The three wines we’re featuring this week for Wine Review Wednesday may, on the surface, seem to have little in common: A gruner veltliner from Austria, a pinot gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and a South African pinotage.
Despite their obvious differences, however, they share several very important things with one another: They’re beautifully made, wonderfully expressive, and utterly perfect this time of year.
No matter what style a wine is made in, or where it’s from or what grape varieties went into its composition, that’s pretty much all you could ever ask for.
Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen 2009
Ripe and generous on the nose, with hints of mineral-inflected apricot, peach, and a subtle grassiness that eventually turns to pine forest and mint with some air. The palate shows minerals and sweet fruit, including mandarin orange, lemon verbena, bright, singing acidity, and a peppercorn-spiced finish that carries on for a full 30 seconds. Very deep and powerful despite its youth and subtlety, and unexpectedly captivating this early on in its evolution. Great now, with lots of potential in reserve.
Forefront (by Pine Ridge Vineyards) Pinot Gris 2009
This is exactly what I love about Oregon pinot gris: An exceptionally fresh nose with gorgeous aromas of lemon, a bit of lime, a pronounced minerality, and smokiness providing added depth. There’s also chalk, gravel, lemon oil, and white-blossomed flowers hovering around the edges adding even more complexity to it. The palate possesses a beautiful, tongue-coating texture that lends a real sense of weight, but the acid keeps it all nimble. Flavors of honeysuckle, apple, pear, white pepper, and minerals turn to something more membrillo-like on the finish. Perfectly balanced, and a steal at the price.
Val de Vie Pinotage "Barista" 2009
The nose here exhibits varietally accurate scorched earth and hints of rubber, but there is a sweetness brought by the oak, a chocolate character that is absolutely intriguing. It reminds me of some sort of smoked cherries and plums enrobed in a beautiful chocolate. All those flavors follow through to the palate with more of a focus on the fruit, and despite their depth, the texture of the wine remains surprisingly lithe. Cafe viennoise, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cherry-pie filling linger through to the remarkably consistent finish. This is not only a delicious wine, but a great example of how thoroughly exciting South African pinotage is these days. I’d be the happiest guy in the world to be able to enjoy this alongside a grilled steak with a balsamic glaze.