Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Category: "Sauvignon Blanc"

An Ode to La Spinetta

One of wine's most important elements is its ability to evoke memories. We tend to gravitate towards particular wines not only for the way they taste but for the way they can transport one to a particular moment. You may remember that beautful bottle that was served on your birthday and now, whenever you see it on a menu, you may smile with recollection.  Or what about that bottle of rose that you drank at dinner on a beach vacation, overlooking the ocean?  I'm sure you are more apt to select that bottle over any other in a wine store.

La Spinetta wines hold that special memory for me.  With that first sip, I'm instantly transported to our first dinner on the patio at La Villa, our hotel in Piedmonte, on what was to become a pinnacle trip in my burgeoning passion for wine.  Sitting amongst the vineyard-covered hills, the setting sun alighting the mountain peaks like small volcanoes, I felt an ease and fluidity in my being I had never experienced before. The marriage of land and wine became a crystalized concept and I knew this was the beginning of a passionate journey.

Now, at a crossroads in my life, La Spinetta brought me back to a place of peace. Recently, Eataly hosted a tasting of four La Spinetta wines, including a first vintage rose. Tasting through these, I was transported to that moment of happiness, felt in its purest form

Langhe Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 ($46.80)
This was a gorgeous, old-world style sauv blanc, a must-drink alternative to the popular Italian pinot grigio. A bit pricey, yes, but it oozed character. Green apple, citrus and a brisk minerality announced themselves right away on the nose and palate. The acid, high and bright, was somehow tempered by a softness and roundness that is often found in Sancerre. I adore this wine.

Il Rose di Casanova, 2012 ($14.80)
This was their premier effort at rose and I hope they continue production. This wine came from their Tuscany estate and was 50% Sangiovese/50% Prugnolo Gentile. More Provence in style than the full-bodied deep Rosatos of Italy, this one had fresh-picked wildflowers, light cherry, strawberry fields and an overall brightness. Again, there was a good amount of acid on this fresh vino. Summer, where are you already?

Ca' Di Pian, Barbera, 2009 ($27.80)
Looking back at old posts, I'm shocked I haven't written about this one yet, considering it's offered by the half bottle at many wine bars in the city and I drink it all the time. At any rate, this is what I consider to be a textbook example of a good Barbera. On the nose, black cherry, plum and violets give way to cherry, raspberry and a solid earthiness on the palate. Again, acid is very prominent and some moderate tannins. Classic, classic, classic.

Vigneto Bordini, Barbaresco, 2005 ($53.80)
This was a lighter, refined style of Barbaresco. Violets, cranberry and an almost strawberry note wafted in the glass, layered with tones of chocolate. On the palate, the cranberry was even more noticeable, along with well-structured tannins and acidity. This is a barbaresco that I think could be sipped on by itself, along with being a great food wine.

Dedicated to S.P.

Lebanese, Please

By now, I've preached my most fundamental tasting mantra, "drink what you like," enough times to put an om-chanting yogi to shame.  However, in times when I'm exploring an unfamiliar wine region, "pair like with like" and matching a wine with its country of origin is a great gateway to something new.

A recent dinner brought my friend and I to Almayass, a Lebanese/Armenian restaurant with branches across the the Middle East.  I'm not very familiar with Lebanese wines but this seemed like an opportune time to give one a go.

Ksara Blanc de Blancs, Sauvignon Blanc. Semillion, Chardonnay blend, Bekaa Valley, 2011
(head shot)

 The first thing that struck me about this wine was the fluted bottle.  Based on presentation alone, I wondered if this wine would resemble a Riesling, which is traditionally bottled in this shape.

(full body shot)

Riesling?  Not quite. Instead, this medium-bodied white had a honeysuckle, floral and almost honeycomb-like nose, balanced by some tropical fruit.  Very faint but still present was a bit of minerality, most likely due to the soils in the vineyard, a nice counterbalance to the luscious topnotes.

On the palate, much of what came through on the nose also appeared, but there was an unctuousness that I found very appealing, while still being rather elegant. I really dug this weird vino.

Hummus, let me introduce you to your new friend...

Old School vs New Skool: Sauvignon Blanc

A common misperception people have when thinking about their wine preferences is thinking about wine only by grapes types (guilty as charged). Yes, grape varieties do have individual characteristics, but the influence of region and production style can produce wide-ranging results (hello, chardonnay).  Often, this boils down to Old World Wines versus New World Wines.

Say Wha?
In the most basic sense, Old World Wines are produced in countries with a long history of winemaking (France, Italy, etc.) while New World regions are only a couple of centuries into the game (California, New Zealand, Australia, etc.).  However, the terms also refer to style. Old World wine are very expressive of the "place" where wines originate and allow the soil, climate and tradition to affect the wines.  This collectively is referred to as terroir.  New World styles, on the other hand, put the grapes in the spotlight and try to produce wines that fully express the flavor of those little orbs.  Often, this leads to more earth-driven and savory characteristics in O.W. wines and more fruit in N.W. wines (but not a hard and fast rule).   Of course, in the global economy, some O.W. regions are trying N.W. techniques and vice versa, which can make things a little blurry, but definitely something to watch as the industry keeps evolving.

So, the better question is: am I Old School or New Skool?  Skeptical?  Let me prove it to you.

Today, we did a tasting of Sauvignon Blanc wines, one from the Loire Valley in France and one from Marlborough in New Zealand. Sauv Blanc is a grape with grassy, herbaceous and citrus characteristics.  After a brief love affair with the grape when I first started drinking wine, I went through a string of cheap dive-bar Sauv Blancs, enough to put me off the varietal, but I was interested to see how an O.W. classic compared with a N.W. region that has become renowned for quality Sauv Blancs. Contenders, to your corners.

The Old World
Domaine de Reuilly Les Pierres Plates, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire, FR 2010 - This wine came from the Loire Valley in France, and area known for quality white Sauv Blancs, such as Sancerre.  The wine is grown in Kimmeridgian soil, which is often attributed as being a key component in quality Burgundy wines.  On the nose, soft citrus notes, such as mandarin, along with a bit of grassiness, appeared.  On the palate, the gentler citrus fruits again appeared plus a refreshening herbaceousness.  In addition,  minerality presented itself throughout the sip. The texture on this wine was rather intriguing, as the citrus notes would lead one to believe it would be quite astringent; rather, there was a soft creaminess in the mouth that rounded out the flavors in an extraordinary way.

The New World 
Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ, 2011 - Marlborough in the main production center for wine in New Zealand.  As the country is newer entrant into the global wine market, a large focus is on modern vineyard technology and wine-production techniques. The country is also recognized as a forerunner in championing the characteristics of Sauv Blanc as a grape. On the nose, bright, fruity citrus, such as pink grapefruit, came through strongly, plus notes of green grass.  On the palate, the fruit and herbaceousness followed through with the addition of a kiwi essence.  Again, the palate surprised.  There was lower acidity than expected and I thought it would be brighter in the mouth. Instead, it felt a little softer but unlike the Reuilly, it wasn't a creamy softness, it was more of a flatness.

Lesson learned?  Both exhibited some similar characteristics, but the fruit came through in different levels.  The Old World wine showcased more mineral and savory tones while the New World wine stayed true to the fruit.  Finally, the different regions changed the texture and finish of both.  

So, are you Old School or New Skool?