Exceptional Excellent Very Good
Austria’s grüner veltliner grape makes delicious wines at all prices, as this week’s two examples demonstrate. We have a one-liter charmer that offers great value and a single-vineyard cuvee that shows what the grape can accomplish at the high end. To round out the selections, we have a lively red from Greece, an intriguing cabernet franc from the Loire Valley and, from Chile, one of the best boxed wines I’ve tasted in a long time.
Kamptal, Austria, $43
This wine somehow achieves the weight and expressiveness of a white burgundy, without the oak. All the white flowers and peppery spice that characterize grüner are here, in layers. Age has softened the acidity a bit, giving the wine extra richness. This and two other wines from Leindl, a Kamptal Reserve grüner veltliner and a Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling, are new to the market; their availability should improve. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.
Distributed by Kysela: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits. Available in Virginia at Tastings of Charlottesville. Other Leindl wines are available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, in Maryland at Wine Source in Baltimore, and in Virginia at Classic Wines in Great Falls, Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond and Locke Store in Millwood.
Naoussa, Greece, $28
The best word to describe this red from the Greek grape xinomavro is “energetic.” It seemed to dance on my palate, more like Muhammad Ali than like Mikhail Baryshnikov, coming at me from different angles and defying me to pin it down. Is it light-bodied or an oaky heavyweight? Is it fruit-forward or complex? A butterfly or a bee? Yes to all. Most of all, it’s delicious. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Dionysus: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Mediterranean Way Gourmet Market, Rodman’s; on the list at Kellari, Mourayo. Available in Maryland at Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda; on the list at Ouzo Bay in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Cheesetique (Alexandria), Crystal City Wine Shop, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Vienna Vintner, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview); on the list at Nostos in Vienna, Parallel Bistro in Broadlands.
Anjou, Loire Valley, France, $19
Reds from Anjou, a relatively cold area, can be anemic. This one, while light in body, offers textbook flavors of cabernet franc: black cherry, white pepper, a hint of tobacco leaf. Chill it slightly and drink it with just about anything. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Old Farm Liquors and Viniferous in Frederick, Shawan Liquors in Cockeysville. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean.
Austria, $14 (1 liter)
Here’s textbook grüner, with white flowers, talc and a peppery spice note. Warning: This is light and can go down like water. Good thing the liter size gives us the equivalent of one-third of a bottle more. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at Hayden’s Liquor, Modern Liquors, Rodman’s, U Mini Mart; on the list at Circa (Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom), Beau Thai. Available in Maryland at Belby Discount Beer & Wine in Rockville. On the list in Virginia at Circa in Clarendon.
Colchagua Valley, Chile, $30 (3 liters)
In trade lingo, this wine is a “bib,” meaning bag-in-box. In recent years we’ve been seeing better wines packaged in boxes, though market acceptance hasn’t really followed. This carmenere from Chile may be the best wine I’ve tasted yet out of a box. It’s savory, peppery, mouth-filling and perfectly balanced. At the equivalent of $7.50 for a regular bottle, it’s a steal. There is also a cabernet sauvignon that is more widely available, which I did not taste, and a sauvignon blanc, which I was less thrilled with. Restaurants, take note: All three are available in kegs. ABV: 14 percent.
Distributed by Tap 26: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Cork & Fork, MacArthur Beverages, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill. Available in Virginia at Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at Junction Bakery & Bistro in Alexandria.
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.