For those of us who study wine, a little-known location on the map becomes a talisman holding a fascination that far exceeds its actual influence in the wine world. Though familiar with Bordeaux and Burgundy, Chianti and Barolo, Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, etc. we idealize the potential of Bierzo, Istria, or Jura as if they were the far-away lands of wizards and talking animals. Europe abounds with obscure regions often growing obscure grape varieties that promise, although without always delivering, new adventures in taste.
The lineup for last Saturday’s meeting of the Wine Society included one region and one grape variety that aroused this passion for exotica.
I have always wondered about Gattinara, a lesser known region of Piemonte, Italy, that makes affordable wines from the Nebbiolo grape, although hidden in the shadow of nearby Barolo and Barbaresco. The 2006 Travaglini Gattinara had the distinctive dried flowers and spice of Nebbiolo but lacked the concentration on the palate of its better known, pricier cousins. It was nevertheless a treat and an inducement to explore more wines from the region.
And the Dornfelder grape, grown in various regions of Germany but seldom found elsewhere, and seldom consumed in the U.S., also made an appearance. Rustic, deeper in color and more full-bodied than most German reds, the 2008 Josef Friederich Dornfelder was pleasant and well-structured on the palate, but simple and marred by vegetal notes on the nose. If I might hazard a prediction: Dornfelder is not poised to replace Riesling as Germany’s premier wine. But Germany needs a hardy, robust red wine that ripens in cool weather and this is it.
The co-stars of the show were the dense, spicy Domaine de L’Hermitage Bandol and the earthy, elegant 1988 Prunotto Montestefano Barbaresco, the latter still going strong after nearly a quarter century.
And the Joven from Rioja was a pleasant surprise–a unique nose of Indian spices, seldom a characteristic of young wines.
Alas, there were no wizards or talking animals—just lots of interesting wine.
Here is the line up:
2009 Beronia Rioja Joven TEMPRANILLO, Spain
2007 Domaine de L’Hermitage Bandol MOURVEDRE, Provence, France
2008 Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva, SANGIOVESE, Tuscany, Italy
1999 Niersteiner Gutes Domtal RIESLING, Rheinhessen, Germany
2006 Travaglini Gattinara NEBBIOLO, Piemonte, Italy
1988 Prunotto Montestefano BARBARESCO, Piemonte, Italy
2008 Josef Friederich DORNFELDER Rheinhessen, Germany
The San Diego Wine Society meets about once every six weeks over dinner at a local restaurant to taste high-end, international wines. By meeting as a group, everyone gets a generous taste of these very special wines while spreading the cost among all the participants.
If you have a serious interest in wine, I urge you to sign up for this group and attend our dinners—their Meet-up page is here. There is no membership fee.