Exceptional Excellent Very Good
This week’s greatest value is a racy albariño from Spain that packs a lot of fruit flavors into a vibrant white wine. We also have two delicious South African reds that display the fruity and savory sides of the pinotage grape. And for your Christmas cookie indulgence, here are two sparkling wines — a top-notch champagne with just a touch of sweetness and a moscato d’Asti that will brighten any dessert.
Nessa Albariño 2018
Rias Baixas, Spain, $17
Racy with aromas and flavors of kumquat and lime, this lovely, crisp white wine from Galicia in northwestern Spain is ideal for lighter seafood dishes. Alcohol by volume: 13.5 percent.
Imported by Grapes of Spain, distributed by Elite: Available in the District at 1 West Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, A-1 Wines & Liquors, Angel’s Share Wines & Liquors, Cairo Wine & Liquor, Chinatown Liquor, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Metro Supermarket, Modern Liquors, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Uptown Market, Virginia Market, Wagshal’s Deli, Whole Foods Market (Foggy Bottom, H Street NE, H Street SE). Available in Maryland at Annebeth’s, Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits, Giolitti Delicatessen and Wine Cellars of Annapolis in Annapolis, Balducci’s, Bradley Food & Beverage, Butchers Alley and Cork 57 Beer and Wine in Bethesda, the Bottle Shop in Potomac, Captain Kidd’s Liquors and SoCo Fine Wine & Spirits in Deale, Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Rodman’s (White Flint), Village Beer & Fine Wine in Rockville. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese and Westover Market in Arlington, Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean, Reston), Classic Wines in Great Falls, Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church, J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Norm’s Beer & Wine in Vienna, Wine Cabinet in Reston, Whole Foods Market (Arlington, Charlottesville, Fair Lakes, Reston, Richmond, Pentagon City).
Kaapzicht Pinotage 2016
Stellenbosch, South Africa, $27
Pinotage is South Africa’s equivalent of California’s zinfandel — a grape so identified with a particular region that it is almost an exclusive. I’ve seen a few pinotage wines from Virginia and at least one from California, but South Africa has the most by far. Kaapzicht makes a lovely, bright version with berry fruit and a good frame of tannin to sustain the long finish. ABV: 14 percent.
Imported by Red Wolf Imports, distributed in the District and Maryland by Global, in Virginia by LK Wine Tours & Sales: Available in the District at Georgetown Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Rodman’s, Wardman Wines, Wine & Butter. Available in Maryland at Cork 57 Beer and Wine in Bethesda, Finewine.com and Pinky & Pepe’s Grape Escape in Gaithersburg, On the Vine Craft Beer & Wine in Rockville, Rodman’s (White Flint), UpCounty Fine Wine & Beer in Clarksburg, the Urban Winery in Silver Spring. Available in Virginia at Aldie Peddler in Aldie, Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery and Murphy Beverage in Winchester, Mt. Airy Farm Market in Boyce, Rio Hill Wine & Beer in Charlottesville.
Lievland Vineyards Bushvine Pinotage 2017
Paarl, South Africa, $23
Here’s a more savory expression of pinotage, from old vines. There is dark fruit here, but the lasting impression is a comforting earthiness, with hints of wild mushrooms and forest air. Some wines display liveliness and energy. This wine’s stillness suggests power waiting to be unleashed. ABV: 13.5 percent
Imported by Vineyard Brands, distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Dulaney Wine & Spirits in Towson, Wine Underground in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Reston), Branch & Vine in Richmond, Kroger (Henrico, North Chesterfield), Locke Store in Millwood, Market Street Wineshop in Charlottesville, Unwined (Belleview), Vienna Vintner, the Wine Outlet (Great Falls).
Heidsieck & Co. Monopole "Gout Americain" Extra Dry
Champagne, France, $40
There are (at least) three distinct Heidsiecks in Champagne: Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and Heidsieck & Co. Monopole. More than a century ago, Heidsieck Monopole, as the company is commonly called, developed an off-dry cuvee of champagne called “Gout Americain,” even then reflecting the American sweet tooth. Confusingly, the label says it was developed for the Russian czar and his court. (I suspect there’s a good story there, but the company website lacks an explanation.) The blend became popular with passenger liners as a festive tipple during Atlantic crossings. Well, we all know what happened to the Russian czar and luxury shipping liners; so too with Gout Americain. Recently, the company resurrected the blend, complete with a lovely throwback label. Don’t be put off by the “Extra Dry” designation. The wine lacks the razor’s edge of a bone-dry Brut Nature, but it is not noticeably sweet. It is juicy, with berry flavors and a soft embrace for your palate. Enjoy it by itself, or as an end-of-meal toast with soft, creamy cheeses or a fruit-based dessert. ABV: 12.5 percent
Imported by Vranken-Pommery, distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Eye Street Cellars, Modern Liquors, Rodman’s, Wine Specialist. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John, the Bottle Shop in Potomac, Bradley Food & Beverage and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Choice Beer & Wine in Wheaton, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Frederick Wine House, Old Farm Liquors and Viniferous in Frederick, Longmeadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington. Available in Virginia at Specials Wine Seller in Kilmarnock.
Ca' d'Gal Moscato d'Asti "Sant'Ilario" 2017
Moscato d’Asti is not the cheap, sweet, fizzy moscato that was all the rage a few years ago. This style of wine has been around for a long time. While it is sweet and fizzy, the low alcohol helps make it versatile with food — especially brunch and desserts. Christmas cookies, anyone? The Sant’Ilario from Ca’ d’Gal takes moscato toward the serious end of the scale, adding depth and complexity. Its bright berry flavors will still bring a smile to your face. The same producer makes a moscato called “Lumine” that costs $20 and is a bit more expressively fruity. ABV: 5 percent.
Imported and distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at A. Litteri, Ace Beverage, Wardman Wines. Available in Virginia at Brut Champagne and Wine Bar and Grape + Bean in Alexandria, Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church, Williamsburg Pottery in Williamsburg, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview), Vino Market in Midlothian.
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.