Preview Portugal

From our tasting on… September 8th, 2016


Portugal is 370 miles long and 125 miles wide, smaller than the state of Kentucky.  It is, however, home to 230 different grape varieties, many rare and ancient, thought to have been introduced by the Phoenicians.  The climate has scorchingly hot summers in much of the country; the terrain is often formidable, especially in the northeast, so rugged and steep that terraces must be dynamited out of the mountains.  It is known particularly for Port, a fortified wine, and for the production of cork.  As in most of Europe, its vineyards were decimated by phylloxera in the 19th century, and some regions did not really recover.  Portugal developed isolated from the rest of Europe; the only international variety to have made an inroad is Syrah. Portuguese winemaking is steeped in tradition, with foot treading of grapes, unusual trellising, and the use of clay amphorae still practiced in some places.  Until the mid-1980s, co-ops controlled most or all of wine production in many of Portugal’s then 55 wine regions.  When the country joined the EU in 1986, things modernized rapidly. Both in the vineyard and the cellar, individual estates began making good wines.  Broadly speaking, there are five major regions for table wines.  From north to south, they are the Minho with its Vinho Verde; the Douro, famous for Port but now also known for red table wine; Dão, sheltered on three sides by mountains, where some50 grapes are used to make primarily red wines; Barraida, home to the red grape Baga and the source of most of the country’s sparkling wine; and Alentejo, the largest region, boasting cork oaks and plummy wines.

We’ll taste two whites.  CARM Vinha do Bispado Branco 2015 comes from a single estate (Quinta) in the Douro.  An aromatic three-grape blend, its pretty orchard fruit and brisk acidity invite use as an aperitif or pairing with seafood or salad.  Not all Vinho Verde is a sparkling, as Dócil Loureiro 2015 shows.  Made from organic grapes and fermented in tank with wild yeast, this offers floral and exotic citrus notes balanced by fresh acidity.  Try with sushi, Asian food, or brunch.

Reds are Portugal’s strength, as the next wines show.  Casa Ferreirinha Esteva Douro 2014 is a softer, medium-bodied wine with red fruit, cedar, and heather supported by polished tannins.  Pair this blend of Port varieties with red lentil salad, perhaps with a bit of ham.  João Portugal Ramos Reserva 2013 includes Alentejo’s signature Trincadeira along with Tempranillo.  Its ruby color suggests the aromas and flavors of its red fruits; dried herbs and spice complete the story.  A sausage-and- peppers dish is a good partner.  Casa Santos Lima Confidencial Reserva Tinto 2012 blends international and local varieties from the Lisbon region.  Some of its richness comes from the use of wood, which, along with age, smoothes out the fruit and chocolate.  Medium body and a long finish invite pairing with braised meats or spicy eggplant.

Check out the new “Scout” wine club for students!


- M.P. Rouse

Wines for Labor Day

From our tasting on… September 1st, 2016

High seventies in March, frost in late April and early May, and a severe drought extending over the summer have made this a challenging spring and summer.  The last two weeks have seen more seasonable conditions, and gardens are starting to deliver.  Before the college semester gets into full swing and younger kids return to school, take advantage of this long weekend to gather friends and family for a cookout.  Pause for a moment to offer a silent thanks to all those whose work makes our play possible as you enjoy our local vegetables, fruit, cheese, and meats.  Add some wine to your celebration!

We’ll start with a crisp Italian white, Bruni Plinio Vermentino 2015.  The name is a nod to Pliny the Elder, author of the first Roman treatise on viticulture; he died in Pompeii during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.  Herb, peach, mineral, and wildflower make this a great partner for shrimp skewers, salads both pasta and green, and veggie burgers.

At Red Feet, we believe there’s no such thing as too much rosé.  Chateau de Montfaucon Les Gardettes Rosé 2015 hails from the Rhône.  This blend of Cinsault, Counoise, and Grenache is a saignée wine (as opposed to a press wine), keeping its acidity lively and flavors fresh.  It’s fermented and aged in concrete for 18 months, resulting in clean strawberry, spice, and stone fruit flavors.  Pair with cold chicken or salmon.

