In a sea of bad wine, drink these guaranteed bangers instead
Privilege or problem that I seem to be (constantly) drinking wine? Who's to know? Read on to discover some of the most memorable bottles I've tried as of late.
Benmarl 2018 Seyval Blanc, Hudson River Region
I sampled this at a recent "Taste of New York" event in downtown Toronto, in a sea of excellent Riesling and unremarkable Dad wine. I expected to hate it - the packaging is dated, and appears as though someone's uncle designed the label in attempt to appear contemporary.
Seyval blanc is a hybrid, best suited to cooler climates as it ripens early. This comes from the Finger Lakes region in New York State, roughly 3 hours south east of Toronto. Hybrids have been subject to much scrutiny, deemed for a long time as "lesser than", but regions like the Finger Lakes, Quebec and even Vermont are proving this needn't be the mentality any longer. This wine is electric, dynamic, and most of all: memorable. Drink more hybrids!
Rossovermiglio Ambrato Di Montemalo Beneventano 2017
I can always count on my friend Erika to have a slew of what we lovingly refer to as "guaranteed bangers" in her wine collection. They're the type of wines that are sure to please any palate whether totally green or entirely discerning. We opened this after crushing 3-4 bottles over dinner, and it was the perfect antidote for our fatigued palates - it woke us right up. Hailing from the Campania region of Italy (think Naples or Pompei, south of Rome) made from 100% Falanghina.
Chateau Le Puy Emilion 2013
Yet another bottle shared with a special wine friend, Mark Coster, who might be a bit of a savant. Every time I pop by, Mark never fails to impress. This last time included sous vide chicken and a bottle of Chateau Le Puy. I'm still scratching my head as to why I'd never heard of this winery before. Often referred to as "one of the most overlooked estates in Bordeaux" - it's been around for 400 years, making wine in the most low intervention, hands off manner possible. Most remarkably, you can still find these wines for only $30-40.
2019 Pipeño País Portezuelo
I'd been implored to visit Le Conciliabule, a quaint little wine bar/bakery in the neighbourhood of Leslieville in east Toronto by my friend Gautham. G has never led me astray, so when he instructs me to go somewhere, I go. We both agreed it presents like a beautiful love child were Communist Daughter and Apres Wine Bar to have passionate, intimate wine fuelled intercourse. I'm never one to shy away from a 1L format and this País was just right for myself and two friends. País is a variety that's important to the history of the Chilean wine industry, despite past struggles. Expect crunchy red fruit with enough juiciness to keep you coming back for more. If you're looking for a monolithic red, this isn't the one!
2016 Chateau de Beru Vermentino
Recently, The Living Vine, an agency in Toronto, hosted a pop up wine shop - allowing consumers to taste through their portfolio, in an effort to entice them to buy (guilty). I was completely enamoured by this Vermentino, regaling it as "absolutely stunning". Beru gets its name from the village in which it is located, smack dab in the middle of Chablis.
Testalonga 2017 Baby Bandito Stay Brave Chenin Blanc (orange)
This wine is particularly memorable because I had the opportunity to taste it at renowned restaurant Wynona in east Toronto. This is a skin contact chenin blanc, giving a pleasant bitterness perfect for pairing with food - and that we did, with a squid ink pasta that erupted in our mouths when macerated together on our palates. Testalonga is located in the Swartland region of South Africa, north of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
2018 Troupis Moschofilero 'Hoof and Lur' Wild Ferment
A few months back, the crew from Paradise Grapevine, a quaint wine bar in the west end of Toronto, pulled off a wickedly smart natural wine festival called "Holy Waters". All the "it" wines were present: Radikon, Gut Oggau, Meinklang. This Hoof & Lur number is one of the few wines that struck me; this screenshot is from my stories that night, and while I can't dissect what I could have meant with a tasting note of "If Apricots were effeminate", I can recall that it was both lean and soft, showing structure but also some "give". The grape is Moschofilero, and it comes from Greece's Pelopennese peninsula.
Ampeleia Unlitro 2017
Hanging out with friends a few weeks ago after far too many bottles of wine, inevitably three pies were ordered and we needed a wine to match. This Tuscan carignan/grenache blend was just the style we were after - uncomplicated, light tannin, high acid. It neither masked nor battled the searing hot dough, greedily drizzled with chili oil and not-so-shyly sprinkled with crunchy sea salt (seriously, game changer). When my (very) Italian friend Tony saw that I was drinking the bottle and responded to the photo with "I LOVE THAT WINE!!" it affirmed that we'd made the right choice.
2018 Tenuta Olim Bauda Gignolino D'asti
I had the privilege of attending a two day master class with Ian D'Agata, known in the industry as the "God Father" of Italian wine. We see very few examples of Grignolino in our market, and he brought four to taste. This is exactly the type of wine I want to drink all day long - I couldn't get enough. It is one of the most noble varieties in Italy, but has fallen out of favour in the last 30 years. However, it has bounced back in recent years as modern society has taken a shining to a variety that gives a light body, juicy, lunch time wine. Generally, they are low in colour, high in tannin, have lots of acidity and are more floral than they are overtly fruity. Expect notes of rosehips, sour red cherries, white pepper, cinnamon, soy sauce and plenty of violet, peony and lavender.