Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-27-2022

I love finding wines that express their region and style well, but do it in a way (and with a price tag) that makes them open to a wider audience. Like those gateway bands or experiences that sends a wide-eyed explorer looking for more.

This week, I have an array of wines from Europe that could play this role well. For as great (and inaccessible) as the best Bordeaux wines can be, I’m frequently impressed the quality and age-worthiness of reds from lesser-known appellations and producers. From Italy, Tuscan powerhouse Banfi delivers two entry-level wines and a Super Tuscan that, while not cheap, offers a peek into this style, where one can always spend plenty more.

German rose is a category worthy of further exploration, and there are some fun reds from Portugal’s Douro region in here, too. I also wanted to highlight two women winemakers behind some exciting white wines from Spain. Ruth Fernandez from Dominio de Punctum brings a zesty, crunchy Pet-Nat that stays clean and fresh, while Alexia Luca de Tena’s Rias Baixas is a widely-available and classic interpretation of this region.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 Château Liversan France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
SRP: $30
Light purple color. The nose shows plums and tart currants with a nice mix of pine sap, tobacco leaf, coffee grounds, some pepper and graphite elements. The palate shows tart acidity, nice tannins, a young but fresh and tangy feel with red and black currants, mulled blackberry. Notes of tobacco, pine tar, soy, some earth and graphite. Opens up nicely but could use a few years to unwind. 50% Merlot, 44% Cab Sauv, 4% Cab Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, aged 12 months in 25% new oak. (89 points IJB)

2018 Château Lilian Ladouys France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
SRP: $26
Vibrant purple color. The nose shows a warm but tangy invite with plums and currants, topped with spiced tea, pepper, anise, fallen leaves and dried violet petals. Medium-bodied, dusty tannins, fresh acidity, this is nicely balanced with tangy plum and currant fruit. Notes of smoky earth, pepper, clay and graphite add complexity, and I get notes of leaves and earthy mushroom tones. I’d like to see what this does in two or three years. 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. (90 points IJB)

2018 Château D’Escurac France, Bordeaux, Médoc
SRP: $16
Medium purple color. Aromas of tart currants, smoky berry compote, along with violets, cocoa, grilled herbs, chewing tobacco. A bit rough around the edges to start on the palate, the tannins have solid grip with moderate acidity and a mix of tart currants and black cherries. Notes of smoky earth, pepper, mushrooms, tar, chewing tobacco. Nice flavors but could use a few years to mellow out. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. (88 points IJB)

2018 Château Lousteauneuf France, Bordeaux, Médoc
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Aromas of plums and some red currants, alone with lots of black licorice candies, with some cocoa powder, coffee and coconut shavings. The palate shows chewy, smooth tannins along with cherries, plums and red currants. Notes of charcoal, earth, pepper, sage, some cocoa and anise. A sun-roasted feel but stays lively and fresh, too. Solid value here. (88 points IJB)

2018 Château Lamothe Bergeron France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
SRP: $16
Light purple. Smells of currant and plum paste, with roasted figs, along with tar, violets, sage and pine. The palate shows zippy acidity, tart cherries and currants, with medium-strength tannins. Notes of violets, savory spices, pine sap, tobacco, with some roasted chestnut and morel mushroom tones. A lot going on here, this deserves two to three years in the cellar to show its best. (89 points IJB)

2020 Castello Banfi Pinot Grigio “Centine” Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT)
SRP: $13
Light straw color. Aromas show bright lemons and green apples along with sliced cucumbers, white flowers, notes of lemon verbena. Has a tropical and juicy feel with a chewy texture and moderate acidity, along with yellow apple, bruised pear and lemon-lime. Zippy, fun, summery stuff. (86 points IJB)

2019 Castello Banfi “Centine” Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $13
Bright purple color. The nose shows raspberries and cherries, fresh but nice and earthy, with some minty, tobacco-laced tones. Smooth tannins, medium acidity, with a friendly, accessible feel. Jammy cherries and raspberries with rose petals, smoky earth and some nuances of clove. Accessible, inexpensive, pretty fun Super Tuscan. Cab Sauv, Merlot and Sangiovese. (87 points IJB)

2017 Castello Banfi “Summus Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Sant’ Antimo
SRP: $50
Vibrant purple color. Lovely depth on the nose, with complex notes of black cherries and tart plums along with violets, cocoa, warm clay, earthy, graphite tones – a lot to unpack. Nice grip on the tannins, great depth of texture, lively acidity. Tart red and black currants, a chewy feel to the fruit but lots of other complex elements: tobacco, charcoal, basil, pepper. Long-lasting and showing nice concentration, with beautiful mouthfeel and complexities to unpack. Very pretty, this deserves some cellar time and it will blossom. Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. (92 points IJB)

2016 Hans Wirsching Rosé Trocken Germany, Franken
SRP: $13
Medium salmon color. Pretty and lively on the nose, with yellow apples, kiwi and honey – really fascinating mix, with these chalky, minty, salt brine notes. The palate shows pleasant creaminess and bright acidity, balanced and summery with a pleasant spicy appeal. Tart cranberry and red apple fruit mixes with some minty, celery seed, honeysuckle and chalk tones. Delightful inexpensive German rose. (88 points IJB)

2018 Quinta do Vesuvio Douro “Pombal do Vesuvio” Portugal, Douro
SRP: $26
Deep purple color. Dark figs and saucy plums on the nose, coffee, graphite, minerals, with stony, coffee ground notes. Full and juicy on the palate with nice grip to the tannins, moderate acidity, and flavors of blackberries and fig jam. The complexities of pepper, cocoa, leather, tar and gravelly earth add a lot of complexity. A focused, earthy, deep wine but it’s approachable as well. Hold onto this one for a colder night and a pot roast. (90 points IJB)

N.V. Graham Porto Six Grapes Reserve Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $27
Light purple color. A warm nose of sweet blueberries and blackberry jam, with some vanilla and coffee grounds, warm earth. Full and ripe with chewy tannins and medium-low acidity. Plummy and sweet with boysenberry and coffee grounds. A fun, entry-level ruby Port. (87 points IJB)

N.V. Cockburn Porto Special Reserve Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $18
Deep purple color. Classic nose of roasted figs, plum sauce, smoky earth, clove and cedar. Full but fresh, smooth tannins and moderate acidity. Plum cake, figs, the fruit mixes with notes of potpourri, tar, cedar, clove and tobacco. Yummy stuff. (86 points IJB)

N.V. Dominio de Punctum Puteulante Spain, Castilla-La Mancha, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla
SRP: $22
Cloudy orange color with a fine fizz. The nose shows zesty orange peels, tart raspberry and red apple, along with sliced green onion and white pepper, mint. Zippy, zesty and crushable with a fleshy, bright appeal. Raspberries, red apples, the fruit is tangy and bright, with a chalky, lively appeal. Lots of fun, it’s not super complex but it does what it does really well. Not too out there or wild, this Pet-Nat stays focused and delicious. (89 points IJB)

2019 Bodegas Nora Rías Baixas Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $18
Medium yellow color. Aromas boast yellow pears and pineapple, along with hay, white flowers and bright honey. Creamy texture blends well with bright acidity, along with yellow pears and limes. Honeyed but zesty, classic Albarino brightness with oceanic, sea breeze, white flower vibes onto the finish. A lively, focused Albarino. (90 points IJB)

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