As you no doubt know, we’ve taken great pleasure over the past ten years in championing unusual grape varieties and growing regions, as well as obscure producers. It’s here you tend to find the axis point of deliciousness and excellent value. The majority of the bottles that I take home definitely fall under this purview. In a retail environment, however, these wines are almost always a ‘hand sell’: what we in the industry call a bottle that usually requires some explanation, or gentle goading, to persuade a customer into trying something so different. Without these conversations, the unusual gems would languish on the rack, collecting dust.
The popular wine regions of Spain and Italy have much in common. These highly acclaimed viticultural areas are renowned for producing rich, earthy, medium-to-full bodied reds, often with significant oak influence. Think Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello in Italy, or Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Priorat in Spain. The danger here, is that some people never explore further and end up convinced that reds from Spain and Italy are always rich and opulent. What happens, then, if it’s hot out, or you prefer lighter-bodied reds, or you’re making a dinner that won’t hold up to a powerful bottle? Never fear!
There’s a brilliant mad scientist making wines on the slopes of Sicily’s Mt. Etna. His name? Frank Cornelissen. His mission? Truly natural wines. I know, I know, we mentioned his rosé in our e-mail newsletter last week. But Frank’s wines are simply too great to be relegated to a sidebar.
Summertime never loses its charm. After the travails of winter and often too-cool spring, its warm and ambiance of 'now I can relax a little', renew, and refresh. A time to savor longer, lovelier days and evenings, make plans on the fly, revel in enjoying friends, family and the activities and pursuits we just may have a bit more time for. All of this, of course, is even better with the support of a case of delicious wines at the ready.
The Mosel region in Germany enjoys international recognition as an exceptional area for wine production. Astoundingly steep inclines on lush green hills compose the majority of the Mosel’s most iconic landmarks. Famous for their extremely sharp descent, the vineyards seem to pour into the rivers and serve as testaments to the ardor of Mosel growers. Thousands of miles away from this German landscape, at our store in Chelsea, I find myself more often than not assisting customers who want strictly dry white wines to combat the summer heat. Happy as I am to oblige, the rare moments when a customer asks to see our selection of off-dry wines are truly special occasions.
Born as an all-purpose medicinal remedy in Switzerland’s Neuchâtel in the late 19th century, the proprietary concoction of one Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, absinthe—an anise-flavored spirit macerated with wormwood, fennel, anise, and a broad variety of other botanicals—rose to great popularity in 19th and 20th century Europe. This is especially true in France, where it famously became the chosen spirit of artists, writers, and intellectuals. Not limited to the Bohemians, absinthe also found widespread popularity among the working class, sought after equally by housewives and even French soldiers, who first encountered la fée verte (the “green fairy”) as a field remedy for malaria.
We recently added a terrific Cancilla Vineyard Blanc de Noir from Swick Wines in Oregon to our lineup that you have to try. This gorgeous white was made by Joe Swick, a classic example of a man with a vision. Born and raised in Oregon, Swick started out not in a vineyard but in a grocery store, where he worked in shipping and receiving. He was valued as a whiz with a forklift, eventually helping out to some extent with sales in the wine department. Since it's not unusual for Oregon winemakers to be 'do-everything' individuals up to selling and delivering their own products, he met and befriended many in the course of his work.
The Salento countryside is covered with vivid red earth that has been baked for centuries by the unyielding Italian sun. Bands of small trees fill the landscape, which is cooled by two gorgeous seas. Vineyards stretch across this idyllic terrain, growing in soil rich with marine fossils. One would assume that a land this beautiful would also produce wines of equal splendor. Sadly, that hasn't always been the case. Puglia boasts no legendary DOC, nor wines of international recognition. The indigenous grape variety Negroamaro was historically shipped to France and northern Italy, used as a minor blending grape to provide body and richness to their thinner wines.
With entry level champagne, I sadly find that at best you have entry level quality. Economics of scale make it possible for the larger houses to produce champagne at lower price points; it's just that uniqueness, value and taste are given up in exchange for the brand of the region. When life is full of reasons to celebrate, we want (and deserve!) inexpensive sparkling options that are both delicious and fun. The scenario plays out in the store all the time—“I’d like a nice bottle of champagne, but I’m looking to spend less than $30”—and of course I experience it myself as a consumer.
You have undoubtedly seen a plethora of rosé promotions before today's newsletter. I'd argue we are not late to the party. The party is just beginning. Now it's hot outside and yesterday's humidity ranged from 'unpleasant' to 'unbearable'. We have an exciting array of offerings, with many of them arriving over the past week, ready to accompany you on sunny days outdoors. My current obsession is a newcomer to our store: the Château de Vaux Les Boserés, which has quickly become a crowd favorite.