Naoussa Grande Reserve Alert

The Naoussa region in Macedonia, apart from its picturesque landscape of
rolling hills overlooking the central plain, now also carries an official wine zone
designation VQPRD – the acronym suggests the highest standard for quality of
Greek wines which have a distinct, geographic origin. Due in part to the efforts
of the dynamic Boutari vineyard group, this EU-mandated classification is at the
heart of Greece’s gradual reemergence as a significant wine making source,
with the varietal, Naoussa being the current, best-selling premium red wine from
Greece worldwide. This storied vintner, established in 1879, also has the highly
enviable reputation (and burden) of being elected as one of several ‘Winery of
the year’ by Wine and Spirit magazine for a remarkable, ongoing 16yr. streak!

Here in Northern Greece, this holding is part of the six wine appellations that
Boutari works within, 
including the region’s namesake: Naoussa. These historic
vineyards are located on the sunny, south-east facing slopes of the foothills
surrounding Mount Vermio, where the calcium-rich soils composed of clay and
loam provides the ideal conditions for the Xinomavro grape. Having originated
and thrived here for countless centuries, the vines have frequently fallen in and
out of commercial favour. Often compared to Italy’s Nebbiolo grape used for the
making of Barolo wine, this variety is again demonstrating its ability to produce
big-bodied red wines with the potential to age well and develop added complexity.
Having spent 2 years in oak barrels and another 2 in bottle, this has sufficient
body to hold up for another, impressive stretch of 12-15yrs.

There was a release of the still very young 2008 vintage in August of 2013 at
the give-away price-point of $12.95! It was an excellent example of a promising
bottling which could be had for a song, that then after 2-5yrs. of cellaring would
become a rewarding, smooth and rounded collector’s item. Offered here now is
the Grande Reserve version from 2007, standing as testament to how well this
wine develops with time, though of course somewhat more expensive since the
vintner has put an extra investment into this bottling. Nonetheless, it’s still great
value which should encourage you to buy 3 – one to enjoy now, the other 2 put
away to grace a sumptuous meal later on this winter or several ones after that.

Boutari Grande Reserve

BOUTARI GRANDE RESERVE 2007
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #140111 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Naoussa, Greece
By: Jean Boutari & Fils S.A.
Release Date: Jan 18, 2014

Tasting Note
With flavours of vanilla, cocoa, red berry and cherries, it’s both tart and earthy
which is fairly typical of nutty Naoussa style wines. Try serving with grilled meats,
heavier casseroles, porcini risotto and hard cheeses.

Grüner Veltliner Alert

Grown primarily in Austria but also widely in the neighbouring Czech Republic,
Grüner Veltliner is a white grape variety that hasn’t yet taken hold anywhere
else. A fairly hardy vine, it’s current success is tied to the rocky soils found on
the slopes of the ancient volcanic calderas in these regions. Mostly intended to
be consumed young (a staple in the so-called “Heuriger” wine bars of Vienna),
it’s also known as being particularly food-friendly – suitable to serve both as an
apéritif and as a compliment to main courses.

In the mid 18th century, 20 hectares of land associated with Weingut Rudolph
Rabl began as a traditional farm with mixed crops and livestock. Then, having
added grape vines, the business was up until the early 20th century confined to
providing bulk wine in barrels to the local innkeepers. In 1986 Rudolf Rabl junior
(Rudi) joined his father Rudolf senior which allowed the winery to expand to 80
hectares, becoming one of the largest estates in the Kamptal (the Kamp Valley
and river) with 35% of the vineyards dedicated to cultivation of Grüner Veltliner.

Derived from their terraced Kittmansberg vineyard near the town of Langenlois
in lower Austria, the desirable attributes of this land parcel represents a unique
combination of rich loess (wind-blown soil) with an underlying crushed stone bed,
providing the necessary drainage for healthy, mildew-free, white grape cultivation.
The distinctive black raven icon depicted on Rabl (‘little raven’) labels represents
their line of single vineyard wines. Moreover, these wines are only released when
deemed ready – thus explaining the fact that this week’s DéClassé featured wine
is from a somewhat unusual, late-breaking 2011 vintage.

All in all, it’s taken some time for North American markets to catch on to white
wine styles other than the classic, current stars such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon
Blanc, Soave and Pinot Grigio. So, here at the outset of the New Year and in the
spirit of exploring the horizon – add this to your list of DéClassé-recommended,
characterful dry whites that should now also include Sylvaner, Sèvre et Maine,
Tsinandali and Pecorino.

Gruner Veltliner

RABL KITTMANSBERG GRÜNER VELTLINER 2011
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #346007 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Kamptal, Austria
By: Weingut Rudolph Rabl
Release Date: Jan 4, 2014

Tasting Note
This is a bright, fresh and fruity wine with loads of ripe acidity and intriguing,
spicy notes on the finish. Try serving with smoked fish and meats, veal or
roasted vegetable minestrone.

Graciano Alert

Bodegas y Viñedos Ilurce, incorporating representatives from 4 generations, is
a family company originally founded by Grandfather Amador Escudero in 1940
shortly after the Spanish Civil War ended. Their property in the Baja district, one
of 3 sub-regions of La Rioja that also includes Alta and Alavesa, has significant
plantings of old vine Graciano grapes on their 60 hectares of chalky, alluvial soil
– with most of these mature vineyards now averaging at least 40 years of age.

More typically, this highly regarded region’s wines are built around Tempranillo,
with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo(Carignan) varieties incorporated in small
quantities as blending components – adding aroma, body or depth of flavour.
Now under nervy and innovative guidance of younger Spanish vintners, Graciano
is experiencing a renaissance as an excellent varietal wine on its own, despite
its commercial liabilities of being notoriously low-yielding and mildew susceptible.

The wine trade in the La Rioja region is both storied and in a state of transition.
Apparently, the earliest mention of viticulture is preserved in a document known
as “Carta de población de Longares” (Letter to the Settlers of Longares) dating
to 1063 with the first legal recognition of Rioja wine bestowed in 1102 by the
King of Navarra and Aragon. In terms of its relative quality and practices, local
wine merchants have a long history of establishing Bodegas to market wines
made from intermixed fruit supplied by approx. 20,000 growers, in turn drawn
from the harvests throughout all 3 sub-regions. More recently, to better ‘typify’
its wine styles and output, Bodegas are becoming more discerning and are now
beginning to source grapes from only single zones in these allowable regions.

This week’s DéClassé recommended bottle is consistent with the latter practice
and results in an over-achieving table wine that defines exceptional value. Also,
having spent about 11 months in French Oak, it has sufficient structure to age
well in the cellar for at least another 2-5yrs. – meaning you won’t have to rush
through the second or third bottle that you bought after drinking the first.

Rio Madre

RIO MADRE 2011
VINTAGES – Product #354753 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Y Vinedos Ilurce
Release Date: Jan 4, 2014

Tasting Note
Dark fruits lend notes of black cherry, blackberry, pomegranate and a pleasant
touch of licorice. Try serving this medium-bodied and slightly spicy wine with beef
tenderloin, steak frites, chorizo and lentil stew or with strong cheeses.