On to the reds, which form the majority in today’s tasting to reflect the cooler temperatures this weekend.  Cellers Unio Convey Priorat 2015 is made by a co-op in northeastern Spain.  (Red Feet likes the idea of a co-op for Labor Day!).  This is earthy on the nose, fresh and full in the mouth, with responsible tannins holding the dark fruit together.  Soils are a particular mix of slate and quartz (llicorella), adding minerality to the wines.  Go for bold flavors like lamb, beef, or vegetable skewers with hefty spices.  Perhaps beef is your food choice, either in steak or burger form.  Finca Abril Alhambra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, an organic wine fermented in tank and aged a year in French oak, pairs well with both casual and elegant foods.  Its black currant and blackberry fruits are perfectly ripe, complemented by spice.  Intense and concentrated, this wine is as good as always.  For a bit of fun, try the Red Heads Studio Yard Dog Red 2015.  This vintage is a Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot blend, classic Bordeaux grapes.  Dark cherry and plum fruits start things, joined by dried flowers, fruit pits, and mineral, all supported by dusty tannins.  This is fairly full bodied with a persistent finish and pairs well with full-flavored meats and cheeses.

Aromatic Whites

From our tasting on… August 25th, 2016

Flavor has two components: smell and taste.  Our noses usually come into play before our mouths do, creating expectations of what we’re going to taste.   Aromas can be sweet, think ripe fruits, brown sugar or honey; they can be floral, offering orange blossom, rose, violet, and more; they can be savory, with herbs, earth, leather, or bark; they can be mysterious and intriguing, evoking things that are somehow familiar but for which we just can’t find the words.  We don’t expect a disconnect between what we smell and what we taste—if it smells good, it will taste good; if it smells “off” it will taste off.

As you sample today’s wines, if you are up for it, play a game with yourself: tease out the aromatic components you can identify, chat with your neighbors and compare notes.  Taste and see whether these aromas are also present in the flavor profile; take note of any additions or surprises.  You can go a step further by thinking about what you would like to eat with the flavors (and textures) you find in the wine.

Terredora di Paolo Falanghina Irpinia 2015 comes from Campania in southwest Italy.  The grape combines the piney fragrance of Fiano with the juiciness of Greco, making it versatile with food.  What do you smell—orchard fruit, tropical fruit, flowers?  Do the elements come into play at different points in the tasting process? Again, lees contact provides roundness, acidity keeps it clean.

The next wine comes from Penedès, in Spain. Vins de Terrer Perfum 2015 is aptly named; the dominant grape, Moscatel, is indeed perfumed.  The label tells a story—what flowers do you smell and taste?  What fruits appear?  How would you serve this wine?

Orénia Blanc 2014 comes from a mountainous area between the Rhône and Languedoc. It’s made by a former sommelier now working on the other side of the bottle.  All the grapes used have somewhat floral aromas and flavors.  Lees contact gives the wine roundness and the clean acidity provides structure and liveliness.

Our last two wines are made from grapes with similar qualities: spice, florality, and an almost bitter pithiness.  Inca Torrontes-Chardonnay 2014 hails from the Calchaqui Valley in Argentina.  What fruits, spices, and flowers do you detect here?  Is this an aggressive wine or more of a wallflower?  Keuka Spring Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2015 is a classic Finger Lakes expression of this grape, intense but deft on its feet.  What does it share with the Inca in terms of fruit and spice?  How is it different?  What would you pair with these wines?

We hope this somewhat geeky exercise gives you some insight into the tasting process.  We’ve worked from wine to food, but you can start with the food and decide what wine will go with it.  The key idea is practice, so join us for more Hang Time tastings!


Rose Parade Round II

From our tasting on…August 18th, 2016

This tasting is another opportunity to sample the power of pink, and the range and versatility of rosé.  A quick reminder: rosés don’t come from pink grapes, as convenient as that would be.  Nor do they come from mixing red and white wine and shaking well.  Their fresh, lively fruit and savory flavors come from ripe red grapes fermented cool to preserve their freshness.  Red grapes produce red wines because their skins and pulp contain pigmented compounds (anthocynanins) that transfer color from skin to wine during soaking (maceration) and fermentation. Rosés can be produced by bleeding off free-run juice before fermentation (saignée method), or by gently crushing grapes after short (two hours to two days) skin contact and then fermenting the juice as if to make white wine. Rosés are delightful on their own (pair with porch swing), but they’re also great partners for summer foods, from salads to vegetable dishes to fish (salmon is especially good) to pork or chicken.

