growing conditions and thrives even in some of the least hospitable soils. Typical flavors associated with this grape range from smoky and meaty to rich jammy berries and licorice depending on the terroir.

This particular wine is a blend of Shiraz with Viognier, a white wine grape (92% and 8%, respectively). Though this sounds a bit unusual, it is actually a long established practice begun in the Côte-Rôtie (an appellation in the northern Rhône Valley). The role of the Viognier in the blend is to liven up the color of the Shiraz and to contribute a more complex aroma (Viognier is quite aromatic in its own right). It is traditional to ferment the red and white grapes together from the start; d’Arenberg continues this tradition in the making of this wine.

The d’Arenberg family has been part of Australia’s winemaking history since 1912. The d’Arenberg’s own label was launched in 1959 by Francis d’Arenberg Osborn (aka d’Arry). D’Arenberg may be best known for their “The Stump Jump” series of wines, or their iconic “The Dead Arm” Shiraz – most of their wines are given clever names that in no way belie the quality and passion that go into their creation.

Aromas of ripe raspberries, cloves, and wintergreen dominate with a touch of hearty meatiness developing as it opens in the glass. This wine is juicy and lush with ripe dark berries, black plums, and rich dark cocoa. Beware a bit of alcoholic punch (14.6% ABV) and rather intense tannins – on the up-side, both are factors that will contribute to this wines potentially long aging ability – decant and aerate a bit for maximum immediate enjoyment. This is one vintage older than current (though still available in the US), so you’ve already got one year of additional aging checked off. Break out that rarely (or never) used decanter and enjoy this wine with grilled steak, herb-crusted lamb chops, duck confit, or braised short ribs and polenta. For the vegetarians out there, I recommend a hearty mix of dark leafy greens, chewy grains, and roasted/grilled root vegetables and winter squashes.

Valdespino, “Inocente” Fino, Macharnudo Alto, Jerez, Andalucía, Spain

The Wine of the Week
by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Valdespino Inocente FinoNV, Valdespino, “Inocente” Fino, Macharnudo Alto, Jerez, Andalucía, Spain

The Jerez (Xèrés) region of Spain, home of sherry, is situated along the southwestern seashore in the province of Andalucía. The “Sherry Triangle” is a small portion of Andalucía formed by the connection of the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Macharnudo Alto, the regions highest altitude vineyards, are located northwest of Jerez de la Frontera. The albariza soil in these vineyards is considered to be the purest in the region – the porous, chalky, bright white, high limestone soil produce low yields of highly concentrated fruit with intense minerality.

As we’ve discussed before (here and here), sherry is a fortified wine that can be expressed in several styles predominantly influenced by the aging method used. Biological aging refers to those styles whose flavor profiles are attributed to time under a protective layer of flor yeast – these include Fino and Manzanilla. Oxidative aging refers to those styles whose flavor profiles are attributed to exposure to air during the maturation process – these include Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez styles. Amontillado and Palo Cortado are styles that come from a combination of time under flor followed by a period of exposure to open air.

Valdespino is the most respected producer of sherry, and one of the oldest. They have owned their vineyards in the Macharnudo Alto since 1264. Valdespino is the only sherry producer to still ferment their wines in all oak (versus stainless steel). The Inocente Fino is produced from Palomino grapes from the Macharnudo Alto that are fermented in oak using only indigenous yeasts. The solera (aging system) is comprised of ten criaderas (“tiers”), more than double the typical size; this translates to an approximate ten years under flor by the time of each bottling, generating an intense depth of flavor and complexity.

The color of this wine is more golden and vivid than typical Finos. This heightened expression of quality persists throughout the experience – not your basic Fino by any stretch of the imagination. Intense aromas of hazelnuts, almonds, and ripe cantaloupe are heightened by a touch of spiciness. The flavors are complex and reveal layers of tartness, nuttiness, and rich olive oil-like qualities with a touch of salinity and a long, pleasantly bitter finish. Good Spanish tapas are made to go with this wine. Roasted Marcona almonds, jamon Iberico, meaty green olives, pungent anchovies, grilled sardines, potato croquettas… the list goes on. I’m a long-time believer in the wonders of sherry with food; this wine sealed that fate.

2013 Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles, Hého rouge, Vin de Pays du Val de Loire, Loire Valley, France

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Heho le Rouge2013 Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles, Hého, Vin de Pays Rouge, Loire Valley, France

Sometimes a simple, refreshing wine is all we need. It may be the middle of the week, or a weekend afternoon picnic that is only the start to a full day of indulgence; we all need a wine that will quench our thirst, respect simpler choices of food, and not knock us out with excessive alcohol, or an excessive price tag. And, this wine should still be “good” – of course.

Maybe French wine was not the first thing that popped into your mind to sate that need. This wine may change your mind.

Vin de Pays (“country wine”) is a designation that may be considered one step up from basic table wine. It is used in classifying wines that are, in some way, representative of a place (typical grape varieties and practices). These wines are held to set standards, but without the stringent regulations applied to the AOC wines. Many winemakers are taking advantage of this designation to experiment with uncommon blends, often introducing some grape varieties that are not originally from their region.

