Kientzler Edelzwicker, Alsace NV
Wines whose seemingly sole yet divine purpose is to provide universal and carefree pleasure should, in a just world, only be available in large bottles: Cheap but decent Chianti, simple tasty bubbly, gamay from anywhere, anything from Emilia-Romagna because that’s where food comes from, and Edelzwicker. With Edelwzicker you even get the added benefit of being no worse at being able to pronounce the name at the end of the bottle than at the beginning, so nobody will know you actually drank most of this liter bottle by yourself. Which you probably will, because it’s hard not to. So what the hell is Edelzwicker anyway? It’s a white blend from France’s German-influenced Alsace, and can be made from any grapes grown in the appellation (chasselas, sylvaner, and auxerrois, in this case). This catch-all nature means that these wines can, um, vary in quality. Kientzler’s varies so much to the good side of the spectrum that I have to admit I prefer drinking it over their incredible Grands Crus because it’s just so much fun. Classic in its delicate floral aromas, earthy golden apple, and warm spice, but with more glowing exuberant oomph and presence than seems possible to pack into its light body. There is not a food that exists that you couldn’t successfully pair with this, but this time of year I can’t recommend strongly enough that you enjoy it with some pungent, runny cheese or a big roast ham like the Root Beer Glazed Ham recipe – the one thing I get asked to make for big gatherings more than any other – on the last page.
Domaine des Forges Chardonnay, Pays du Val de Loire 2015
From the same producers as last month’s gorgeous gamay, and a label you’ll continue to see pop up in your bags as the wines embody the spirit of Weekday Wine Club so fully: Versatile, affordable, and distinctive. The Loire Valley is cooler, and generally produces crisper and lighter chardonnays, but the hotter 2015 vintage dials things up a bit. It’s a far cry from the California toothpick juice style of chardonnay, but there’s a butter and hazelnut warmth and heavier body this vintage that allow the peach and lemon fruit some more room to spread out and envelop the palate. Thankfully this doesn’t come at the expense of Loire’s trademark snappy minerality, which cuts through the richness, brings the wine into balance and extends the finish. You know, a chardonnay for people who think they hate chardonnay. Its pairing options greatly expand as a result of this more restrained character as well, letting you pair this with char-broiled oysters, creamy fish and potato chowders, simple risotto, or even rotisserie or deli fried chicken.
Les Hauts Lastour Coteaux du Quercy 2012
With oceans of good wine now pouring in from Uruguay, Bulgaria, Tasmania, England, and even China, it might seem like we’re fresh out of unknown, insider-secret wine regions to explore. There’s one, though, that’s not only been around forever, but is even in France, and still goes almost entirely unknown: The Sud-Ouest, or Southwest. These are the satellite appellations of Bordeaux that share proximity to that most famed of wine regions, but usually little else. Case in point, this little number here, which is oddly based on cabernet franc, and incorporates merlot, malbec, and even gamay to make a wine totally unlike what you’d get out of any Bordeaux rouge. The franc and gamay absolutely stuff every aspect of this with an unmistakable herbal and floral character that refreshes the palate as it frames the dark cherry, plum, and currant flavors. Gentle use of oak is evident in fine wood tannins and a little mid-palate coffee and cedar kick, and it’s all just this side of BIG that the Sud-Ouest’s rustic, clayimbued earthiness still comes through. Soft enough to pound with no regard for one’s dignity, but you’ll need some food to give all those flavors something to do. Burgers, sausages, sharp cheeses, and all those other deliciously lethal things we crave will work just fine, but this is a great one to pull out for big family pork roast or beef tenderloin dinners as well.
Cantine Fratelli Bonelli Gutturnio Superiore DOC 2015
Remember when I said that every wine from Emilia-Romagna should come in a big bottle because that’s where food comes from? I hope so, because it was, like, only three wines ago. Anyway, here’s the proof: I defy you to finish this Emilia-Romagna wine and not immediately want another. This soft, mediumbodied barbera-bonarda blend has the kind of inviting raspberry fruit and smoky, herbal savory cast that makes the region’s red wines so irresistible. Seeing as how it comes from Italy’s — and some (myself included) might say the world’s — cradle of food civilization, it would be taking the easy way out to just drink it with a big platter of the region’s edible gifts to the world: Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano all drizzled with a good quality balsamic vinegar. So you should probably just do that. Emilia-Romagna also gave the world lasagna, tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni, and any other stuffed pasta dish you can name, so if you’re feeling fancy, those work exceptionally well too. That said, I’ve probably consumed Gutturnio more with pizza than anything else, and it’s impossible to outdo it as a pizza wine, so don’t feel like you’re short changing it just because Papa John’s coming to dinner. Hell, pizza flavored Pringles would probably do it justice. Basically, it’ll elevate any food it washes down.
Domaine Baron Côt Les Vieilles Vignes, Touraine 2014
Mark my words: One of these days we’ll see a generation of people who, like their current chardonnayaverse counterparts, proudly and idiotically declare themselves Anything But Malbec drinkers because they’ve been overexposed to the glut of overripe, overoaked, overmanipulated Argentinean Malbec that dominates depressing grocery store wine aisles and dullards’ wine lists. And much like chard haters can usually be saved with a taste of, say, Domaine des Forges Loire Valley chardonnay, we’ll be able to reclaim the malbec malcontents with Loire Valley malbec. It’ll even be easy to trick them into trying and liking it, since the grape is called côt in the region and tastes almost nothing like malbec from Argentina (or even from the famous Cahors region in France’s Sud-Ouest). Sure, it has gobs of raspberry fruit grounded by pepper, leather, and licorice, but they’re suggestions of flavor, not bold statements, an approach well suited to the wine’s bright snappy texture. There’s no oak here to get in the way either, so it doesn’t require a Flintstonian rib roast to tame it. A rib chop isn’t a bad idea, though, namely a bone-in pork loin chop rubbed with thyme and white pepper, seared and served on apples and sweet onions sautéed in butter and Calvados. Don’t have all that on hand? This works strangely well with southeast Asian flavors, especially north Indian and Korean.
Domaines André Aubert Grignan-les-Adhémar Le Devoy 2014
One of the most undervalued places in the world for wine right now is Grignan-les-Adhémar, located at the northern edge of the southern Rhône Valley, but there’s a catch. See, until 2010 this appellation was called Côteaux du Tricastin, which brought to mind the then-recent accidents at the area’s Tricastin Nuclear Power Center, which, in turn, proved to be a less than positive association that negatively affected sales. Eventually they were allowed to rename the appellation Grignan-les-Adhémar, which is not associated with chunks of hair falling out and people giving birth to centaurs, but also isn’t associated with anything, really. So the wines are safe and fine – better than fine, as you’ll see when you open this – but until the area regains some name recognition, these are stop-you-in-your-tracks wines that you can open any time. It isn’t the earthy and peppery dark red and black fruits swaddled in melting tannins and a gentle smokiness that turns heads – that’s more or less what to expect from grenache and syrah based wines from southern France – it’s how it’s all put together. From the fine detail on the nose, to the lively but low-key tannic structured palate, to the powerful finish, everything is just right and comes off not unlike the wines of its neighbor to the south, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As usual with this area, crusty roast or grilled lamb comes right to mind, but it’s far from incompatible with barbecue or Lebanese take-out.