February Wine Picks

Posted on February 1, 2010 – 6:16 PM | by OldManFoster
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KisiVinoterra Winery, “Kisi”
Kakhetian Dry White 2006
Corti Brothers $24.99

A few years ago I got very excited about white wines made in northeastern Italy and western Slovenia by using old-school clay vessels called amphorae for fermentation and cellaring.  The oxidized and non-filtered wines, which undergo extended skin contact, look and taste like ancient cloudy golden nectar.  Gravner, Radikon, and Movia are labels to look for if you don’t mind their high price tags. My husband bought me a bottle of wine as a present recently, and he unearthed (with Darrell Corti’s help) Vinoterra’s Kisi — a Georgian wine made in this style, but sold at a quarter of the price. In fact, Josko Gravner was reportedly inspired to make his own amphora wine after a pilgrimage to Vinoterra. Working in the eastern region of Kakheti, winemaker George Dakishvili makes all his wines from native grapes, in this case a rare white grape called Kisi. The wine spends 6 months fermenting with the skins — a technique rarely used in white wine production — inside of amphorae buried in the ground.  The fermenting wine is stirred frequently with a wooden paddle to increase the level of extraction from the skins and lees, and thus increase the complexity in the wine. The wine is then transferred to oak casks where it matures for 12 months. The result is a golden, nutty, tangy, appley, spice-rich wine that is dry and well-balanced with plenty of acidity, body and flavor.  If your valentine has wine geek tendencies they’ll adore you for giving them this bottle as a present.

MezzoDomaine Sigalas
Santorini Mandelaria “Mezzo”
Corti Brothers $19.99

The grape bunches hanging in the village of Oia on the Greek island of Santorini have a view of the Aegean Sea most tourists would kill for. The gorgeous climate is fairly hostile to grapevines however.  It is hot, humid, extremely windy, and literally doesn’t rain during the growing season. The only moisture available to the vine is found deep underground or collected from the morning fog. But grapevines benefit from stressful growing conditions and unpampered vines result in more interesting wines. Santorini’s soil is so sandy that Phylloxera (a worldwide pest to grapevines) can’t survive in it, so unlike most of the world’s vineyards, these grapevines are planted on their own rootstock. The vines lay directly on top of the sand, protected from the wind only by a little basket made of dried grape vines called ampelies. But like most other sandy vineyard areas (Colares in Portugal for instance), the wine industry is threatened by the more profitable beach tourism. I was thrilled when my husband bought me a bottle of this esoteric wine by Domaine Sigalas. The “mezzo” is a sweet wine made from a red grape called Mandelaria. Mezzo is the name of the style and although sweet, it is only half as sweet as its sister dessert wine called Vinsanto. The wine is sweet because the grapes are raisined in the sun, but the sweetness is moderated by perky tannins and zesty acidity.  It smells of honey, raisins and cocoa and it’d be good match with strong old cheese and dried fruit and nuts. Or chocolate if you must.

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