It’s hard to imagine we’ve been in some form of quarantine since the middle of March. We’re at the point where we can’t even remember how many days it has been. And all we want is to travel to Europe for our summer vacations, sipping bottles of wine by seas, in parks, or nestled in a mountainous vineyard. Unfortunately the circumstances prevent us from doing that in 2020 but the joy of wine is its ability to transport us to other places, to the soil, air, and ambiance that make an individual bottle possible.
For this week’s tasting, our first in quite some time, we travel to Spain, Germany, and Italy for a remote romp through the hillsides and vineyards of these countries. Along the way, we sample wines designed to fit different palettes while embracing the carefree spirit of summer. It can’t replicate a plane ticket to Barcelona but for much less money we can experience the bounty of a European summer.
You might think it’s strange to start the summer off with a red wine but Mani Di Luna’s Sanjolais defies all expectations of what a Sangiovese from Umbria can be. The play on words is a reflection of how the winemakers have taken Sangiovese but used semi-carbonic maceration to yield a wine that feels at home with carefree expressions from Beaujolais. This is not a complicated wine but with a little chill the pronounced sour cherry notes mingle with a medium-high acidity. There is just a touch of earthiness into the finish but the lack of tannins make this bottle dangerously glou glou at 13.5% ABV.
It might not be the wine that nonna has always been drinking but it is the next gen of Italian winemaking. Are you looking for something else from Italy? We’d recommend the long-necked orange wine Castello di Stefanago, Stuvenagh Orangiosauro (2019) or the plethora of wines from Le Coste, including a bunch of new liter arrivals designed for maximum beach enjoyment.
For our next destination, we head a little further north to the Pfalz, an area of Southwest Germany. The Brand, Wilder Satz is an affordable white blend combining Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Scheurebe, and Silvaner into a melting pot of summer fun. Light yellow in color, the wine smells like pineapple and tastes like tropical fruit. Passionfruit and lychee intermingle with green apple tartness, a structured acidity, and pleasantly grassy notes. On the finish, chalky minerality and lime add an extra refreshing quality to the slight effervescence present in the glass.
If you’re cooking up your next bratwurst BBQ, we also recommend the Brand, Rosé Petillant Naturel Pfalz (2019) to cut through those meaty, grilled flavors. If you’re looking for something designed for a quiet night inside, the Rita and Rudolf Trossen wines always impress, particularly if you’re a fan of Riesling.
For the last stop of our European holiday, we had to venture to Catalonia – the site of so many favorite wines, particularly from Celler La Salada, who are upending all expectations of how indigenous Catalan grapes can be used in the winemaking process. With L’Ermot, Celler uses almost 100% Macabeo, which is typically used a blending grape in Cava. In this case, however, the grape takes on interesting character from fermentation on lees. Notes of ripe honeydew, lime and yeast combine with vigorous acid. What is unique about this wine is that a bit of almond richness builds into the finish for a slightly fuller white wine. If you like a little more body, this is the wine for you.
Are you’re looking for other wines to explore in Catalonia? We cannot recommend the Cosmic Vinyaters wines enough. They showcase how the region is boldly committed to experimentation. There are even a few options to stock up on as we look toward the impending cooler months.
While we know this isn’t the same as visiting the vineyards in person and experiencing the liveliness of the vines, we hope that even as we’re stuck in our various homes, we can be connected to the winemakers who inspire us each and every day. The thrill of wine is precisely that in a 750mL bottle we can experience the careful craft these European winemakers can achieve day after day.
Next week, we hope we can take you somewhere new and exciting in the world of natural wine. Where do you want to go next?