Today we’ll taste wines from five countries.  France, usually the first country that comes to mind when rosé is the topic, provides a wine from Savoie.  Made from Gamay and Mondeuse grapes harvested by hand, Eugène Carrel Vin de Savoie Rosé 2015 is a press wine with partial malolactic fermentation that spends time on the lees. Both techniques contribute to its juicy roundness while letting the fruit shine.

We have two wines made from the same grape, Pinot Noir, one local and one from Germany.  Forge Cellars Rosé 2015 was bottled and labeled by hand on August 9, so it’s a late arrival on the local scene.  The juice spends 16 hours on the skins and goes through a slow, cool fermentation, producing a wine with great depth of flavor.  Züm Rosé 2015 comes from the rolling hills of the Nahe River, east of the Mosel and south of the Rhein.  Both of these wines are made of cool-climate sourced fruit and pair well with summer salads and fresh cheeses.

Our last two wines are decidedly darker in color and hail from warmer locations. They’re also made from grapes with thicker skins and more color.  Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Rosat 2015 is made from organically grown Garnacha, Merlot, and Syrah by a co-op in Montsant, Spain.  Along with its red fruits, it offers subtle, smoky black tea and rose hip notes, inviting grilled veggies.  Our darkest rosé, Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato 2015, comes from Sardinia off Italy’s west coast.  It, too, is dominated by Grenache, known as Cannonau here, joined by Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo.  This is a full-bodied rosé, as its color suggests, and pairs with grilled meats (even burgers) and seafood.


- M.P. Rouse

Wines to go with Seafood

From our tasting on… August 11, 2016

Seafood is a big category.  There are creatures in shells—mussels, scallops, clams, and oysters.  There are things with fins, ranging from the delicate (sole) to the meaty (swordfish) and everything in between.  There are critters that crawl (shrimp, crabs, and lobsters) and those with tentacles, like octopus and squid.  How do you choose a wine?

The adage is “White wine with seafood,” and it’s a good starting point. However, cooking method, sauce, and side dishes, as well as personal preference, also play a role in wine choice.  Certain wines should generally be avoided, such as tannic reds (e.g., Chianti, Cabernet, Nebbiolo, Syrah) and very oaky Chardonnay. Shellfish, crustaceans, and white fish pair better with white wine.  Grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Picpoul, Vermentino, and Grüner Veltliner are great partners, as are wines from Chablis and Muscadet; their bright flavors and lighter weight complement rather than overwhelm the food. If red wine is a must-have, choose heavier fare—swordfish, tuna, salmon, octopus or squid; you can also use spices and flavorings that are hospitable to red wine.  Spicy fried calamari or clams love fruity reds; salmon and Pinot Noir is a classic pairing.  Tuna and swordfish go well with West-Coast Pinot Noir or lighter Zinfandels.

Whites dominate today, some obvious choices, others not so much.  Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet 2015 comes from Côtes de Grandlieu, a less well-known subregion.  The grape is Melon de Bourgogne, a child of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.  It pairs well with mussels (put some in the pot and some in the cook) and is classic in beurre blanc sauce.  Hungary is not the first place to look for a seafood wine, but the Diszókő Tokaji Dry Furmint 2015 (made from the main grape used in the famous dessert wine), brings dry minerality, orchard fruit, smoke, elegance, and complexity to the table.  This clean sip is a good apéritif; it also pairs well with fresh trout with herbs or even smoked trout. Inama Soave Classico 2015 is made from Garganega grown in northeast Italy.  Its floral (chamomile, elder flower) and mineral notes lead to an almond finish, make it a good partner for white fish with toasted almonds and risotto or scallops.

Our rosé invites ahi tuna, swordfish, or grilled seafood to the table.  Señorío de Iniesta Bobal Rosado 2015 comes from central Spain.  It is a deeply colored, fragrant wine with pleasant acidity and some punch to balance its red berries.

On the red front, we’re going classic: salmon and Foris Pinot Noir 2012 from Oregon.  Whether sockeye or farm raised, planked or teriyaki, salmon goes with Pinot Noir.  This one provides plum, spice, and raspberry notes supported by supple tannin and lively acidity; it’s drinking well now and has room to grow.


