Let’s take a break this week from the Summer Saga of collectibles and do some drinking. If you’re like me you’ve got a collection of Untouchables (wines that won’t be ready for years) or Poundables (cheap wines to divert your thirsty friends and family away from the Untouchables), but very few Drinkables, those premium wines that drink deliciously now, but don’t cost so much that you feel the need to vet the folks you’re drinking with. I can help with this. We begin:
Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Puy 2017, Beaujolais, France. An absolutely ridiculous value from a region already famous for ridiculous value. Cru Beaujolais remains the “smart person’s Burgundy” because the quality, methods and ethics are identical, only the grape variety and prices diverge. The Côte du Puy cru in the village of Morgon, with its granite-laced soils, is known for growing super bold Gamay with firm structure, and Jean-Marc and Christine Burgaud – winemakers since 1989 – basically just crush and bottle it after a short stay in concrete. Farmed by hand and horse without chemicals, one could reasonably expect this brilliant Morgon to smell like a barn, but instead it’s like vaping a corsage, gorgeous jasmine and violets surround plums and crushed strawberries, electrified by currants, orange peel and hints of quinine. The body matches the tannins, both are considerable. This is Patio Tonic, hungry and ready for anything. Pounce. 96+ points James Suckling, 4 cases available, $44.98 +tax
Sartori Marani 2016, Veronese Bianco, Italy. Meet the unofficial White Amarone. The generally exuberant Andrea Sartori speaks in hushed tones when he talks about his grandmother, the Matriarch of the Sartori family and the inspiration for this uniquely bold white wine. 100% Garganega grapes harvested in the Soave DOC, left to dry for a month and a half before crush, then given a half-year’s on-lees aging before a partial oak treatment, Marani – like the woman who inspired it – shows a delicate exterior and a strong, immovable interior. Stone fruits, honey and crushed rocks on the nose, a firm core and a finish that persists well into the next sip. I can’t find any points for this but I don’t care, you should grab some Marani before I drink it all. 3 6-packs left, $39.98 +tax
Alvarez de Toledo Mencia 2015, Bierzo, Spain. I don’t feature it often, so for those readers saying “Bierzo Whatzo?” I offer a brief primer: Bierzo is a dry, mountainous, slate-speckled region just northwest of Portugal that makes firm, bold wines out of Mencia, a medium-structured grape comparable to Cabernet Franc. Many cheap Bierzos can be like smelling dirt whilst chewing bark, but the higher-altitude, old-vine wines like this gem from Alvarez de Toledo (average vine age: 60 years), are lush, generous affairs. Blueberries and blackberries with grilled herbs and gravel, a rather round centre in context, good acidity on the landing, the tannins are formidable but well-balanced – this is modern Bierzo, into making new friends. Great for the steak off your grill or the ensuing conversations. 97+ points Decanter, 3 cases available, $39.98 +tax
Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Pirque, Maipo, Chile. Calling Terrunyo the “Baby Don Melchor” isn’t really accurate because it’s from a different vineyard at a different altitude (on the bank of the Maipo river), but it is made by the same team (Concha Y Toro) in the same cellars as that Icon of Chile, so it’s maybe a cousin? Whatever the nickname, this is brilliant Cab, grown in the elite Las Terrazas block of their vineyard in the Pirque appellation, brimming with freshly sharpened pencil and cassis, blackberry and leather, followed by cocoa nibs and walnuts on the long finish. This should age classically, but it’s rather scrumptious now, so don’t. 93 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $54.98 +tax
Lar de Paula Reserva 2012 Rioja, Spain. A firecracker modern Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa, the lower altitude, hotter sub-region responsible for many of Rioja’s most innovative wines (it’s also responsible for making wines that drink like Dr. Pepper For Grown Ups, but I would never do that to you, this one is awesome). When the oenologist Meruelo family transplanted from Ribera del Duero to Rioja 40 years ago, their dream was to make wine from ancient vines, and after founding Herdad de Baroja in the 80s, Fernando Meruelo began slowly acquiring old vineyards in the Alavesa, which were cheaper at the time. Destiny led the Meruelos to start Lar de Paula a few years ago, and this Reserva is built from nearly century-old Tempranillo vines, spending 2 years in French and American oak (and the rest in bottle). Tobacco, dark fruits and cedar on the nose, a full, rich palate and hot finish. Unlike many Riojas this doesn’t need food, but it wouldn’t say no… 94+ points James Suckling, 4 6-packs available, $44.99 +tax
I’ll be pouring the Jean-Marc Burgaud, the Sartori Marani, and the Terrunyo this Saturday in the River District Vintage Room at 3pm, should you need a tad more convincing (and if indeed I have some left).
Until next time, Happy Drinking!!