As we work through the dog days of summer my intention for this quarter was to present a selection of wines that are lighter in color and alcohol, but big in flavor and complexity. While assembling this set over a series of tastings the same conversation kept coming up between me and my suppliers; how consumers have preconceived notions about certain grapes, regions and styles. Then one wine stood out so much that I made a slight pivot on the theme and focused on dispelling some common misconceptions, or myth busting.
That first selection is a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley and honestly one of the best examples I have tasted in a long time. This is no faint praise as Loire Valley Cabernet Franc is one that I love and drink a lot. Is Cabernet Franc every bit as interesting and complex as it’s progeny, Cabernet Sauvignon? You are about to find out.
My second pick looks at one of the most interesting debates in wine geekdom, and the radical changes happening in the Rioja region of Spain. Conventional wisdom says the best examples from the region are the great Gran Reserva wines of the Rioja Alta estates like Muga, Lopez de Heredia and La Rioja Alta. Our pick is neither, crafted from high elevation vines in the Rioja Oriental and aged like modern wines with only 24 months in oak. While I still love the classics, this new riff is pretty amazing too.
Finally, we look at Barbaresco and why it is seen as the “lesser” wine to nearby Barolo? My inspiration for this idea started a few weeks ago when we opened a 2000 La Spinetta Barbaresco Starderi and a 1999 Clerico Barolo Pajana and there was no question which wine was more impressive. The Spinetta was darker, more youthful and evolved for far longer in the glass. My pick this quarter is from Fontanabianca, an estate that blew me away in our selection tastings. As further confirmation, Monica Larner recently spotlighted this estate in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and gave them superb scores.