-M.P. Rouse

Unusual Grapes, Particularly Delicious

From our Hang Time tasting on August 4, 2016…

Today we’ll taste wines made from grapes your Momma never told you about to celebrate the inner wine geek in all of us. Also called “fringe wines”, today’s offerings are made from a single variety of grape.

Chile starts the show with Viña Mayu Pedro Ximenez 2015.  PX, as it’s affectionately called, is an offspring of an Arabic table grape grown in Spain, famous for its use in sweet sherry.  In Chile, the grape is an important component of pisco, the local brandy.  This version comes from the extreme Elqui Valley on the fringes of the Atacama Desert (home of the world’s largest astronomical project, a massive radio telescope with 66 antennae; Mayu is the Incan name for the Milky Way). Expect a stylish wine with flowers, fruit, fresh acidity, and minerality, a good partner for seafood.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Müller-Thurgau, a grape developed in the 1880s to combine the flavor and aroma of Riesling with quick maturation.  You may not have had a slightly sparkling version like the Fritz Müller Perlwein Müller-Thurgau Trocken 2015.  Because of its tendency towards heavy yields, the grape became used for bulk wine in the 1980s and fell into disfavor.  Here you taste its revival, a spritzy quaffer made from low yield vines. It’s a fruity, vibrant, balanced wine for use in cocktails or as an aperitif.

Rosé is a hot item these days, and one of our most interesting hails from the volcanic soils of the Canary Islands, made from the indigenous grape Listán Negro.  This husband and wife team has made it their life’s mission to identify, preserve, and propagate native grapes (82 so far), Viñátigo Rosado 2015 is a clean, crunchy wine with fascinating briny and red fruit flavors and a touch of amaro on the finish.

Italy, the theme of last week’s tasting, provides Corte dei Pape Colle Ticchio Cesanese del Piglio DOCG 2014.  Lazio is home to mostly white wines, but this bottling is red, made from one of the cultivars of the Cesanese grape indigenous to Lazio.  It is unoaked, allowing the fresh ripe fruit aromas and flavors to shine.  This great food wine pairs well with local dishes such as lamb chops; pasta with pancetta, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, and parmesan; or sausage with broccoli rabe.

    Stobi Vranec 2013 comes from the Republic of Macedonia (not to be confused with the Greek wine region also named Macedonia). Eighty percent of Macedonian wine is red, most made from local varieties. Vranec is found in a small part of the western Balkans; its name means “wild black stallion,” suggesting its potential power. The wine offers plum and sour cherry over spice and herb, making it a good partner for roast pork and aged cheeses.  Stobi is named for a major archaeological site and is a progressive winery in central Macedonia that works primarily with native grapes.

–M.P. Rouse

Under the Italian Sun

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, July 28, 2016…

We last visited Italy in late April, tasting a range of wines from all over the country.  Today our focus is a little narrower, with most of our wines coming from a swath of land in the middle of the country. To keep things simple, we’ll start with the outlier.

The Veneto in the Northeast is known for its whites, both still and sparkling (Prosecco).  Boira’ Pinot Grigio 2015 is the sibling of the ERA Pinot Grigio we tasted back in early June; it, too, is organic.  Grapes are grown in limestone-rich soils and are fermented and aged in tank to produce an aromatic wine with floral notes, pears, apricots and an almond finish.  It is fuller and less citrusy than many Pinot Grigios, and can be enjoyed with seafood.

Tuscany is best known for red wine, but it also has good whites and rosatos.  La Lastra Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2015 comes from Italy’s first DOC (1966), now a DOCG.  Grapes for this wine come from a 30-year-old vineyard outside the town of San Gimignano near Siena.  It’s quite a distinctive wine—complex fruit, flower, and mineral aromas, crisp and refreshing flavors, and a slightly bitter note to the finish.  Pair with antipasti or pasta and pesto, or serve as an aperitif on a hot, muggy day.  On to the pink!  Some 200 years ago, the Moris family left Spain and settled in the Tuscan Maremma.  Their large estate makes wine (the current focus); grows olives, wheat, legumes, and oil seed; and provides a home for wild game and truffles. A few years ago, they began making a rosato from Sangiovese. The Moris Farms Mandriolo Rosato 2015 is a flowery, fruity expression of the grape associated with Chianti and it’s very nice with appetizers and fish.