Domaines Les Haute Noëlles is a certified organic producer located in an AOC that specifically produces Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne). They also grow several other non-typical varieties for use in Vin de Pays du Val de Loire. Most of their fruit is hand-harvested, with traditional methods being the norm throughout the winemaking process.

The Hého rouge is comprised of 45% Cabernet Franc, 45% Grolleau Noir, (both typical red grapes of the Loire Valley) and 10% Gamay (of Beaujolais fame). The Grolleau Noir and Gamay are both vinified by carbonic maceration, while the Cabernet Franc is vinified in the traditional manner. (Sorry, I was not able to establish the meaning of the name Hého… yet.)

This wine has an appealing sheer garnet color. Initial earthy aromas open to reveal bright red cherries, tealeaves and peppercorns, with a touch of cinnamon. This wine has a pronounced, refreshing tartness with flavors of red cassis berries, cranberries, and pomegranates. The tannins are tight and focused on the front of the palate. Though this is not an extremely complex wine, it is definitely tasty… and a great value (just over $10/bottle). Try serving this lightly chilled – remove from refrigeration 30-40 minutes before serving then enjoy – it opens nicely as it warms to room temperature. As mentioned earlier, this is a great wine for an afternoon picnic – delicious with salumi, prosciutto, olives, and hearty salads as well as grilled meats and vegetables. It’s also great for a simple weeknight meal of roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

2012 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Abbazia di Novacella Kerner2012 Abbazia di Novacella Kloster-Neustift, Kerner, Alto Adige-Valle Isarco DOC, Italy

The Abbazia property is located in the tiny village of Novacella, so close to the Austrian border that it is, in many ways, Italian by name only – closer to Innsbruck than to any town of similar size in Italy. That is not the only thing that sets this wine apart…

Abbazia di Novacella is an active monastery of the Augustinian Cannons Regular, an order of monks dedicated to community service and education. The Abbazia property was founded in 1142; grapes for wine, along with a great variety of other fruits and vegetables, have been grown and studied here continuously since then. Also on the property, a boarding school, a convent, a pub (!), and now an event center offering educational opportunities in environmental sustainability, food and wine production, and energy and construction, in addition to religious and spiritual studies – in its 9th century of operation and still as current and practical as ever. The winemaking facilities are modern and in 2009, the Abbazia winemaker was even awarded the Gambero Rosso award for Winemaker of the Year.

The steep slopes of the Isarco Valley, where the grapes are grown for this wine, are not very hospitable and yields are quite low – this is, of course, a good thing for wine. The Kerner grape is a cross between Riesling and Schiava Grossa (aka Trollinger, a dark grape usually used for red wine) that produces a distinct white wine with many characteristics of Riesling but more hearty for growing in challenging environments.

This is a richly aromatic wine with initial aromas of red apple, honeysuckle and white pepper. On the palate, it is a touch off-dry (just 5 grams/liter of residual sugar) with a slick juiciness. The floral and peppery aromas linger into a long petrol-like mineral finish. This 2012 vintage is now a year old (though still available, along with the 2013) – like its Riesling ancestors, I’m sure it has the ability to age beautifully. Of course, it is also in this wine’s heritage to go well with food. I enjoyed it with an assortment of cheeses, as well as with a fig and goat cheese risotto I was experimenting with – I’d also recommend fresh summery pastas, Thai green curry, or Alsatian onion tart.

Fermí Bohigas Rosat Cava, Catalonia, Spain

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.

Bohigas Rosat CavaNV, Fermí Bohigas Rosat Cava, Catalonia, Spain

Two of the most versatile styles of wine, in one – rosé bubbles. Though I’ve been enjoying many variations on this theme so far this summer, this one stands out for its broad appeal, ability to work well with a variety of foods, and affordability (not to be overlooked, since many favorites are well-deserved decadent splurges).

Cava is Spain’s méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine, specifically from the Catalan region. The name “cava” is from the stone cellars in which the wine is matured. The sparkling rosado style, Spanish for rosé, begins its journey in the same was as a still rosado – by extracting color from the skins of dark grapes prior to pressing, leaving the juice tinted and ready for the initial fermentation. Like Champagne, the wine then goes through a secondary fermentation in bottle (this is where the bubbles come from). All Cavas are required to age a minimum of 9 months on their lees.

Fermí Bohigas is a family-owned winery, originally founded in the 13th century. Their farming practices are organic. The Bohigas Rosat Cava is made from Trepat, a local red grape, blended with Pinot Noir. This wine ages in bottle, on its lees, for 9-12 months after the secondary fermentation, prior to disgorging, after which it receives a final dosage of 6 grams per liter, adding an almost-undetectable touch of sweetness (but mostly for a creamy mouthfeel). Up to 6 grams per liter is classified as Extra Brut in Cava production.

The deep, rich berry color of this wine is unusually dark and appealing. Heady aromas of ripe strawberry and almond with a hint of dusty earth and fresh herbs are followed by a delicious, rich berry/cherry flavor that lingers over the crisp acidity and silky mousse. Enjoy this wine as an aperitif, during an afternoon at the park (if that sort of thing is allowed where you live), or with a simple backyard soiree – it goes just as well with an alfresco brunch as it does with homemade grilled pizzas, hearty grain and fresh vegetable salads, or your choice of freshly made tacos.