We often praise the innovative, experimental approach taken by New World winemakers of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, but there is still much we can learn from the traditional winemakers of Europe. If they sometimes seem set in their ways, they’ve had centuries of experimentation to get where they are today.
A drinker with a little curiosity could spend years exploring this widely-spread winegrowing appellation. And other “rediscovered” areas such as Sicily and Greece can also amuse us with varieties that weren’t in most drinkers wine vocabularies a dozen years ago.
Here are 15 such samplings from four European countries and several appellations..
Gil Family Atalaya “Laya” Almanse red wine 2014, $9
Two-thirds garnacha, but the one-third monastrell shows through with its exotic, mulberry flavors blended with creamy cherries and dried herbs.
Alessandro di Camporeale “DonnaTa” Sicilia nero d’avola” 2012, $11
Tart but rounded flavors of cherries and blackberries with dry, savory herbs on the edges.
M. Chapoutier “Belleruche” Côtes du Rhone 2013, $12
Grenache-dominated, but with generous syrah, the wine if fruitier — black raspberry — than most Côtes, but with good closing acidity.
Alessandro di Camporeale “Kaid” Sicilia syrah 2011, $14
Complex, with gamey notes to go with a raspberry creaminess in the middle and savory tastes (moss and mushrooms), and pleasant bitters at the end. A sip-and-ponder wine.
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhone 2011, $15
More typical of a Côtes, with some gaminess, nice texture and closing herbal notes to go with the red fruits.
Chateau Viella “Tradition” Madiran 2012 , $15
A cabernet-tannat blend with tart but well-defined fruit — cherries and huckleberries — with considerable astringency.
Le Roc “La Folle Noir d’Ambat” Fronton negrette 2012, $17
As is the case here, negrette can has an edginess that reminds one of a red grape version of a tart Marlborough sauvignon blanc — lean, lots of acidity, crisp strawberries with some gamy, mushroom notes.
Domaine du Cros “Lo Sang del Pais” Marcillac 2014 , $17
A very edgy wine made from the indigenous fer servadou grape with sharp red fruit notes and herbal aromas. It would pair best with a beefy risotto or gamy cheese.
L’Enclos des Braves Gaillac rouge 2012, $20
An enjoyable, fairly complex fer servadou with some rustic edges — warm blueberry and blackberry flavors with notes of a chocolate brownie and lots of savory herbal hits.
Cepa 21 Ribera del Duero tempranillio 2011, $23
Tight and crisp, but with fresh fruit flavors of black cherries and cassis.
Ruffino “Modus” Toscana IGT 2012, $26
The wine is big on the palate without being too lush or fruit-forward. Dark cherry flavors are the predominant fruit with smooth, walnut tannins.
Couly-Dutheil “Clos de l’Echo” Chinon 2011, $30
A little weedy, not unusual for a cab franc, with tightly wound, somewhat extracted dark raspberry flavors. While enjoyable, it seems like the producer might have been trying a little too hard for heft and intensity.
La Emperatriz Rioja garnacha cepas viejas 2012, $35
Good balance, with touches of black raspberries blended into creamy oak in a medium body.
Paraproussis Nemea red blend reserve 2010, $43
Pleasant, tart, red-fruit flavors with some chalkiness — enjoyable, though not very complex.
Avignonesi “Desidero” Cortona merlot 2011, $61
Enjoyable, although on the fruity/lightly sweet side of the equation. Surprisingly for this producer, it seems a bit awkward and not completely knit together.