Winter Wines You’ll Love
While many people tend to gravitate toward robust wines for the colder months, we take a different approach.
In recent weeks, we received our first snowfall in New York. Though much of it didn’t stick, it finally started to feel like winter is here until at least April. These seasonal changes have us thinking about what to drink next.
It might be easy to bust out a hefty Syrah from France or a cellared Barolo vintage. These choices are all perfectly fine but we also think there is something to be said about drinking lighter wines without sacrificing that complexity that winter sipping demands. These are wines that are good for any season but their brightness is welcome shift in perspective from the grey exterior. It’s like biting into that first Sumo orange of the season and immediately lighting up.
Which brings us to three new wines for this week: a peachy skin contact wine from Italy; a precise and lifted red from California; and a liter of rosé from Italy that is a great exercise in terroir.
Franco Terpin is a master of skin contact wines from Italy. Many of his other vintages fetch premium prices over $40 a bottle but his Quinto Quarto Bianco is his youthful expression of his winemaking that always sells for under $30 a bottle in a colorful, inviting bottle.
In the glass, the wine is a deep, cloudy yellow in color. (The bottle itself features thick sediment so be careful when pouring to avoid any large bits of sediment!) On the nose, you are immediately transported to late summer by soft apricot and peach notes. These flavors carry over into the first sips that blend with a prickly orange acidity.
As expected with a skin contact wine, the Quinto Quarto Bianco is medium bodied but the shift between fruit into the more weighty, savory vegetal notes is seamless and a big part of its charm. The crunchier tannic qualities grip to your mid palette but there remains a delicate finesse as the wine finishes, with stone fruit notes reemerging to soften things up just the right amount.
Martha Stoumen is one of the female pioneers of low-intervention winemaking. Using the Italian grape Nero D’Avola, which she believes has been around California for several decades, Stoumen is able to bring a slice of the Mediterranean to your glass in her signature precise style.
In the glass, it is an inky purple with the nose screaming forest floor and dark fruit in an intoxicating blend. If you’re put off by jammier flavors, the initial intensity of this fruit can be hard to swallow, but the dried blackberry and plum notes soon settle harmoniously into a vibrant acidity and dusty tannic structure. The wine is as clean and precise as any we have had this year so if you are having a dinner party for a natural wine skeptic, this might be a good choice for the table.
Martha shows us that the hotter climates of interior California can yield something beyond the classic West Coast Cabernet we all know too well.
Valentina Passalacqua’s Calcarius project is focused on kimmeridgian limestone soils of her childhood town, Arpicena, in Italy. Most of these wines are high yield (tens of thousands of liter bottles per varietal) that generally sell for $30 and under. As Valentina has spent more time in New York City, we have been excited to see more of her wines picked up by distributors.
For her rosé, she uses the Negroamaro grape to thrilling effect. In the glass, you might mistake this wine for skin contact but it’s far from that, being the lightest of the wines we tasted this week. We get whiffs of funk and jammy fruit on the nose that echo the Stoumen. However, when we taste the wine the palette is much brighter and drier, with ripe raspberry, chalky strawberry, and piquant cherry notes sharing the stage. Though there isn’t really a tannic structure to speak of, it does gain textural grip through green herbal characteristics that build into a breezy finish.
If there was ever a wine that could take us back to a sundowner on a Mediterranean balcony, it would be this one.