2014 Lantieri Malvasia delle Lipari Secco, Sicily, Italy
This month’s wine comes from the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago in northern Sicily. The photos alone are enough to make us want to flee for the nearest airport, but for your sake (these notes would be replaced by pictures of us chillin’ in volcanic mud baths) we will refrain for now.
It’s no surprise that we love volcano wine and will talk your ear off about it given the opportunity, so this especially rare selection was irresistible. The grapes come from the island of Vulcano, one of 8 tiny islands that make up the Aeolian archipelago perched off the northeastern coast of Sicily. This island by the way is only 8 square miles total…how there is even enough wine for the thirsty island dwellers, let alone enough to send all the way to California is beyond me, but I digress.
Wines from volcanic terroirs have often been described as salty, noticeably aromatic and surprisingly age worthy. There are different ideas about why this may be, but I’ll spare you the details for now…all you need to know to enjoy this wine is that the black, loose and almost sandy soils found on Vulcano, produce a Malvasia that is rich with vibrant acidity and exuberant aromatics.
So let’s chat a bit about Malvasia. The grape is used widely to describe a complex web of varieties that are typically ancient, most likely of Greek origin. The name itself is a corruption of the Greek “Monemvasia,” the name of a bustling medieval port famous for the distribution of sweet wines of the Mediterranean. Today, Malvasia is grown all around the globe and is responsible for many iconic dry and sweet wines.
I mentioned earlier that this wine is an anomaly...that's because it's dry. Most of the wines from Vulcano are intensely aromatic and sweet, made from dried grapes that have been withered in the sun. The recipe hasn’t changed much since the 600s, so they must be doing something right, but sometimes the golden nectar of the gods is a little intense, and one just wants some light refreshing white wine, so at Lantieri, they make about 500 cases of dry wine as well.
In the glass, the color of the wine coincidently matches the sunshine yellow of the label, which doesn’t always influence the taste, but in this case it helps. The heady aromatics change from savory to floral to citrus oil-y with each swirl of the glass. This wine is for dreaming about island vacations and warm patios. If you’re feeling ambitious enough to leave your deck chair, sip this alongside grilled fish with a squeeze of lemon and some buttery olives.
2014 Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France (biodynamic)
Cotes-du-Rhone...a gateway wine for those looking to try something other than their usual "Pinots and Cabs". Cotes-du-Rhone is an appellation in Southern France that stretches 125mi from Vienne in the north, to Avignon in the south, and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the west to the fore-slopes of the Vaucluse and Luberon mountains east of the town of Orange. Juicy blends of several different varietals are very common (mainly Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre), but the appellation is quite large, so quality can be variable. No doubt, you've played the grocery store gamble and ended up with something surprisingly decent for the price tag, but for you loyal soifeurs, we bring you arguably one of the best examples we've tasted. This Cotes-du-Rhone is on a different level. Here's why...
Le Clos du Caillou is located in Courthézon, on the eastern border of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The estate was purchased in the late 1800s to be used primarily as a hunting reserve (though the original owner did have the good sense to build a cellar for winemaking, which is still in use today). All was well and good in the forest until 1923, when boundaries were being drawn up for the prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The soil experts wanted to include the property in the newly formed appellation, but when they arrived to survey the land they were promptly met with a shotgun and a shouted warning to stay off the reserve. They listened, so the property became (and has stayed) an island surrounded by Chateauneuf-du-Pape vines.
The 2014 vintage is made from 85% 65 year old Grenache, 10% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre grown on the same stony soils that are found throughout Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The stones serve both as a protective layer to retain moisture during dry summer months as well as heat retainers during cooler nights.
The wine has ample fruit and richness without feeling lazy or overripe. The Grenache provides the wine with pretty raspberry and red plum flavors while the Syrah and Mourvedre round out the structure. Typical Rhone scents such as lavender, incense and black truffle are to be found in this wine as well. We are pairing this with a grilled pork chop with cheesy grits, braised chard and pickled blackberries.