Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-25-2022

Let’s take a trip this week. From Spain, I’ve got some delicious, grill-friendly reds from Ribera del Duero and Madrid that offer value, fruit and Spanish flair. And to beat the heat, I’ve got some bubbles and zesty whites (Garnacha Blanca and Rias Baixas are always good for that).

I don’t know about you, but I get excited when I first try a wine from a new-to-me country. The most recent example: Kosovo. I don’t know much about the country except for some books I read about wars in the region — but as someone who lived in Ukraine and traveled a lot in eastern and southern Europe, I’m always excited to dig into new cultures and histories. And, clearly, I should look more into the winemaking culture here, as there are two fun, juicy reds from this country’s Rahoveci Valley in this report.

I love me some reds from Central Italy’s Abruzzo region, but I don’t have a lot of experience with their white wines. But I there’s a lot to like here. Known more for ripe reds, this region is also home to some rosés and whites, and I think Pecorino tends to offer a bit more depth and interesting flavors than some other white grapes.

There’s also two delicious tawny Ports from Dow, who always delivers. A summer-friendly Wachau Gruner and a Bourgogne-Aligote round out this report. These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.


2021 Freie Weingärtner Wachau / Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel – Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
SRP: $19
Light gold color. That lovely, classic Gruner sniff of kiwi, green apples and white peach topped with fresh asparagus, white pepper and celery seed. Creamy texture, nice honeyed feel, but lively acidity keeps it lip-smacking. Peaches and yellow apple fruit, drizzled with lime, mixed with notes of saline, flinty-mineral vibes, honey, and just the right amount of green herbs and bell pepper, with a flowery, tropical finish. Juicy, fresh and versatile. (89 points IJB)


2020 Maison Albert Bichot Bourgogne-Aligoté – France, Burgundy, Bourgogne-Aligoté
SRP: $18
Light gold color. The aromas are so citrusy and oceanic, with sea spray and salt over top of lemon peel, limes and green apples, with notes of hay and almond skin. Zippy yet creamy on the palate, this shows pretty texture and lovely balance. Green apples, yellow pears and lemon fruit mix well with a flinty, chalky, mineral infusion, and nuanced notes of almond skin and honey. Bourgogne-Aligoté hits a sweet spot for me with this profile and value, and this one is a nice intro and a great summer wine to have around. (89 points IJB)


2020 Terraviva Pecorino Abruzzo – Italy, Abruzzi, Abruzzo
SRP: $16
Medium yellow color. The nose is so bright and floral, with lemons and limes, white peaches, floral perfume, chalk dust and some oyster shell – so inviting. The creamy texture is welcomed on the palate, some waxy depth, but crisp, bright, lip-smacking acidity. The salinity and mineral focus accents the lemon/lime fruit well, and I get tones of white flowers and seashells. Surprisingly complex and has a lot to offer. (89 points IJB)

2020 Cantina Terzini Pecorino Abruzzo – Italy, Abruzzi, Abruzzo
SRP: $12
Light yellow color. So fun and peachy on the nose with lemons and papaya, along with complex yellow and white floral tones, some slate and crushed chalk. The palate sports great balance between the lively acidity and the creamy texture, and the lime, pineapple and peach fruit is generous but tangy. Saline, mountain stream, minerals, crushed slate, this is really delicious and shows a lot of class and verve. Value alert! (90 points IJB)

2017 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
SRP: $80
Vibrant ruby color. The nose shows some inviting smoky, meaty, earthy tones, over top of deep currant and plum fruit, laced with tobacco, violets and tilled soil. Nice grip on the palate provides solid structure, the acidity moderates things nicely, supporting a deep, tart core of blueberry and red currant fruit. Complex tones of violets, graphite, campfire, tobacco, pepper and mushroom glaze add a lot to ponder. Classic, spicy, earthy Brunello, from a large producer but this shows a lot of complexity and suavity, and is a great intro into Brunello – should age nicely as well. (91 points IJB)


N.V. Dow Porto 10 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $39
Deep ruby color. Classic aromas here that never get old: toffee, raisins, with black tea, candied orange peel, even some rose petal and interesting rhubarb elements. Plush and creamy texture on the palate, rich, warm and inviting but moderating acidity as well. Figs, tart cherry preserves, the fruit is laced with notes of nougat, coconut, coffee, some walnut, honey and graham cracker elements. A great tawny intro for a really solid price. (90 points IJB)

N.V. Dow Porto 20 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $67
Rich tawny color. Gorgeous aromas of dates, figs and dried pineapple, mixed with toffee, mango slices, cocoa, anise, caramel, even some sweet roasted pepper tones. The palate is plush and creamy with moderate acidity, with waves of yellow plum, orange peel, dried mango. The fruit mixes with complex tones of black pepper, clove, nougat, toffee, butterscotch cardamom. Very pretty with good focus and balance. Delicious, complex stuff, a lot of tawny goodness for the price — this doesn’t disappoint. (92 points IJB)