We’ll take a trip to the Adriatic coast on the eastern side of the boot for our next wine.  The Feudi del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2014 is produced in the Abruzzo region, where the mountains that form Italy’s spine lead to coastal plains.  This father-son effort is an easy-drinking pizza and pasta wine that has the stuffing to partner bigger dishes like lasagna or an array of cheeses.

Back we go to the west, to Umbria, a landlocked region that has labored vinously in the shadow of its northern neighbor Tuscany.  Exciting developments are taking place these days.  While the white wines of Orvieto are generally known, reds are starting to make a name for themselves internationally.  Argillae Sinuoso 2013 is a fifty-fifty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  If you were to taste it blind, you probably wouldn’t guess it speaks Italian.  It’s rich and ripe but not over the top, broad in aroma and flavor, well structured but soft.  It can partner with an entire meal, from cold cuts and medium-aged cheese to venison or game and beyond.

–M.P. Rouse

Trekking around Chile

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, July 21, 2016…

Chile is a very long, narrow country that is physically isolated—to the north is the Atacama Desert; to the south, Antarctica; to the west, the Pacific Ocean (with the cold Humboldt Current); and to the east, the Andes.  Hot and dry, with ample water from melting snow in the Andes, the country is a fruit-grower’s Eden—generally, no insect pests, no diseases, and no need for fungus or weed killers.  Many wineries are organic (even if not certified), and the world’s largest biodynamic vineyard is located in Chile.

Wine production began in the 1550s with sacramental wine, but the mid-19th century saw major changes.  As the economy prospered, it became fashionable for wealthy families to build country estates and produce wine in the French style.  From Europe, the onset of phylloxera and powdery mildew provided “refugees” who had the know-how to run these estates and make wine.  Despite centuries of Spanish dominion, France (particularly Bordeaux) has had the most influence on Chile’s wine industry: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are the primary grapes used in fine wines.  Chile’s wine laws require that wine labeled with a viticultural region, a grape variety, or a vintage must contain 75% of the named region, grape, or vintage.  Many Chilean wines are blends.  About 60% of Chilean wine is exported, and there has been a great deal of investment in winery hardware.  Chile’s producers are well traveled and competent; their wines increasingly reflect the sophistication the world market demands.

We’ll consider today’s wines moving from north to south.  Limarí is one of the northernmost regions, cooled by the Humboldt current but very dry.  Tabalí Syrah Reserva Especial 2012 is made from hand-harvested estate-grown grapes fermented in tank and aged a year in both new & used French oak.  The result is an elegant, layered wine with black cherry, smoke, spicy dark fruit, and pepper notes, smooth and balanced, with a long finish.  Moving southward, we come to the Casablanca Valley, a newer region located on the coast near Valparaiso.  Cono Sur is a leader in sustainability, certified carbon neutral.  The Cono Sur Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2013, also made from hand-harvested estate fruit, is a fresh minerally wine with pineapple and grapefruit and a touch of toast.

Chile’s Central Valley is influenced by both the Pacific and the Andes, with sunny days and cool nights.  Grapes for the Anakena Winemaker’s Selection Red Blend 2013 come from several subregions; this is the only blend in today’s tasting.  The wine is ripe and red fruit driven with a kiss of oak and mocha.  From a pioneer in fine wine since 1856, we meet Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.  Made from grapes grown in the Maipo Valley, this wine offers red and black fruit, fresh spice, and a long and complex finish.  Our last stop is in the Curicó Valley.  We’ll taste a surprise — Viña Echeverria Moscato Frizzante 2015, with typical orange blossom and nectarine aromas and a flavor explosion of fruit.  Try this as an aperitif, pair with slightly sweet or spicy foods, or partner with fruit-based desserts.

This is just a hint of what Chile has to offer, and we didn’t even try her signature grape, Carmenère!

–M.P. Rouse

5 Ways to Beat the Heat

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, July 14, 2016…

It’s been a hot couple of months; rainless but humid.  For sure, it affects what we wear, do, eat, and drink. We keep it light—light clothes, light activity, light food, and drink lots of water.  Summer’s fresh fruits and vegetables are appearing in family gardens, farmers markets, and CSAs.  Here are some of Red Feet’s suggestions to beat the heat and partner with light, fresh fare.

