Lex’s Spring Case of Natural Wine

Lex’s 2018 Spring Case has taken a slightly different direction in that with each wine there are two bottles in the case. Many customers have requested this, because they say they like to use these wines at a dinner party – they can tell their guests about the wine – but they usually need two bottles. Secondly, if you have one of the bottles that you like, it’s nice to have another to enjoy without leaving home.

There’s always a competition between whether Italy or France will have more bottles in the case. This Spring Case includes three reds and three whites. Two of the reds are from Italy, one from France. And with the whites, one from France, one from Italy, and one from Spain.
In most of the seasonal cases, I select one wine that’s quite a bit more expensive than the rest to give customers a chance to taste something really exceptional. In this Spring Case, I didn’t do that – but rather took that money and spread it to upgrade each wine a little bit.

In doing the write-up for these seasonal cases, I always feel happy that all the tasting and work that I do to put the case together will be enjoyed by so many of my friends and regular customers. This Spring Case – at $215 – represents real value with regard to the wine that you’ll pour in your glass and what you pay for the case with your credit card.
To order a case, call the Bulldega (located at 104 City Hall Plaza in Downtown Durham)

919-680-4682 – or email Jim jim@bulldega.com.

These cases always sell out – so don’t delay if you want one. All cases must be ordered by April 21st. The Bulldega will let you know about payment and pick-up.

As always, please give me feedback on which wines you enjoy most, if there are write-ups that left something out that you wanted to know, or anything else.

Lastly, I would appreciate it if you would forward this email to anyone you think would enjoy the seasonal cases.
I know everybody is happy for springtime, and here is a case of wine that will surely make your springtime more enjoyable.

And a beauty to you,

 

 

Mazzolino ‘Blanc’

Alcohol: 13%

Composition: 100% Chardonnay

What & Where: This is a 100% Italian Chardonnay from the region of Lombardy, Oltrepò Pavese DOC. Lombardy is in central-northern Italy – Milan being the largest city in the region.

Why is it in the case?:
I am excited about this wine because it gives you the lovely experience of the Chardonnay grape that’s been aged in oak, but very minimally. It’s beautifully balanced – it has a little bit of the oak aged characteristic, but it’s not wonky from the oak aging. I just really love the flavors. Lastly, it’s an elegant and polished wine that goes really well with food.

Things to know: The Chardonnay grape was made famous in France’s Burgundy region where they used ripe fruit and oak aging to produce a very special and eccentric white wine that became very famous and expensive. Two of the grapes that were first to be planted in California were Cabernet and Chardonnay – but both of these wines ended up being nothing like the wines made from those two grapes in France. In California, Chardonnay was made into a wine that had way too much oak, ripeness and alcohol. They also ended up leaving some residual sugar in the finished wine to appeal to the American palate. The wine made in California is terrible with food, but a true white Burgundy, or other outstanding Chardonnay like this Italian Mazzolino pairs perfectly with scallops and many other foods.

The story: Once owned by a wealthy businessman from Milan, this estate was not making really good wine, and not getting any recognition. A father, wanting to bring his large extended family together, moved in and set to change that. Wanting his family’s life to be centered on this new land holding, he set himself to finding the solution to improving the vineyards. To start this new venture, Enter Giancarlo Scaglione, a young winemaker from Piedmont who handled the initial stages. The young man found another young man to come and manage the vineyards – and they’ve turned the estate around and they’re getting a lot of publicity.

Farming: There’s a non-interventionist natural wine methodology in the cellar to make the wine therefore they farm organically, and hand-pick the fruit. This estate – climate wise – is very similar to Burgundy – and thus they grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – the famous Burgundian grapes.

Pairing: Scallops, crab, shrimp or really any seafood. Seafood stews would be a good option. Poultry will do well, also.

 

 

 

2016 A Coroa, Modelo. Valdeorras Denominacion de Origen

Alcohol: 13.5%

Composition: 100% Godello

What & Where: This wine comes from Spain… the province of Galicia, and is made from 100% Godello.

Why it’s in the case: You can almost never find a wine this complex (and this easy-drinking) for this price. And since I am always looking for a great value, this wine won a spot in the Spring Case. It’s fun to find a wine that tastes a lot more expensive than it costs. This is one of those wines.

