January Wine Club

Jan 19, 2024

It’s fascinating how the choice of grape varietals and the influence of terroir can shape the characteristics of wines. Exploring familiar varietals from unexpected places often brings out unique expressions due to the distinct environmental conditions of different regions. This month we are doing just that, focusing on common varietals, but from unexpected places. Sauvignon Blanc from Alto Adige, Italy, Chardonnay from Burgenland, Austria, and Merlot from Friuli, Italy.

P. & E. Mullins

2021 Elena Walch Sauvignon Blanc

Alto Adige, Italy

Sauvignon Blanc is known for its vibrant and distinctive characteristics, contributing to its widespread popularity. It is renowned for its intense and aromatic profile. It typically has high acidity, which contributes to its refreshing and crisp character. Different regions impart unique flavors and nuances to the grape, adding to the diversity of Sauvignon Blanc wines available. This expression by Elena Walch reflects the characteristics of the region’s terroir. The Alto Adige region is in Northern Italy and has a cool climate and its specific terroir contributes to the wines with bright acidity and expressive fruit character. The winery is owned and operated by Elena and her two daughters. They are known for their commitment to quality and sustainable viticulture practices and for producing high-quality wines. Their Sauvignon Blanc in the glass is a weighty steely clear yellow. The nose has aromas of ripe stone fruit and dusty gravel. The palate is soft which balances beautifully with the acidity. There are notes of agave, citrus, and almond that finish dry and almost bitter.

2021 Prieler Chardonnay

Burgenland, Austria

Chardonnay is one of the most popular and widely planted white grape varieties in the world, and its popularity can be attributed to several factors. As we’ve noted in previous months clubs this highly adaptable grape can be grown in various climates and soil types. This adaptability allows it to thrive in wildly different wine regions globally, contributing to its widespread cultivation. Chardonnay is known to express the characteristics of the terroir in which it is grown. The soil, climate, and vineyard conditions impart unique flavors and nuances, providing a real sense of place. So for this Chardonnay we head to Austria, where winemaker Georg Prieler does just that. He is deeply passionate about his role as a farmer and winemaker, blending a serious commitment to quality with a relaxed and easygoing demeanor. His use of Chardonnay, the classic Burgundian varietal with a long history in the area, adds an interesting dimension to his portfolio. It’s intriguing to see how these grapes express themselves in the Burgenland terroir (the only region in Austria not touched by the Alps). His commitment to organic farming and hands-off cellar work, including fermentation and aging in traditional Slovenian oak casks, highlights a desire to let the grapes and terroir speak for themselves. The terroir of limestone and schist soils shape the mouthfeel and nuances of the wine. In the glass, this is a light golden hue. Aromas of Bartlett pears and a fresh peppercorn greet you. The palate is round with notes of cardamon, minerality, and a weighted texture that finishes nice and long.

2021 Venice Merlot

Friuli, Italy

It’s hard to bring up Merlot without bringing up the movie “Sideways” from 2004. In the film, Miles, a wine aficionado, expresses a strong disdain for Merlot and often recommends against drinking it. He famously says, “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any F’n Merlot!” The release of “Sideways” did have a noticeable impact on Merlot sales. Meanwhile, Pinot Noir, the red wine variety praised in the film, experienced increased popularity. The “Sideways” effect on Merlot became a topic of discussion in the wine industry. Over time, the Merlot market adjusted, and producers focused on highlighting the quality of their wines rather than the negative portrayal in the movie. It’s worth noting that perceptions and trends in the wine industry can evolve, and consumer preferences may change over time. While “Sideways” had a temporary impact on Merlot, the variety continues to be produced and enjoyed. It is widely planted around the world. Most notably from Bordeaux. We were surprised and delighted to come across this varietal in the Collio region of Friuli. Winemaker Venezia Giulia of Venice Winery has a very expressive style. The region’s unique microclimate and ideal soil conditions influence the characteristics of the Merlot grapes grown there. Venica Winery has a rich history dating back to 1930 when Daniele Venica purchased the estate. It has been a family-owned and operated winery for several generations. The winery is known for its commitment to traditional winemaking practices combined with a modern approach and has adopted sustainable and organic viticulture practices. These practices aim to respect the environment and enhance the quality of the grapes. In the glass, this is a classic merlot tone, like dark plum red with a weight to it. The nose is bursting with fruit, cherries, plums, blueberries, and a little butterscotch. The palate is soft with gentle red berry fruit notes, light grippy tannins and a little chocolatey finish.