All treats, no tricks in the this week's dozen as we take a trip through some of our favorite regions in Europe with a red and a white from each stop.
Whatever you're doing this weekend, we hope you're doing it safely and hopefully you've already waited in those long lines to cast your vote. Next week is going to feel like a long one. Here's what we've put together to help you get through it:
Garnatxa Blanca "Naturalis", Celler Batea 2019 $18 (Catalonia) Batea is a small community in the hills of Terra Alta, west of Tarragona, where the local co-op has been farming without chemicals since the 50s. They grow a number of familiar local grapes, but they specialize in Garnatxa Blanca. Judith Folch has been running the cellar since 2009 and works as naturally as possible. This wine comes from a selection of younger vines, hand harvested and fermented with native yeast, then aged for four months in steel before getting bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulfur added. Ripe and round with apple and fennel notes and a lifted lemony finish.
Fossil Branco, Vale da Capucha 2017 $18 (Portugal) Moving all the way west to southern Portugal, just north of Lisbon, right on the Atlantic coast in a little area called Torres Vedras where Pedro Marques is quietly making some of the best natural wines in the country. This is a blend of 50% Fernao Pires, 35% Arinto and the rest is a field blend of Alvarinho, Viosinho, Antao Vaz and maybe a few others. No chemicals in the vineyards and everything is hand harvested, then gently pressed whole cluster and moved to a combination of steel and different sized barrels to age on the lees for 20 months, then bottled unfiltered with just a drop of sulfur. Medium bodied, dense and complex with ripe yellow plum, salty citrus and crushed seashells with easy comparisons to Chablis (the vineyards sit on a chunk of Kimmeridgian limestone, the same limestone found in Chablis, as the fossil on the label implies).
Anjou Blanc, Domaine de Clayou 2018 $17 (Loire) Staying on the Atlantic side of the continent, but moving way north to Anjou, just east of Muscadet in the Loire Valley. This is Chenin Blanc from 20 year old organic vines planted on schist, hand harvested and fermented with native yeast, then aged all in steel on the lees for 6 months. Medium bodied and mineral driven with crushed pears and zippy minerality. Beautifully made reference point Chenin from a family that has been working this land for 4 generations.
Pays d'Herault Blanc, Mas de Daumas Gassac 2019 $14 (Languedoc) Moving south to Languedoc in the hills just west of Perpignan, the Guibert family has been making cult natural wines since the 70s and has amassed a huge amount of vines which are all farmed organically and made naturally with native yeast and little or no sulfur. This is a blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Terret Blanc all made in steel. Fresh and easy patio pounder with personality and a nice case study of Grenache Blanc to compare against the Celler Batea expression above.
Roero Arneis, Cascina Pace 2019 $16 (Piedmont) Crossing over the Alps into northern Italy, this is Arneis from biodynamic vineyards in the sandy hills of Roero, just north of Barbaresco, made all in steel, again with native yeast and low sulfur. This is an old shop favorite with bright green apple notes and fresh white flowers. Total crowd pleaser.
Verdicchio di Matelica "Cabraccio", Cantine Belisario 2019 $13 (Marche) Moving southeast to the Adriatic coast in Marche where Verdicchio reigns supreme and produces some of the most serious white wines in Italy. Verdicchio comes from two zones that express this grape really differently- Castelli di Jesi makes the more full bodied and powerful version that makes it to the states more often and Matelica makes a more linear and crisp version, that we don't see as much because it's such a small appellation. This is the latter and comes from an old co-op of organic growers that makes the reference point example of what Verdicchio di Matelica should be, crisp and bright with mouthwatering acidity and a distinct note of crushed almonds. Make some spicy Spaghetti alle Vongole and get your mind blown. This is another old shop favorite.
