BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Supply chain issues, employee shortages, inflationary pricing — these are all issues we’re dealing with in our everyday lives. They are all factors in the wine world as well.
Your favorite brand is much more likely to be hit-and-miss on the grocery shelves or restaurant wine lists now. In the trade, we’re even hearing of impending shortages with glass bottles, although hopefully wineries will prioritize the good stuff first.
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And speaking of good stuff, here’s a list of 10 memorable wines from the past year from News 6 partners Florida Today. As is the tradition herein, all should be available for $50 or less, though a few may require a bit of a search with current supply issues.
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1. Wine of the Year: Sinegal Napa Valley 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa suffered from the twin paradoxes of fires and untimely wet weather in 2017, leading to uneven quality in the vineyards. Happily, the higher-end ‘18s now in the market were dealt a superb growing season. The wines are ripe and fruity with the welcoming touch of soft tannins and moderate acidity, all factors in creating balanced — and potentially long-lived — wines.
For the Sinegal winery, 2018 proved to be an exceptional vintage. This wine is everything Napa aficionados are looking for in a large-scaled, full-blown cabernet sauvignon. Dark fruit notes of plums and blackberries intermingle with spicy mocha/vanilla and creamy licorice accents. Voluptuous yet concentrated, this alluring cab will be ready to enjoy now with some aeration or decanting.
Incidentally, proprietors David and Jim Sinegal are founders and former chief executive officers of Costco. Welcome to Brevard fellas. (Republic National Distributing; approximate retail $50)
2. My Favorite Neighbor 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon
It was a tough call to pick the Sinegal cab over this fine effort from winemaker Eric Jensen and his My Favorite Neighbor label. Sourced from the red-hot Paso Robles area in San Luis Obispo County, it’s a counterpoint to the wines from Napa, a bit more savory, red fruits, coffee and fig amidst a softer oak profile.
Originally named as a tribute to pioneering friend and mentor Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure winery, the My Favorite Neighbor line up now includes several wines and a large capital contribution from Constellation Brands. The just-released ‘19 is another excellent California red for the money. (Southern-Glazer Wines & Spirits; retail $45)
3. Chateau Climens Asphodele Bordeaux Blanc 2018
When it comes to Bordeaux, it’s the reds that get most all the glory. Some of the dessert-style white Sauternes are in a category all their own, but dry whites originating from within the Bordeaux appellation remain an undiscovered pleasure for too many wine drinkers.
Chateau Climens produces one of those sweet whites, but their Asphodele bottling produced from 100% semillon grapes is dry and table-friendly for a variety of cuisines. Eschewing the addition of Sauvignon Blanc for a white Bordeaux is somewhat unusual, but it works beautifully here. Asphodele is rich and luscious, white and stone fruits with a lingering floral edginess. An excellent discovery for readers looking for something different. (Breakthru Beverage Co.; retail $40)
4. Dalrymple Pipers River Pinot Noir, Tasmania 2019
Wines from the Australian mainland are generally regarded as coming from growing regions too hot to produce delicate Burgundian-style wines. Enter the mountain-packed island of Tasmania off of the southeastern corner of the country; cooler climatic conditions lead to unparalleled success.
According to winemaker Peter Caldwell, “Tasmanian pinot is the perfect example of what wine should be; mysterious, challenging, a complete reflection of its environment and most satisfying when you get it right.” The Dalrymple pinot noir is succinctly a case in point. (Winebow Imports; retail $44)
5. Chateau L’Orme de Razan Gassies 2016 Bordeaux
Bordeaux has seen an unprecedented string of excellent vintages over the past decade, perhaps none finer than those of 2016. Excellent vintages often lead to higher prices and prevent the big guns from fitting into our price range.
The L’Orme is what’s referred to as a “second wine” and credited as a humble Haut-Medoc coming from Margaux’s Chateau Rauzan Gassies. Two-thirds merlot and one-third cabernet sauvignon, this red is a gentle giant with soft tannins and a lingering fruit finish. (Monsieur Touton Selections; retail $30).
6. Duboeuf Jean Descombes Morgon 2019
See the name Duboeuf on a bottle of wine, and there’s a pretty good chance you are drinking a Beaujolais. Trying to find the word “Beaujolais” on the label of one of the better examples is going to be a much harder task.
The once ubiquitous Nouveau of the ‘80s and ‘90s turned out to be a drag on the region’s serious reds; most producers now prefer to focus on one of the 10 “cru” villages that make up the heart of the appellation. Duboeuf sources grapes from many of the finest growers, and the Descombes family from Morgon ranks near the very top. 2019 was an excellent vintage in Beaujolais and the larger Burgundy region. Grab these reds made from 100% gamay while they’re still around. (Progress Wines; retail $25)
7. Masseria Li Veli Verdeca Salento 2020
Last year a red from this winery made our Top 10, and this year we’ve reserved a spot for one of its whites. Pricing has something to do with that, as does the region of Salento in Puglia where wines remain a striking bargain compared to many of the Barolos and Brunellos further north in Italy.
This softly floral white from the indigenous verdeca varietal is vinified in stainless steel and sees no oak. A perfect pairing with white fish or shellfish of all sorts. (Winebow Imports, retail $22)
8. Dirugutti Proyecto Las Compuertas Malbec 2018
Malbec was virtually unknown in the Florida market when the Green Turtle opened in 2000, though it’s been through several up and down cycles since. Argentinean producers have sought to avoid the one-trick pony reputation that’s haunted other bourgeoning wine regions (such as Aussie shiraz). A trip to Mendoza several years ago convinced me of the diversity many have managed to achieve.
The Durigutti family produces a wide range of reds, and their Proyecto lineup pushes the boundaries of what one might expect from malbec. Lively with a pinot-like texture and light touch, red fruits and peppery herbal flavors are predominate on a lingering, memorable finish. (Tuscany Co. Imports; retail $27)
9. Fevre Champs Royaux 2019 Chablis
Traveling to Chablis was one of the highlights of this past year for me, and a visit to the Fevre winery and surrounding countryside was exceptional. Nothing like tasting 16 bottlings of chablis from the same vintage and winery all in one shot.
That’s an extraordinary take on one grape from this microcosm that produces the most chardonnay in all of France. With Fevre’s affordable Champs Royaux bottling, there’s barely a rumor of oak, just penetrating citrus and white floral notes with oodles of food-friendly acidity. Oysters, anyone? (Southern Glazer Wine & Spirits; retail $29)
10. Duemani Altrovino Costa Toscana 2018
Coastal Tuscany was a new category for most Americans 20 years ago, as was the ensuing though unofficial title of “super Tuscan” wines. What had begun as a renegade effort to avoid the strictures associated with the DOC region blossomed as vintners began to include non-native (and mostly French) varietals such as merlot and cabernets franc and sauvignon.
It’s equal parts of those first two wines in the Altrovino, vinified in concrete vats and terracotta amphora. A touch of neutral (used) oak barrels softens the edges, although this is a bright and vivacious full-bodied red defined by its choice of grapes. (Winebow Imports; retail $45)
Tim Dwight is a Certified Wine Educator and Sommelier, as well as proprietor of the Green Turtle Market in Indian Harbour Beach.
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