What you can learn: The wine comes from Galicia – for me the most exciting wine region in Spain. It’s called the Celtic Spain because it’s green with lots of trees and as far away from the hot and bright sun as you can get. The Albarino grape from this area has already produced a white wine that no one knew 25 years ago but almost everyone knows today. Godello is the next white grape that is gaining recognition from Galicia. It’s up and coming in sales, but it’s an ancient grape that’s been around since Roman times – so in that sense it’s not new at all. Because it’s a new grape to us, and you don’t pronounce it the way it looks, here’s a three second audio of how to pronounce it (scroll down for Godello: https://www.thewinesociety.com/grape-pronounce#g)
A little bit about the terroir of where the wine grows. Because it is grown at high elevation it has good acidity and it is planted in an ideal slope to get the sun. The grapes ripen in the sun, which helps give the wine a slight sweetness and richness. There is plenty of slate in the soil, which yields a pleasing minerality. So there you have the complexity – acidity, ripe fruit and minerality.

The story: I was lucky enough to have dinner with the wine maker from this Estate at a recent event by Des Maison Selections at Acme in Carrboro. I first tasted this wine with him and maybe that caused me to like it as much as I did. The wine is 100% Godello and comes from the city of Arua in the Valdehorras of Spain. The crown on the label is a depiction of the old fortress that still remains at the top of the mountain on the property.

Pairing: This wine is fresh tasting and a perfect aperitif….a truly easy drinking wine. Excellent with shellfish, or really any kind of seafood. It would also be a good choice for Indian, Thai, or Chinese food – so take-out Asian food.

 

Vincent Ricard Sauvignon Le Petiot 2016

Alcohol: 12.5%

Composition: 100% Sauvignon Blanc

What & Where: This Sauvignon Blanc is from the small sub-appellation of the Loire called Touraine.

Why it’s in the case: Recently Sauvignon Blanc has become popular because it is crisp and dry but usually one dimensional and too assertive. One of the reasons I have this particular Sauvignon Blanc in the box is to give people an experience of how complex and interesting a Sauvignon Blanc can be. This is a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire that’s a steal for the money you pay. I want you to have a chance to try a grape you’re almost certainly familiar with in a more food friendly, subtle and well balanced form.

Things to know: First, just how different the Sauvignon Blanc grape tastes depending on where it’s from: New Zealand, California, or from this little sub-appellation of the Loire, Touraine. Secondly, as much as people think they’re supposed to serve red with cheese, this is the wine that I would pick as the penultimate wine to serve with cheese – goat cheese, blue cheese, washed rind cheeses, mature English cheddar.

The Story: The guy’s name is Vincent Ricard. His family has farmed these vineyards going back generations, and he’s the current proprietor. They used to sell their very well respected grapes to the co-op, but after much encouragement he decided to buy himself out of the co-op and start making his own wine. The complexity and the terroir of his vineyard yields one of the most complex and interesting Sauvignon Blanc’s I’ve ever tasted.

Farming: He farms all 13 hectares organically. Grapes have been grown on the property for 5 generations.

 

Rosso Montenidioli
Alcohol: 14.5%

Composition: 100% Sangiovese

What & Where: This is another beautiful wine that comes from Elisabetta Fagiuoli in Tuscany, Italy – in the towered town of San Giomano.

Why I put it in the case: I just fell in love with it when I tasted it. It was just so fresh and delicious. All the parts were harmonious in the glass. I’ve put more of Elisabetta’s wines from Montenidoli in these seasonal cases than any other estate.

Things to know: Montenidioli is a leader in the world of natural winemaking. Elisabetta makes many other wines including Chianti, which has other grapes blended with Sangiovese. This is a new wine for Elisabetta and her attempt to showcase the Sangiovese grape which she feels is the hallmark of her vineyards. On her other Chiantis she blends, but this is her 100 percent Sangiovese wine.

The story: This Sangiovese is made by Elisabetta Fagiuoli – an energetic, outgoing tour de force in her region of Italy, and an eloquent spokeswoman for the philosophy and practice of natural winemaking.

Farming:. Organic farming, and no funny business in the cellar.

