Three wines from France highlight our recommendations this week: a lively Côtes du Rhône red, an enticingly aromatic burgundy, and a weighty sauvignon blanc-chardonnay blend from the Loire Valley. Tuscany brings us a red blend that includes two indigenous but rare grape varieties to cross off your spit-bucket list. And Australia chimes in with a classic brassy Barossa shiraz.
Domaine A. Berthet Rayne Côtes du Rhône 2020
Rhône Valley, France, $18
We’re seeing more of this style of wine, and thank goodness: Excellent quality fruit, well-tended in the vineyard and minimally processed in the winery with little oak influence, and released less than a year after the vintage. Simple, straightforward and delicious. This CdR still packs a punch — exuberant up-front fruit, with cherry and berry flavors, some wild herbs characteristic of the Rhône, and soft, ripe tannins to carry it home. Savor this now or in the next few years with hearty roasts or grilled meats. Organic. Alcohol by volume: 14.3 percent. Bottle weight: 560 grams (Average).
Imported and distributed by Elite Wines: Available in the District at the Bottle House, the Bottle Shop, Burka’s Wine & Liquor, D’Vines, Daily 14, Gallagher & Graham Fine Spirits, Hayden’s Liquor, Hop, Cask & Barrel, Jefferson Liquor, Metro Wine & Spirits, Modern Liquors, New H Wine & Spirits, Old City Market and Oven, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Sohal Wine & Spirit, State Liquors, Uptown Market, Wine & Butter, Yes Organic Market (14th Street, Cleveland Park). Available in Maryland at 818 Market in Catonsville; Allview Liquors in Ellicott City; Annebeth’s, Mills Fine Wine and Spirits in Annapolis; Balducci’s, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda; Bo Brooks Lighthouse Liquors, Cheese Galore and More, Fleet Street Spirits, Wine Source in Baltimore; Cheers & Spirits, Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold; Dawson’s Market in Rockville; Frederick Wine House, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; Howard Wine & Spirits in Elkridge; Kenilworth Wine & Spirits in Towson; Kings Contrivance Liquor Shop in Columbia; Knowles Station Wine & Co. in Kensington; Longmeadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown; Magothy Wine & Spirits in Severna Park; New Market Beer & Wine in New Market; Red: Wine, Beer & Spirits in Clarksville; Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse in Forest Hill; Shawan Liquors in Hunt Valley; Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring; Takoma Beverage Co. in Takoma Park. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese, Trade Roots, Westover Market, Whino in Arlington; Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean); Branch & Vine, J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese, Libbie Market, Lombardy Market, Once Upon a Vine, Oxford Cellars in Richmond; Cafe Frank in Charlottesville; Classic Wines in Great Falls; Department of Beer and Wine, Planet Wine & Gourmet, Streets Market in Alexandria; Front Royal Wines in Front Royal; Mermaid Winery in Norfolk; Retro’s Good Eats in Williamsburg; Sisters Thai (Alexandria, Fairfax); Yiannis Wine Shop in Virginia Beach.
Podere il Castellaccio Valénte 2018
Tuscany, Italy, $18
This wine is labeled “Vitigni autoctoni,” meaning it is made with grapes indigenous to the region. The blend is 70 percent sangiovese, the red grape we associate most with Tuscany, with the rest pugnitello and foglia tonda. Try saying those three times, or even typing them once with autocorrect. According to “Wine Grapes,” the authoritative tome by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz, the unimaginatively named foglia tonda — “round leaf” — is a genetic offspring of sangiovese, usually used to blend with its parent to add color. The grape was nearly extinct in the 1980s and is having a bit of a revival. Pugnitello, or “small fist” for its small, tight clusters, was also identified and revived in the 1980s, and is valued for its deep color and rich tannins. The blend in the Valénte achieves all these characteristics: Deeper ruby than many sangioveses, aromatic and well-structured. Give this wine an hour or two to decide it likes you — your patience will be rewarded. ABV: 13.5 percent. BW: 550 grams (Average).
Imported and distributed by Simon N Cellars: Available in the District at A. Litteri. Available in Virginia at Basic Necessities in Nellysford; the Italian Store (Lyon Village, Westover) in Arlington; Knead Wine in Middleburg; Tastings of Charlottesville, Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville; the Wine Outlet (McLean, Vienna).
