Expanding Horizons: It’s Worth Trying Wines From New Places And Labels



The world is filled with wonderful wines.


By Louis Marmon


Gazette Newspapers  October 21, 2004


Kuentz-BasWhen choosing a wine, most Americans have a very narrow perspective. We tend to limit our selections to a few well-known varieties such as Chardonnay or Merlot and rarely do we venture out of California, Australia, Italy or France. And even within those areas, consumers seldom try wines with unfamiliar names. But great wine is being made all over the world, from South Africa to South America, from Oregon and Washington State to the Niagara Peninsula of Canada including locations that have been making wine for centuries such as Germany, Spain, Israel and Portugal.


So it is about time that we move away from selecting our wines based upon our comfort with the grape variety or the colors on the label. Talented winemakers are producing excellent wines in many less recognizable locations,and most are bargains — which means you can try these wines without spending a lot of money. Finding a new treasure is well worth the effort.


An example is the Cahors region of France where Clos La Coutale Cahors 2001 is made by Philippe Bernede, a wonderfully friendly and gifted winemaker who is the sixth generation to run his family estate. A blend of Malbec, Merlot and Tannat, it is well balanced with soft cherry and berry flavors. Another less familiar region is Vovray, located in the Loire Valley. The wines made there from Chenin Blanc can range from dry to sweet, and also can be made into sparkling variety. Didier and Catherine Champalou founded their winery in 1984 and their Domaine Champalou Vouvray Cuvee Fondraux 2003 is dry, smooth and easy drinking with rich pear and slightly mineral flavors.


Despite their high quality, wines from Alsace remain underappreciated in the United States. Christian Bas and his family have more than 200 years of experience making wines in Alsace from Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. His Kuentz-Bas Riesling Traditional 2001 is dry with bright lemon and mineral flavors. In Oregon, Danielle Montalieu uses a traditional Alsace grape to make the Solena Pinot Gris 2003, a delightfully crisp white wine with pear and apple flavors.


Spanish winemakers are making some of the world’s best wines. The Bodega Castejon Tempranillo Vina Rey 2002 is a very good, medium-bodied wine with currant, plum and cherry flavors; it remains remarkably inexpensive considering its high quality. Another example is the Carmelo Rodero Reserva 1999, rich and beautifully balanced with licorice and berry flavors and firm tannins that will allow it to age well.


The South African wine industry has blossomed and the quality of their wines is impressive. An example is the Topaz Syrah 2002 that has spicy black raspberry notes and a long smooth finish. Another is the Veenwouden Classic 2001, blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It tastes almost like a Bordeaux with currant, dark cherry and blackberry flavors in a spicy muscular frame. Gary and Kathy Jordan have been making wines in South Africa since 1993, and their Bradgate Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc 2003 is an early drinking wine with fig, melon and citrus flavors. They also produce the Jardin Sauvignon Blanc 2004, which is lighter and has melon and honey notes with a pleasant finish.


Several winemakers in California are making wines using traditional Italian varietals. Luna Sangiovese 2001 has wonderful bright strawberry and black cherry flavors with fine balance that makes it a good food wine. Seghesio Vineyards, which produces high-quality Zinfandels, also makes the very good Seghesio Barbera Lodi 2001 that has rich fruit flavors with a nice amount of acidity.



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