By Rick Riozza
Happy Christmas Season to all you wine folks out there! At this time, there is so much wine on sale everywhere—and all the advertisements seem to direct you to the wines that should be your favorite. Have at it! Have fun! Cheers!—to you all!
As you’d expect from this column, we stray from the usual, so to highlight some wines that may not have been on your radar. These are interesting, tasty & celebratory, and would definitely be a unique and sexy choice for a holiday gift and/or to show up at the dinner table for a nice, pleasant surprise.
Below are surely some sexy choices to keep in mind for the holiday wine yearnings:
Around four years ago, I came upon the Argentinian Mascota Vineyard wines with their Unánime brand. At that time, there was simply the red blend wine, which I offered, “This wine has the California palate written all over it! A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Franc, it’s loaded with gobs of intense black fruits, such as blackberries, plums and cassis, intermixed with chocolate and tobacco.
“When I first tasted this wine, it figuratively knocked me off my chair with all of its up-front generous fruit! It’s a wine Robert Parker and Michele Rolland would dance to—night and day. My French and Italian vino friends are painting murals with this wine, i.e., it’s a bit thick for the Euro-types. But I stayed with it: I found some hefty and desirable tannins to balance out the fruit as well as supple acidity for food pairings. Fortuitously, the bottle had been opened well over five hours and it was coming along great. If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the wine!”
That was all good, fun & fine—but let’s cut to the present: Unánime continues to be a brand that is full and generous, and now, the wines are fully balanced with elegance and complexities that over-achieve! Unánime’s three wines below are perfect for these upcoming holidays.
To start the bubbly celebrations, the brand produces a wonderful creamy sparkler, Unánime 2020 Sparkling Traditional Method Brut ($20), that is produced from both Chardonnay and Malbec grapes. That’s right! We’ve got a full-bodied sparkling wine with a specialty of Malbec. Of course it’s a white bubbly that broods with intense aromas of buttercream and honey and a palate of fresh fruit that can act an aperitif and work as well as an accompaniment to dessert. There’s an elegant fresh finish that shows its quality production.
The 2020 Unánime Chardonnay ($24) is the Chardonnay to serve to everyone for the holidays. This includes those who love the stuff, and, those who love wine but do not consider themselves to be Chardonnay lovers. This wine exhibits enticing aromas of tropical fruit alongside fresh squeezed lemons and limes with accompanying mineral notes. A Chardonnay for all types. Great balance between citrus and ripe stone fruit that lovingly melds between brioche, vanilla, and spice. And such a creamy finish! For one who is not a big Chard lover—I’m recommending it! Are we talking wine-glazed chicken here!
Finally, we get to one of the best red wines to come out of Argentina in a while: Unánime Gran Vino Tinto ($25). The red wine still blends the Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec and Cabernet Franc ( which I mentioned four years ago) from stony Uco Valley soils, this time creating a complex, structured, rich wine with inviting aromas of blackberry and blueberry, toasted cedar, pipe tobacco, vanilla, and woody herbs. No question here, with these aromas showing—we’re in for a delicious time tasting and enjoying wine!
So the Gran Vino Tinto palate continues with black fruits that include plums, figs, and berries, along with notes of dark chocolate, black pepper, cinnamon & nutmeg that are cradled with crushed stone to add dust and earth to off-the-chart complexities. The perfect wine for grilled or roasted beef, pork or lamb; and put together some aged parmesan or gouda while you’re at it. Delish!
Okay—as you’d expect, from Argentina—we are off to Italy. And who doesn’t wish to have on their holiday table a couple of sexy Italian wines as great food pairing with meats and cheeses, as well as good gifts to impress friends and family. Buon Natale!
The Italian region of Irpinia in Campania was one of the country’s top wine-growing areas back in the day, and, is now back on the rise. Next year, we’ll be spending some interesting time with the Italian Donnachiara Montefacione wine company. At this moment we’ll just mention a couple of wines for the season. A delicious white and a classic red:
Donnachiara Greco di Tufo DOCG ($20) is produced in the volcanic region of Avellino. The name of this wine comes from one of the towns in which it is produced, but also from the rocks that populate the area: tuff. The soil where the grapes are grown lends this wine its unique perfume and mineral complexity. The bouquet offers fruity notes of pear, apricot, pineapple, and citrus. Its refreshingly crisp with notes of lemons, pears, toasted almonds, and a lingering mineral finish. It’s smooth, elegant, and structured, with good freshness; perfect with all seafood, pasta with light sauces, white meats and herb cheeses.
Donnachiara Taurasi DOCG ($38) is one of the most notable reds of the region, made from the Aglianico grape and cultivated in high-altitude limestone and volcanic soils. As I’ll write on later, this grape produces one of my favorite wines of all time. It’s full bodied and full of black fruit flavors. An intense bouquet of blackberry, plum, cherry with cacao and coffee notes alerts the quaffer they are in for the long generous haul of fabulous feel, taste and quality. Saluti!!