Attending high-profile wine trade tastings is one way that Deborah and I stay current on what’s hot in our vast wine market. Tasting season is fully underway in NYC, home to perhaps the most immense wine distribution system in the world. As you might imagine, it’s a “scene”, as wine directors, liquor store merchants, somms, columnists, educators and wine enthusiasts from all corners of the city and the suburbs converge upon Manhattan venues of various sizes, price book in one hand, glass in the other, pen above the ear. The juice flows, the spit flies, and the host distributor or importer assumes their annual moment in the spotlight, taking their best shot at standing out in an increasingly competitive and burgeoning wine market.
On the chilly afternoon of March 19th, at a tasting that we had proudly cleared our calendars for, we were impressed as expected by several dozen producers, the highlights of whom were situated in some of the more serious white grape-growing areas of Europe. David Bowler Wine, the progressive and well-respected purveyor who had presented the tasting, is celebrated for discovering such wines (mostly grown on organically-farmed, family owned estates), and introducing modest quantities of them to us lucky New Yorkers. In honor of spring, allow me to fill you in on our 3 favorite Euro whites of the show. Production and availability of these wines is miniscule, and you won’t just find them anywhere. So, if you are tempted to acquire some, consider contacting our strategic partner Suburban Wines & Spirits for a special order, and cross your fingers.
The New Discovery
Weingut Jurtschitsch, a grower in the Kamptal region of eastern Austria, has been in operation since the 1600s, and was the very first wine estate in the town of Langenlois to farm organically (1970s). All 5 wines presented to us by winemaker Alwin Jurtschitsch were righteous, but the clear favorite was his 2011 Riesling Heiligenstein Erste Lage (around $40), grown on 60-year-old vines. It’s a dry, classy, detailed, and persistent Riesling with a broad flavor profile for the demanding palate.
I used to hand-sell the wines of Koehler-Ruprecht from the Pfalz region of Germany over ten years ago, and always found them to be exceptional, unique, offbeat in style, and usually made from the less conventional grape varieties of the region. Now under new management, and newly imported by David Bowler Wine, the quality is better than ever. Franziska Schmitt guided us through samplings of their Rieslings and Weissburgunders, and I found each of them to be profound. The highlight was 2010 Weissburgunder Annaberg Spatlese Trocken (around $30)….a late-harvested, single-vineyard Pinot Blanc that was fermented dry! Full, intense, compelling and a ringer for a red wine, had it been sampled blind.
The “Thinking Person’s White Wine”, as touted by Eric Asimov in a recent New York Times article, Savennieres is a regional Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley that Deb and I have always thought of as under-acknowledged. The wines of Domaine du Closel (mentioned in the article) are “Exhibit A” when it comes to classic, riveting Savennieres, with all of their pieces precisely in place. Of all the 6 Closel wines shown, the very finest in the lineup (and in the entire room) was the powerful yet graceful, mineral-laden and fully-evolved 2007 Clos Papillon (around $35). Want to know what wine trade people are collecting for themselves? Look no further.