We’ll taste three whites.  Northeast Portugal produces Vinho Verde, a low-alcohol, almost-sparkling, citrusy white wine.  Vidigal Vinho Verde 2015 is a refreshingly minerally, limey example of the genre, made from three local grape varieties.  It’s a fine aperitif or partner for seafood and salad, and even better than a cold beer after hours in the garden or mowing the lawn!  Forstreiter Grüner Veltliner Kremser Kogl 2015 showcases Austria’s signature white grape.  Made by the “Pope of Grüner,” Meinhard Forstreiter, it offers gooseberry, crisp, clean green apple, and herb notes with tangy acidity.  Pair with light pasta and homemade pesto, rice salads, or lightly crusted chicken cutlets.  From New Zealand  the Glazebrook Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is loaded with tropical fruit, white peach, and lime along with light dried herb and anise notes.  This is a wake-up-your-taste-buds kind of wine to pair with veggies, herbed goat cheese, tarragon chicken, or Asian flavors.  Go for zingy!

Another category on the “beat the heat” radar is rosé, and Red Feet has many versions (including a three-liter box!).  Today we’ll sample a wine from the southern Rhône area, Château La Sable Luberon Rosé 2015.  This is a bit heartier than many Provençal rosés.  The red fruits of Grenache dominate, but hints of blood orange, minerality, fennel, and other savory notes are part of the story as well.  This is a good partner for tuna or salmon (perhaps with fruit salsa on the side), charcuterie, or quiche and brunchy items.

Our final heat-beater involves the use of soda water, ice, and a lemon or grapefruit peel.  Cocchi Rosa, an Americano (bitter fortified wine) from the Cocchi family in the Piedmont, is made primarily from the Brachetto grape.  It’s more aromatic and spicy than its white counterpart, adding rose and ginger to the traditional bitter base to produce a rounder profile.  Mix two parts Rosa and one part seltzer and pair with Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard, salty cheeses. Sure, fans and air conditioners will help you beat the heat, but today’s approach is definitely more fun!

–M.P. Rouse

Tour de France

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, July 7, 2016…

This year marks the 103rd running of the world’s most prestigious bicycle road race, the Tour de France.  The race began in Normandy on July 2 and ends in Paris on July 24, covering 3519 km in 21 stages and hitting four countries.  Twenty-two teams from 13 countries will compete for 2,295,850€ in prize money.  Today’s flat 190.5-km stage runs SW through central France.

Red Feet’s Tour de France has, as usual, five stages, one for each wine.  Our first stage, from the Loire (or rather, the Loir), is a sprinter, bright, crisp, and as complex as the race itself. Pascal Janvier Jasnières 2015 is a dry Chenin Blanc from an obscure appellation made by a former butcher and his wife who farm some 66 small parcels of vines.  Savor its aromas and flavors—flowers, stones, tree fruit—and plan a visit to the fish truck tomorrow.  It’s on to Burgundy for the next leg.  We’ll stop in the southern part of the region for a sip of Domaine des Valanges Saint-Veran 2015, a dry, elegant Chardonnay.  It offers peach and pear, with touches of almond, mineral, white flower, and honey.  It’s crisp and bright rather than buttery and toasty, a good counterpoint to the summer heat that won’t overwhelm vegetarian fare or cold soups.

We’ll move east again, to Savoie, equidistant from Italy and Switzerland.  This is primarily a white-wine-producing area.  We’ll buck those trends and sample a red made from the indigenous Mondeuse grape.  Jean Perrier et Fils Mondeuse Cuvée Gastronomie 2015 is a classic Savoyard red, light to medium bodied but full flavoredthink wild berries, blueberries, spiced red cherry, and white pepper.  Pair with sharp cheese and charcuterie, roast chicken, or stuffed eggplant.  Back west again, this time with a stop in Bordeaux to sample Vignobles Ballarin Château Roc de Levraut Bordeaux Supérieur 2014.  What makes it “superior” relative to regular Bordeaux?  In practice, the wines are generally made from small parcels of older vines; by law, vine density must be greater (so yields are about 10% lower), minimum alcohol must be higher, and ageing at least a year is required.  Although young and inexpensive, this is a charmer!  Our final wine is a climber, powerful and enduring.  The southern Rhône provides the sustainably grown grapes that go into elicio Grenache & Merlot 2014.  This wine is honest and balanced, with aromas and flavors of ripe red and black fruits, sweet spiciness, and a lifted, pleasant freshness.  Serve it a bit cool with everyday meals or drink it on its own.

–M.P. Rouse