2017 Gecaj Estate Petit Verdot Owner’s Choice ­- Kosovo, Rahoveci Valley
SRP: $45
Vibrant purple color. The nose exudes tar, cocoa, pepper, anise and black tea over top of dark currants and plums. Grippy tannins, zesty acidity, with tart currants and blackberry compote. Smoky, earthy tones of tar, pepper and potting soil. Fun, tangy and spicy with elements of mocha and toffee as well. This could use some age, but an impressive outing for my wine from Kosovo. All Petit Verdot aged 15 months in American and Hungarian oak. (87 points IJB)

2017 Gecaj Estate Shiraz Owner’s Choice – Kosovo, Rahoveci Valley
SRP: $45
Deep purple color. Saucy aromas of roasted plums and cherry preserves, with a complex mix of spiced black tea, tar, black pepper and fresh mint. Juicy and fresh on the palate, has a chewy feel with ripe tannins and medium acidity. Saucy black currants and blueberry fruit mixes with coffee, charcoal and incense. Surprising balance, and has a lot of interesting spicy-herbal elements to parse through. If tasting blind, I may have guessed Virginia Cabernet Franc. Check it out if you’re into fun, spicy, different wines. All Shiraz, aged 18 months in French and American oak. (88 points IJB)


2021 Pazos de Lusco Albariño Rías Baixas – Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $25
Medium yellow color. So bright on the nose, with lemon-lime and kiwi, tossed with floral perfume, cucumber and honeydew, some hints of mint. Lovely texture, the creaminess is just delightful, and the zesty acidity balances it out nicely. Focused and precise with lemons, yellow apples and crunchy apricot fruit, mixed with river stones, minerals, crushed chalk, some verbena notes. A complex, focused and delightful Albarino. (89 points IJB)

2019 Viñas del Vero Somontano Garnacha Blanca La Miranda de Secastilla – Spain, Aragón, Somontano
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. The nose pops with airy, floral, spritely elements, sea salt, crushed shells and floral perfume, over top of white peaches and limes. The palate sports zesty and chalky vibes with ruby red grapefruit, orange peels, white peaches, and the fruit mixes with complex tones of talc, sliced green onion, celery seed and crushed shells and chalk. Peachy, zesty, pleasantly spicy, a perfect tuna tartare and salad wine (or for a hot day at the beach). Versatile, inexpensive and impressive. (90 points IJB)

2013 Las Moradas de San Martín Vinos de Madrid Initio – Spain, Madrid, Vinos de Madrid
SRP: $16
Deep purple color. The nose is so spicy and beefy, with pepper, tar, dried roses, over top of tart cranberry relish and raspberry jam. On the palate, this is full and burly but smooth with a chewy feel and medium/low acidity, enough for freshness. The fruit is raspberry and cherry jams with a nice tart edge, and the complexities are interesting: beef drippings, black pepper, some soy, with coffee, and these nice mineral undertones. Drink now or hold for another year or three, but this is really enjoyable, smooth and would please a lot of palates. Serious steal. (90 points IJB)

2014 Bodegas Luis Cañas Ribera del Duero Tierras de Cair Reserva – Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
SRP: $55
Bright purple color. A deep, concentrated nose of plum cake and blueberries, with graphite, anise, tar, some mint and dark chocolate. Full and concentrated on the palate, the tannins have grip but smooth edges, and the acidity is just enough to keep it all together. There’s a stony, gravelly, iron aspect, along with complex notes of tar, violets and beef brisket. A lot going on, and this really opens up with time. Grilled meats and veg and friends, and this wine, is a good mix. Will age nicely, too. (91 points IJB)

2016 Dominio de Cair Ribera del Duero Selección La Aguilera – Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
SRP: $23
Vibrant purple color. I love the deep core of blackberry and blueberry fruit, with smoky, beefy, pepper, leathery tones, and some coffee and balsamic elements. Solid concentration on the palate, nice grip, moderating acidity, with juicy blackberry and blueberry fruit. Some anise, cocoa, tar tones, with graphite and stony mineral elements. Deep but stays lively, this will show well over the next 2-5 for sure. Serious value here. (90 points IJB)

N.V. Vilarnau Cava Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva – Spain, Cava
SRP: $16
Dark copper color. Has a bright aromatic appeal with tart white cherries and wild raspberries, topped in crushed sweet tarts, rose hips and verbena. The palate shows fine bubbles, crisp acidity and some dusty, flinty tones underneath sweet melon and peach fruit. Nuanced sugar cane and honey elements. Fun, crowd-pleasing stuff that delivers for the price. Garnacha with 15% Pinot Noir. (86 points IJB)

N.V. Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva – Spain, Cava
SRP: $15
Rich yellow color. Nose of orange peels, honey, white flowers and crushed chalk and sugar cane. Light and zippy on the palate with lemons and green apples on a chalky, brisk bubbly frame. Sugar cane, biscuits and lemon crème. Fun, friendly, pleasant stuff. Macabeo with 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo. (86 points IJB)

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