Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-11-2023

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my rantings, ravings, and ratings over these years. It has been an awesome ride. I’m here this weekend with another roundup of selections from across the globe, with some wines focused around diversity and value.

I can’t believe it’s been nine years since I spent three weeks in South Africa. Those experiences come back to me in memories all the time, from the wildlife and landscapes, big scary waves, and delightful wines tasted and wineries visited. I’ve kept up with the scene from afar since, and I’ve enjoyed watching a new generation of winemakers making a name for themselves and producing expressive, interesting wines. I think there’s an audience for well-made, diverse South African wines in the U.S. – I count myself among them – so I’m always happy to see what’s going on. This week, I have an update on three different skin contact wines that really deliver.

There are some bold, juicy, grill-friendly but complex reds from Spain in this report as well, all three of which offer solid value. From Tuscany, I have a $15 duo from Carpineto that would be a great summer sipper or a nice choice for a by-the-glass list.

And if you’re looking for value in Bordeaux (not an easy task), the Cru Bourgeois wines fit the bill. These tend to be Merlot-heavy wines and offer a more accessible, but still serious and in-depth take on this classic region. The wines don’t cost a lot and there’s a lot of opportunity to venture out and find different options.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2022 Lubanzi Wines “Orange Is” Skin Contact South Africa
SRP: $24
Medium orange color. So bright and interesting on the nose with this lemon zinger tea, honeysuckle, mint and celery seed over orange peel, with notes of almond skin and corn husk – really cool. Bracing but balanced with a pleasantly waxy texture and crisp acidity, and juicy, tangy flavors of nectarine, orange peel, preserved lemon. There’s this cool mix of chalky, salty tones with floral, almond skin, and honey accents. Super fun but a lot going on as well. A great intro orange wine, as it’s not too crazy, and everything balances out nicely. Viognier and Chenin Blanc. (90 points IJB)

2022 Badenhorst Family Wines Secateurs “Riviera” South Africa, Coastal Region, Swartland
SRP: $20
Light orange peel color. So spritely yet rich on the nose, with orange peel, crunchy green pears, floral perfume, spiced white tea, crushed sweet tarts and chalk, all sorts of stuff going on here. Racy and taut on the palate with brisk acidity and a crunchy, juicy feel with this slight but pleasant chalkiness. Lemons, yellow pears, lime zest, the fruit is melded nicely with these mineral, limestone dust, floral perfume, and white pepper. Brisk and floral but lingers long and has a textural and flavorful richness to balance things out. A very cool skin Chenin Blanc with some Bukettraube, Sauvignon Blanc, and Roussanne. (91 points IJB)

2019 Bosman Family Vineyards Grenache Blanc “Fides” South Africa, Coastal Region, Paarl, Wellington
SRP: $28
Rich amber color. Whoa, the nose is something else, with these lemon tea, nectarine, papaya, and dried pineapple tones, laced with a hefty dose of salty brine, airy and breezy wildflowers, with hay, whipped honey, rooibos tea, white pepper – love it. Crunchy and bracing on the palate but a complex textural depth that keeps this really interesting. Orange peel and crunchy red apple fruit, accented by sea salt, minerals, honey, and these cool bay leaf, pepper, and tobacco nuances. Grenache Blanc (in my opinion) provides just a great canvas for a skin contact wine, and this one is expertly done. And at a few years old, I feel like it has more to show with these herbal and savory nuances. (92 points IJB)

2016 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja
SRP: $15
Deep ruby color. I love the savory, smoky vibes on the nose, with tar, charcoal, leather, along with black tea and anise, over top of deep black cherries and red and black currants. Vibrant acidity frames the wine nicely, and the palate shows dusty, fine-edged tannins. The flavors of juicy plums, smoky black cherries, some roasted figs, mixed with umami vibes, savory broth and black tea, notes of clove, tilled soil, dried violets, and roasted chestnut. Really complex and balanced for a Rioja at this price point. Solid value alert! (89 points IJB) 

2021 Monteabellón Ribera del Duero 14 meses en barrica – Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
SRP: $35
Deep purple color. Interesting mix of tart black and red currants and black cherry jam, along with sage, anise, black pepper, black licorice, and notes of mocha and coffee grounds. The palate has a gorgeous mouthfeel with these suave tannins and smooth but structured tannins – a chewy feel but stays lively. Ripe black cherries, currant jam, blueberry, the fruit is deep and lush, blended with cool tones of mesquite, anise, barbecue sauce, spiced black tea. Deep but stays fresh with tones of mocha and graphite on the finish. A big but nuanced, grill-friendly Ribera that should do well with a few years in the cellar. (91 points IJB)

2019 Monteabellón Ribera del Duero 14 meses en barrica Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
SRP: $35
Medium purple color. The aromas show a pleasantly smoky, grill-out feel with tobacco, earth, grilled beef, sage, over top of tangy blueberries, plum cake, with notes of violets and earth. The palate shows a rich texture with grippy but fine-edged tannins and surprisingly fresh acidity. The fruit is tangy and deep (cherries, currants, wild blueberries), and fits well into this host of beefy, leathery, smoky vibes, with violets, earth and graphite, and some herbal tones and a kiss of oak. This will age wonderfully, or give it a decant to really let it work. (92 points IJB)

2020 Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso – Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $15
Juicy ruby color. The nose sports a cool mix of spicy herbs and bright red fruits, with cherries, raspberries, topped in violets, white pepper, nuances of tobacco and mint. The palate shows fine, dusty tannins and crisp acidity on a ripe but fresh frame. Flavors or ripe black cherries and jammy raspberries blend well with elements of dusty earth, loamy soil, tobacco, some black pepper and roasted red peppers. Has a nice floral-spicy finish. Lots going on here for the price, and a ton of fun. Sangiovese with 20% Cab Sauvignon. (88 points IJB)

2022 Carpineto Dogajolo Bianco – Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $15
Medium yellow color. The nose has a tropical mix of papaya, banana, and green melon, along with yellow and white flowers, some sliced cucumber, and flinty-chalky tones. Ripe texture, lively acidity, quite well balanced with notes of honey, yellow flowers, some minty, nettle tones, and some chalk and minerals. Fresh and vibrant, quite complex, solid value. 40% Chardonnay 30% Grechetto 30% Sauvignon Blanc. (89 points IJB)

2019 Château Plagnac Cru Bourgeois – France, Bordeaux, Médoc
SRP: $15
Vibrant purple color. Inviting nose with tones of raspberry jam, black cherries, and saucy plums. I get lots of tar, violets, smoky earth, some savory spices like clove and anise as well. The palate shows refined tannins, nicely structured, and vibrant acidity. The fruit has this bright red juiciness, with raspberries, tangy plums, even some pomegranate, laced with complex notes of mocha, anise, tobacco, earth. There’s this nice rocky, mineral-laden finish as well. I think this will integrate even better over the next two or three years. (89 points IJB)

2019 Château Paloumey Cru Bourgeois – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
SRP: $30
Light purple color. The nose has a dark but lively mix of plums and black currants, topped in tobacco, menthol, violets, cmoky earth, with bell pepper and graphite elements. Nice medium tannins on the palate and medium-plus acidity, along with flavors of tangy plums and crunchy black currants. The tones of leather, black pepper, mushrooms, bell pepper, and graphite add complexity. Impressive depth and nuance at a very reasonable price. Should age well in the near term as well. (90 points IJB)

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