This week, I’ve ordered the wines as they’d appear in a meal: We start with three sparklers, move on to a lovely Tuscan white and red, head over to the Rhone for a Crozes-Hermitage, continue south to Argentina for a big, juicy red blend, and finish off with a California cabernet that, though drinking very well right now, still has plenty of time left to evolve in the bottle.
Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava
With its appealing light straw color and pinpoint lacing, this has always been a Cava of elegance and excellent value (and, now, a new label). It speaks of bright green apple, citrus, and a hint of nuts, but it’s primarily a fruit-driven bottle. On the finish, a zing of minerality comes through, which, with the mouth-watering acidity and overall crisp character, provides excellent backbone. As always, this is a very good everyday sparkler, refreshing and food-friendly.
La Cave de Die Jaillance Cremant de Bordeaux “Cuvee de l’Abbaye” Brut
What a lovely, bright sparkler: Grapefruit, warmed honey, vanilla creme Anglaise, and something a touch waxy mingle to create a nose that’s both unfamiliar and deeply comforting. The palate explodes with sweet citrus fruit both in the grapefruit and Mandarin orange family, as well as a taut minerality, ginger, and well-balanced acidity that lend this sparkler a sense of seriousness. Let this one sit on the counter for 10 minutes after taking it our of the fridge: When the edge of the chill comes off it, a beautiful bass note of brioche pumps through, leading to a finish rich with that Anglaise from the nose. Very, very well made, and a wonderful option both for New Years or, for that matter, any time you want to treat yourself.
La Cave de Die Jaillance Cuvee Imperiale Clairette de Die
Very intense nose of concentrated honey suckle, orange blossom, and other warm-weather flowers, with and edging of orange oil. It’s sweet and concentrated on the palate, too, with pronounced notes of spice, honeycomb, and candied apple and nuts that follow through to the finish. This is a nice wine for rich cheeses or to ring in the New Year with.
Banfi Centine White 2008, Toscana
There’s an unexpected floral note to the nose here, and aromatic lift that speaks of peaches and orange blossom, and in that way implicitly references summertime. There’s also a hint of something a touch spicy, which itself adds to the wine’s sense of freshness. This blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot grigio is very clean on the palate, with well-balanced acidity that keeps the peach and apricot notes fresh. There’s some apple here too, as well as a hint of something a bit honeyed. Hazelnuts and a touch of nougat sing on the finish, which still remains nicely mouth-watering. What a charming wine, and a serious bottle for the money. Drink now with anything, or with nothing at all.
Banfi Centine Red 2007, Toscana
Lots of red cherries and ripe fraises de bois on the nose of this fabulously food-friendly Tuscan blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. There’s also a bit of minerality here, as well as cured black Sicilian olives and a hint of dried Mediterranean herbs and chocolate. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine boasts plenty of red and darker berry fruit and ripe cherries, but also touches of coffee grinds and, on the finish, a bit of smoke and leather. Well-made and complex, lovely integrated tannins, and an excellent value. Drink in the next three years.
Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage “Les Hauts du Fief” 2006
Such a pretty, accurate nose. Black raspberries, blackberries, asphalt, and something a bit funky, like grinding peppercorns in a barn (in a good way!). With some time, a gentler face starts to show itself, the pepper taking on a more perfumed note and the fruit resolving into a riper, sweeter style. On the palate, this is appealingly elegant, with fully integrated tannins, a silky texture, and subtle fruit that indicates that this is a wine at its peak. There are some tea notes on the finish, as well as a lingering hint of earthiness lending it all a sense of richness underpinning its elegance. Really good stuff.
Kaiken “Corte” Malbec - Bonarda - Petit Verdot 2008, Mendoza
A beautiful, glistening opaque purple color with a center verging on black. The implications of that appearance come through on the nose, which is well-lifted by blackberries, black cherries, smoky plums, and hoisin sauce. There’s also something reminiscent of tarragon in there, perhaps a bit of the cabernet’s freshness poking through. On the palate, the fruit is sweet and ripe, with those cherries taking the lion’s share of attention. Still, this isn’t just a fruit-expressive bottling: Sweet tobacco, black licorice, bonfire, and a touch of birch bark add depth and complexity. Very well-made, and compulsively drinkable. Could go three more years, but there’s no need to wait.
SIMI Cabernet Sauvignon Landslide Vineyard 2007, Alexander Valley
The minerality is the first thing you’ll notice here, a terroir-driven nose that indicates a wine that, year after year, is firmly rooted to this particular patch of land. There’s bright currants and spice there too, though it’s still tightly wound, practically coiled to explode with more time in the bottle. The palate here is remarkably similar to the nose, though there’s a bit more lushness to the fruit than you might expect, more cherries as well as tea and oak spice that still needs some time to integrate fully. All of it is buttressed by tannins that, though attractively sweet, still have 7 - 10 more years of life to give this excellent wine whose future in the cellar is very bright indeed. Drink now with food and a good decanting, or hold onto it for even more pleasure.