Casolare Rosso, Fattoria San Lorenzo 2019 $17 (Marche) Staying in Marche and moving to one of our favorite producers in all of Italy, Nattalino Crognaletti. This is his everyday red made from 50/50 Sangiovese and Montepulciano from 30 year old vines that have never seen any chemicals, fermented with native yeast and aged in concrete for 3 months before bottling unfiltered with just a little sulfur. That's the usual recipe, but he decided to do something different this year, by declassifying one of his best single vineyard wines, Burello, planted by his dad in1960 to 60/40 Sangiovese and Montepulciano and blending it in with these younger vines. So this is the Super Casolare with dark spiced cherries and leathery earth notes. So good!
Freisa "La Pivetta", Cascina Roera 2017 $20 (Piedmont) Back to Piedmont, right between Alba and Asti in the small villageof Castigliole d'Asti where Claudio Rosso and Piero Nebiolo (those are their real names! Of course they make wine!) work just under 20 acres of vines completely naturally and follow a minimal intervention approach in the cellar as well. This is 100% Freisa, which is thought to be a parent grape of Nebbiolo, from 25 year old organic vineyards, hand harvested and fermented with native yeast in concrete where it stays on the skins for a month, then gets moved to old barrel for a year before bottling unfiltered with almost no sulfur added. Rustic and vibrant with crushed strawberries, rose petals and mossy forest floor notes and firm structure on a medium bodied frame.
Pays d'Oc Rouge, Domaine des Sauvaire 2017 $13 (Languedoc) Back to Languedoc, a little further north and east of Mas de Daumas Gassac above. This is a blend of 40% Carignan, 35% Grenache and 25% Syrah from organic vines from the hills in Crespian, just outside of Nimes, farmed by Herve Sauvaire and sons and made in a mix of fiberglass and concrete tanks with native yeast and low sulfur. Perfect bistro wine with juicy dark fruit and a velvety finish. French countryside charm for days.
Anjou Rouge "Les Hautes Bruyeres", Domaine des Terres Blanches 2017 $18 (Loire) Back west to Anjou, just south of Saumur and west of Chinon in Cab Franc country where Benoit Blet works naturally with old vines planted on sandstone and clay. This is from a single vineyard, hand harvested and destemmed, then slowly pressed and fermented with native yeast and left on the skins for 6 weeks, then moved to small old barrels where it ages for 18 months before getting bottled unfiltered with no sulfur added. Medium bodied, but dark fruited and complex with spiced plum and roasted peppers.
Vale das Eguas Tinto, Herdade do Cebolal 2019 $17 (Portugal) Staying on the west coast and returning to southern Portugal, this time just south of Lisbon on the Setubal peninsula where Luis Mota Capitao's family has been growing grapes since the late 1800's. This is a blend of 65% Touriga Nacional, 22% Alicante Bouschet, 13% Syrah hand harvested from organic vineyards, then fermented with native yeast in large clay amphora, then moved to stainless steel tanks where it ages on the lees for 10 months before getting bottled unfiltered with just a little sulfur added. Full bodied with deep dark fruit and earthy minerality and velvety tannins. Comfort wine for a rainy day.
Garnatxa Negra, Alta Alella 2018 $20 (Catalonia) And finally, back to Catalonia, this time just 5 miles north of Barcelona in the Serralada de Marina natural park where Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and his family farm these terraced vineyards in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean completely naturally. The grapes are hand harvested and fully destemmed, then fermented with native yeast and left on the skins for 15 days, then pressed off to steel tanks where it ages steel for 6 months before getting bottled unfiltered with no sulfur added. Full bodied with spicy roasted red fruit and Mediterranean herbs.
Get all 12 for $145 and save $56!
Since it's an even split, these will be the wines in this week's Half Dozen Red or White for $75 as well.
Have a great weekend everybody!
drink wine every day
Even though it feels different this year, the holiday season is here! Among other things, that means Beaujolais in every flavor and today we'll start with a Cru that doesn't make the rounds as much as its famous neighbors like Moulin-a-Vent and Fleurie, but produces a really distinct and delicious expression of Gamay: Chenas.