August 18, 2017
Special thanks to staff member Ian Augustine for writing this week’s tasting notes.
Cantina Ribelà ‘Ribolie’ 2016, Lazio, Italy
You know the saying: When in Fox Point, do as the Romans do. Or at least that’s what I always say. Twelve miles south of Rome lies the ancient town of Frascati, set upon the volcanic slopes of the Colli Albani. This is where the wine of the Ancient Romans came from. The soils here are volcanic in origin, making them very fertile, porous and rich in potassium. Grapes grow like crazy here, and thus the region is best known for growing grapes of quantity rather than quality. But that’s not to say there isn’t some beautiful wine being made here. When one of the largest producers in Frascati began selling off vast swaths of their land about ten years ago, aspiring young winemakers Chiara and Daniele Bianchi bought some and began to farm it organically and biodynamically. They inherited about 2 hectares of vines planted with mostly Malvasia, and Trebbiano that range from 25 to 60 years old. The grapes are grown alongside parcels of olive trees, as well as cherries, apricots, peaches, and apples.
Their first vintage was in 2014, and from the get-go they have produced some truly stunning wines. We find ourselves now embracing the 2016 ‘Ribolie,’ a frizzante of Malvasia, Trebbiano, Bombino, and Bellone. In keeping with ancient traditions, this sparkling receives it’s first fermentation in open-top steel vats to encourage the presence of indigenous yeasts, and is then fermented for a second time in the bottle. The result is lively and expressive, with notes of wild flowers and fresh peach. It’s also got a pretty savory/funky side, in my opinion. This stuff is totally delicious to just sip on, but even better with some olives, smoked meats, or just a good pizza.
Guímaro Blanco 2015, Ribeira Sacra, Spain
The Ribeira Sacra D.O., an appellation of Galicia, is technically a newcomer to the world of Spanish wine. The appellation was only established in 1996, but the Romans were here over 2000 years ago making wine. The slow pace at which this region modernized meant that it all but fell behind in the canon of Spanish winemaking. Winemaking here is pretty intense. The vines are terraced on incredibly steep slopes, meaning that it’s nearly impossible to get machinery near the vines, and thus all work in the vineyard must be done by hand.
The wines of ‘Guímaro,’ made by Pedro Rodríguez were some of the first wines to join the Ribeira Sacra D.O. in 1996. Like all good Galicians, Pedro and his parents keep a mixed vegetable and livestock farm, which of course informs his rustic approach to winemaking. The techniques employed here (in both the vineyard and the cellar) are pretty old-fashioned, including foot treading, open top/wild yeast fermentation, stem inclusion, and only minimal sulfur addition. All grapes are grown organically, and treated as such during production in the cellar.
The 2015 Guímaro Blanco is a wine of un-oaked Godello, grown on sandy slate and granite. It is fresh, bright, and approachable. Somewhat floral and a bit savory on the nose. It drinks semi-dry with a balanced, rounded acidity, finishing out little zing on the back of the palette. There is definitely some salinity here as well. This is the perfect thing to carry you through the rest of grilled summer squash and zucchini season, and I imagine it would pair nicely with virtually any kind of seafood imaginable.
Bisson Ciliegiolo Rosato 2016, Liguria, Italy
Pierluigi Lugano started out his career in wine by trading bulk wines, then becoming a wine merchant, and eventually growing his own grapes. He now works with grapes from several small growers on the Ligurian Coast, in conjunction with his own, to make wine. Similarly to the Ribeira Sacra, the vineyards of the Ligurian Coast are characterized by bold, steep terraces, making it nearly impossible to work with machinery. Many of the grapes in this region were planted by the ancient greeks, and so the vines are remarkably old. Lugano is a total grape nerd, and thus the wines made under his ‘Bisson’ label feature relatively unknown heirloom varietals of grapes that best capture the terroir and growing conditions of the region; grapes such as Cimixià, Bianchetta, and Piago.
This particular rosato is made with a grape called Ciliegiolo (pronounced chilli-gyo-lo), a red grape native to Northern Italy. The color is a juicy, vibrant, out of control hot-pink, and it tastes just like it looks. It’s a bit dry, slightly zesty, and totally delicious with ripe red fruit and notes of candied strawberry. Grab the salami folks, because we’re going to charcuterie town with this one. Or maybe burger town. Either way, make sure there’s some blue cheese around.
Mosse Bois-Rouge 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France
The Anjou, an appellation of the southern Loire, is a magical place encompassed by two distinct regions: Anjou Noir and Anjou Blanc. The former is a much larger region composed of darker schist soils, and is famed for it’s production of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Gamay. The latter describes a type of chalky, gravely limestone soil, takes up a much smaller area and is celebrated for it’s production of Chenin Blanc. The winegrowing influence of the appellation dates back 1000 years.
Agnès and René Mosse arrived in Anjou in 1999 and purchased a small estate with about 10 hectares of vines, and now work about 17 of hectares. They work their vines organically and biodynamically, and are certified organic. Their wines represent some of the most exciting natural gems coming out of the Loire these days. They offer a classic and elegant representation of the grapes being used while simultaneously serving up the kind of youthful vibrancy and energetic zing found only in the world of raw wines at the moment.
The 2105 Bois-Rouge is a blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is produced from younger vines, and given a short fermentation of only 14 days before bottling. It’s got an approachable barn-yardy bouquet, with a high acidity and almost fizzy mouthfeel. It’s bright, earthy, and very food friendly. I’d pair it with just about anything – a nice tart goat cheese, some garlicky green beans, peppery arugula, steak frites, and so on. Or pizza, because anything pairs with pizza in my book.