A new year has begun, and many of us have enjoyed all our favourites over the holidays. But maybe too much of a good thing can lead you to try something new, exciting and a little different.
Remember when Australian shiraz was all the rage? How about Argentinian malbec? Oh wait…let’s back up even further. Remember when Blue Nun, Black Tower and Mateus were the “preferred” wines on Canadian tables? Many still feel the love for malbec and shiraz, and not to worry, those “classics”, Blue Nun, Black Tower, and Mateus, are still available.
It’s not difficult to see or follow the trends of either regions or wine varietals. Just check out any popular restaurant’s wine list, or visit your local wine store. Some grapes (or regions) sneak up on you and surprise you when least expected. There are two specific regions that are up and coming, and grapes from those regions are hot, hot, hot! Do you wanna know what the cool kids are drinking?
From theGalicia region of NW Spain, much of mencia comes from Bierzo. Not coastal like Rias Biaxas, but still benefiting from cool Atlantic breezes, perfect for keeping grapes from ripening too fast. Many of the vines here are re-discovered old bush vines, with naturally low yields on schistous soils. Good viticultural practices and modern winemaking have done much to make these wines palatable, and mencia can range anywhere from light and fruity, to powerful, brooding and spicy.
This grape is very unlike any other grape in Spain. It tends to have flavours of tart red cherries and cranberries, with a dusty, dried rosehip thing going on. It is fresh and fruity with lower tannins, and if grown at higher elevations, high acidity. A slight chill on this red wine would make it just that much better! Although there have been mencia wines around for a while, there are more emerging and a broader selection is becoming available at many stores.
Look for Encanto Mencia CSPC 767815 about $22, or Raul Perez Ultreia Mencia CSPC 742900 about $40.
Also from Galicia, this grape was almost extinct in the ’70s, down to only several hundred vines. If you find a bottle from Bierzo, it’ll be good, but if you find one from Valdeorras, the neighbouring region, I’ll bet it’s even better. A great renaissance is occurring in the region for godello. Single varietal godello started coming around in the ’80s and it’s surging! If you’re looking for a great value, high acid, easy drinking white, this is it. It’s highly aromatic with citrus, apple/pear and peach notes with that great “minerality” (a tasting “note” which is also becoming quite trendy by the way). I see more and more of this grape emerging into our market and at great value.
Look for Bodega Cobertizo Godello Joven CSPC 783345, about $24, or Telmo Rodriguez Gaba do Xil Godello CSPC 738810 also about $24.
Moving from the Spanish countryside to Italy, and specifically Sicily, where much is going on in the world of winemaking — wines from Sicily are very trendy right now! Yes, they grow plenty of syrah and chardonnay in Sicily, but what about those funky Italian indigenous grapes? Yup, they’re there too, and a couple of them are certainly making their mark on Alberta store shelves.
One of the many indigenous white grapes on the island, it has set itself apart from its peers. If extended skin maceration is used, the wines become a deep yellow colour; otherwise, they are light lemon in colour. Strong aromas of citrus lemon, peach blossom, sometimes baked pineapple, and oh yes…minerality. A high-acid wine, the flavour is characterized by a saline tang that is unmistakable, indicative of the grape growing by the sea. Something that is unique and certainly different from your everyday chardonnay or sauvignon blanc!
Try Cantine Barbera Grillo CSPC 777692, about $37, or Costantino Grillo CSPC 781930, about $17.
Nerello Mascalese (Nah-rel-lo MAS-ka-lay-zay)
Without a doubt my favourite grape right now, this is a great change from the typical nero d’avola we see from Sicily. The main reason this grape is becoming so popular is that it grows on the slopes of an active volcano – the only place these grapes can be found is in the northeast corner of Sicily, the home of Mount Etna. How cool is that? Those volcanic soils bring something really fantastic to the taste of this wine: smoky minerality. There is something evocative about the wines made with this grape; the dried herbal spices, sour red fruit, smoky minerality, and high acid wines are refreshing, yet bold.
Look for Masseria Settaporte Etna Rosso CSPC 769764, around $48 or Pietradolce Etna Rosso CSPC 762734, around $28