Domaine Sauger Cheverny 2019
Loire Valley, France, $20
While the Loire Valley is famous for its sauvignon blanc, in the small appellation of Cheverny, white wines typically include chardonnay in the blend. Domaine Sauger’s white is 80 percent sauvignon blanc, 20 percent chardonnay. The chardonnay softens the acidity and mineral character of the sauvignon blanc and provides a bit of heft that makes the wine quite appropriate for colder weather. ABV: 13.5 percent. Bottle Weight: 550 grams (Average).
Imported by AP Wine Imports, distributed by Salveto: Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean); Bottleworks, Puck’s Market in Richmond; Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean; Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church; Knead Wine in Middleburg; Pazzo Pomodoro in Ashburn; Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria; the Wine Outlet (Great Falls, McLean, Vienna).
Antonin Rodet Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2019
Burgundy, France, $24
A good “basic burgundy,” labeled with just the Bourgogne appellation, can be an excellent introduction to the heartland of pinot noir. It can also be like playing a lottery — prices vary widely by producer (I’ve seen some in the $40s), as does quality. Antonin Rodet is an old-style negociant house, meaning it typically buys wines from various producers to market under its own name. The 2019 Bourgogne shows burgundy characteristics of dark fruit, forest-floor (think autumn leaves and brush) and mushroom, with some floral aromas to give it extra lift. ABV: 13 percent. BW: 550 grams (Average).
Imported and distributed by Baron Francois: Available in the District at Eye Street Cellars, Gold Ole Reliable Liquors, Imperial Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s, S&S Liquor, U Street Wine & Beer; Wardman Wines.
Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz 2019
Barossa, Australia, $26
Spicy and juicy, big and bold, Thorn-Clarke has been slinging fine shiraz for years. The 2019 Shotfire is everything you expect from Barossa — abundant red and dark fruit flavors seasoned with baking spice and smooth tannins on the finish. There’s also abundant alcohol, but the wine manages to pull it off without tasting hot. ABV: 15.5 percent. BW: 520 grams (Average).
Imported and distributed by Kysela: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Magruder’s, Rodman’s, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Watergate Vintners & Spirits, Whole Foods Market (H Street, P Street). Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis; Balducci’s, Beer, Wine & Co., Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda; Beers & Cheers Too, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg; Bethesda Co-Op, Captains Market in Cabin John; the Bottle Shop in Potomac; California Wine & Spirits in California; Columbia Fine Wine & Spirits in Columbia; Eddie’s Liquors, the Old Vine, Pinehurst Wine Shoppe, Roland Park Wines & Liquors, Wells Discount Liquors, Wine Source in Baltimore; Franklin Liquors in Ijamsville; Goska’s Liquors in Severna Park; Hilltop Convenience & Liquor in New Market; Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor & Beer in Cockeysville; Locavino, Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring; Lyndwood Square Wine and Spirits in Elkridge; Maple Lawn Wine & Spirits in Fulton; McHenry Beverage Shoppe in McHenry; Mt. Airy Liquors in Mt. Airy; Nick’s of Calvert in Prince Frederick; Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; River Hill Wine & Spirits in Clarksville; Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington; Town Center Market in Riverdale Park; Village Beer & Fine Wine in Rockville; Wine Bin in Ellicott City; Wine Loft in Pikesville; Wine Merchant in Lutherville. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese, Pentagon City Wine Merchants in Arlington; Balducci’s, Whole Foods Market in Alexandria; Basic Necessities in Nellysford; the Caboose Wine & Cheese in Ashland; Classic Wines in Great Falls; Costco (Fairfax, Pentagon City, Sterling); Earlybird’s Bottle Shop in Poquoson; Foods of All Nations, Rio Hill Wine & Beer in Charlottesville; J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese, Oxford Cellars in Richmond; Kroger (various locations); Mom’s Apple Pie in Round Hill; Specials Wine Seller in Kilmarnock; Wegmans (various locations); Wine Mill in Winchester; Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes in Woodstock.
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 wine-searcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
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