December 2018 Releases

Paul Buisse Crémant de Loire NV

It’s cold, so you’re getting chenin blanc (and a bit of chardonnay), just like you did last winter and just like you’ll almost certainly get again next winter. Cool weather conjures visions of soft pears, golden apples, and fresh lemons, and so does chenin, so it’s the perfect white wine for this time of year. The warm pastry and vanilla of bubbly echo the season’s pleasantly omnipresent desserts, and nicely complement the fruit as lagniappe. Fruity enough to enjoy cold all by itself if the moment demands bubbles, or delicious with any permutation of butter, crustaceans, and roasted vegetables. Or this month’s recipe.

Dominio de Tares Godello La Sonrisa, Bierzo 2016

Justifiably well known for their Baltos mencia, but they’d be more justifiably well known if this were Dominio de Tares’s flagship wine. Bursting with chalk, tart granny smiths and Meyer lemons as you’d expect from this chilly region of Spain, but the back-from-near-extinction godello grape manages a touch of richness that cool climate whites seldom muster; somewhat akin to chardonnay in Chablis and albariño in nearby Rias Baixas, both of which this wine resembles. Enjoy this just below cellar temperature, and ideally with more substantial seafood, chicken, or green vegetable dishes as it’s a bit austere on its own. Clam chowder or white bean and kale soups really show this off, as do aged chèvres.

Domaine la Tour Boisée Carignan, Coteaux de Peyriac 2017

Like the wine above, this should be better known than Domaine la Tour Boisée’s admittedly very nice Minervois because while there are better value and more interesting Minervois, their carignan is not just a mushroom cloud for your buck, it’s not like any other. Give it a tiny chill, an hour or so of air, and carignan’s usual brusque earth and opaque fruit open up into a soft and simple mouthful of sultry roses, exotic spices, and cranberry/raspberry held together by acid tension that breaks gloriously over a long, juicy finish. If roast duck isn’t yet in your fancy holiday dinner rotation this is a compelling reason to add it, but it’s just as much at home with rotisserie chicken, roasted stuffed squash or Tillamook cheddar and crackers.

Pascal Marthouret Syrah, Pays de Collines Rhodannienes 2016

Finally. I’ve been waiting since day one to put this in the club, and we finally snagged some of what is easily a worldwide top ten wine under $20. Every time I taste it I scream to myself “WHY DOES HE BOTHER TO EXPORT SUCH A ROCKING 800 CASE PRODUCTION NORTHERN RHÔNE SYRAH AT THIS PRICE?!” immediately followed by a quieter but still menacing “Get out of here gift horse, before I start lookin’ you in that mouth of yours.” So open this now – at cellar temperature, with lamb, game birds, venison, or pasta with wild mushrooms if you’re lucky enough to have them around; burgers, mushroom pizza, barbecue, or sharp cheese if you’re not – because if you want to stock up on this (and you do) you need to do it now. Not a sipping wine, this is serious stuff that compares more than favorably to $35 Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, and needs food to show off its classic Northern Rhône tart cherry, blackberry, and violet with savory white pepper, game, and smoke undercurrents. 2016’s elegance helps this drink more forward, with a full, velvety feel and subtle acidity not often seen in young Northern Rhône syrah. As always, too good to be true. Get more. Now.

Aldo Rainoldi Rosso di Valtellino 2014

If the slopes are so steep that the grapes have to be harvested by hand and airlifted to the winery by helicopter for crush, you know there’s a damned good reason they’re doing it. The grape here, the incomparable nebbiolo, shows brighter, juicier, but somehow more developed just west of its more famous home in Piedmont here in Lombardy, where it’s called chiavennasca. It’s got Piedmont nebbiolo’s black cherry, plum, and roasted beef, but instead of Piedmont’s dense tannin and tar-slicked dried roses, it’s easy as can be with leather and fresh little red flowers. So maybe not a great solo wine or match for lamb shanks, but at room temperature with grilled ribeye, wine-braised rabbit or chicken, mushroom risotto, or young firm cheeses, this is it. 

Podere Ruggeri Corsini Rosso Matot, Langhe 2016

Somewhat mysterious vintage to vintage in what it is and how it tastes, but the quality is as consistent as it gets given the unimpeachable producer. In 2016 it’s reportedly nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto, and a little pinot noir, with brief oak aging, but what matters is its dominance as an all-rounder. Chill it or don’t, pair it with any food or no food, this makes all the fruit, earth, flower, tannin, and acid jigsaw puzzle pieces fit.