Pairing: After a lot of experimentation, I’ve decided that Sangiovese is the ideal wine to serve with steak. In the springtime, I’m sure that you’ll be cleaning off your grills to get ready for grilling season…Give this Rosso a try.

 

Texier Chat Fou:

Alcohol: 13.5%
Composition: 90% Grenache, 10% Clairette

What & Where: This is a Côtes du Rhône from Eric Texier, one of my favorite winemakers – a pioneer in natural winemaking. It’s an unusual Côtes du Rhône.

Why it’s in the case: This is a hell of a wine for the price. And it’s the perfect spring red wine. Really, the reason I picked it is that it’s so versatile – it’s a great food wine – it’s a good aperitif red wine – and it’s a good value. And I like to support crazy cats like Eric Texier.

Things to know: The name: Chat Fou means ‘crazy cat’ in French. The typical Côtes du Rhône blend is Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre. This one is actually 90 percent Grenache, and 10 percent Clairette. It’s called ‘crazy cat’ because the winemakers in Côtes du Rhône think that Eric Texier is crazy for not using the standard blend – and for putting a white grape (Clairette) into the blend. He’s got a plan, though: he’s done that to produce a lighter, livelier, better food wine that’s not so big and heavy. Also, lighter, lower alcohol reds are better when the weather turns warm. Another thing to know is that it’s always good to pop a red in the refrigerator to get it down to cellar temperature – 58-60 degrees – before opening it up to enjoy it.

The Story: Eric Texier is one of the pioneering hardcore natural winemakers of the world. One of the reasons he’s one of my favorite natural winemakers is a result of his doing an event at the wine store I helped start in Chapel Hill called 3Cups. Here’s what he said to me after the event: ‘Lex, I’m French, but I’m not like the other winemakers from my country who drink their wine at night and never travel far from home. I, on the other hand, never drink my wine at night – I know what it tastes like – and I try to travel everywhere in the world where good wine is made. Your wine store has all the correct properties from the countries where I’ve traveled – and most wine stores just aren’t able to do that.’ I told him I wasn’t able to do it either, that the compliment should be given to Jay Murrie (who now owns a wine import business called Piedmont Wine Imports located in Durham). To that, he said ‘You still get the compliment, because you hired him!’

Farming/Cellar: This wine is not only fermented from native yeasts, but there is no filtration in the cellar. It’s aged in concrete for a year before bottling.

Pairing: Chat Fou would be a great burger wine, excellent with chicken, pork chops, and cheese. I think this will be my go-to red wine as the weather turns warmer.

 

 

Cantina Morone, Fiori di Galano 2015

Alcohol: 14%

Composition: 100% Piedirosso

What & Where: It’s from a part of Italy that’s further South – a region called Campania.

Why it’s in the case: It has just the right amount of tannin to give the wine structure. It’s from Campania – a warmer part of Italy. So the wines are richer, but can still be quite dry. It’s a medium bodied wine – dark and savory. I wanted to give you a wine that’s richer and fuller, because in the spring you’re still cooking some heartier fare on those random cooler days.

What you can learn: Usually farmers are practical and poor – and trying to maximize yield. It takes a really conscientious farmer/winemaker who is committed to quality to go for lower yields.
When they’re not trying to maximize production yield they prune their vineyard in a different way. These vineyards have fewer buds/stalks/canes of grapes, so it has fewer grapes overall. If you have fewer grapes, the ones that you do have get more attention – both from the winemaker and from the plant itself. They prune so that the grapes get more sun, they get riper, and you get a richer, more complex wine because the plant has fewer grapes to nourish. It’s called fruit thinning or ‘green harvest.’
This family has made that commitment.

The story: When the ancient Greeks admirably called Italy the ‘land of wine’ they were referring specifically to the southern peninsula – the toe, heel, and ankle of the Italian boot. In this rugged, sunny, mountainous land, they found scores of fascinating grape varieties.
This is not a part of Italy where famous wines come from – but this is a part of Italy where fuller bodied wines are produced that are satisfying to a large number of people looking for bigger red wines. This wine is dark, savory, fuller bodied, but quite dry.

Pairing: It would be good served with grilled meats. If there’s a chilly spring evening and you want to make some roasted or grilled meats, this would be the wine in the case to serve on that night.

 

 

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