You wait a whole week for a wine Buyer’s recommendation, and then two come along at once. It’s a double bill for you to try in-store this weekend, alongside – no doubt – some really excellent bin-end wine bargains.
Both of these wines were sourced by Suzie, who has both Alsace and Italy in her burgeoning portfolio (alongside California, Australia, and the Rhône). Basically, some of our favourite regions!
Alsace sits in north-east France, bordering Germany along the river Rhine. Many of the towns in Alsace have a distinctly germanic feel to the architecture, and the town names often have a similar blur. It’s an ideal place for making top-quality aromatic white wines thanks to the Vosges mountain range, which provides a rain-shadow making Alsace one of the driest regions in France. Combine that with a cool climate, and you have perfect conditions.
From Domaine de la Ville de Colmar comes Clos Saint-Jaques Gewurztraminer. Don’t let the name put you off (Geh-vurts-tram-in-ehr), this is one of the classic Noble Grape varieties.
GWT (for short) is a pungently aromatic and spicy white grape – ‘gewürtz’ is German for ‘spice’ – which is often made in off-dry styles. This suits the massive fruit character very well, but winemakers need a cool climate to retain acidity so that it stays refreshing and doesn’t end up feeling flabby or over-rich. Thankfully, this example nails it!
The second of Suzie’s picks is from the North-East of Italy, a brilliant Langhe Rosso from Piedmont.
Langhe Rosso is a DOC allowing (basically) a blend of any red grape varieties grown in the Langhe region. In this instance, Maretti have blended the two noblest of them all, Nebbiolo and Barbera.
Nebbiolo is the heart of Barolo and Barbaresco, and gives paler reds that belie their massive tannic and acidic structure. Classic examples age well and have notes of tar and roses – they are some of the greatest wines of the world. Think Pinot Noir, but with lots of grip.
Barbera is a softer creature with lower tannin than Nebbiolo, but full bodied nontheless. High acidity keeps the wine juicy – the best coming from the Barbera d’Alba DOCG. Combining the two creates a wine with body, bags of fruit, and plenty structure.
Clos Saint-Jacques Gewurztraminer 2012, Alsace – Get it here
Taste: Aromatic and perfumed, dusted with violet flowers and rose petal. Ripe lychee, grapefruit peel and honeysuckle with a tickle of white pepper. Off-dry and luxuriant, like Turkish Delight.
Enjoy It With: Great with duck or pork, also good with king prawns. The sweet aromatics pair well with asian herbs like coriander and lime leaf. Soft creamy cheeses are a good combination too.
Dinner Party Nugget: Colmar is both a town and the name of the third-largest commune in Alsace. The town’s stylised architecture was the inspiration behind Japanese animated film Howl’s Moving Castle.
Maretti Langhe Rosso 2013, Piedmont – Get it here
Taste: Cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit with a powerful feel. Violets, clove spice, toasted oak and a savory finish. Fine grippy tannins and bright acidity that just scream Italy.
Enjoy It With: Italians do wine for food like no-one else. Rich meats and root vegetables go well, as do mushrooms. Richer dishes with hard cheeses, such as a risotto or carbonara, really benefit from the wine’s tannin and acid structure.
Dinner Party Nugget: The hilly Langhe is the home of Barolo, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto and Arneis. It’s famous for not just wine, but cheeses and rare white truffles. In 2014 it became a UNESCO World Heritage region.