Bride Valley Brut Reserve 2014
Dorset, England, $65
Oenological eyes have been on England for some time. With a cooler climate and chalky Kimmeridgian soils, the region has been poised to grow grapes for sparkling wine. Vinous royalty Steven Spurrier did more than give his seal of approval when, with the aid of French vintner and entrepreneur Jean-Charles Boisset, he and wife Bella converted her 200-acre Dorset sheep farm into a vineyard in 2008. They now produce three sparkling wines in the style of champagne, using the same grape varieties grown in the French region.
A pinot meunier-dominant blend with pinot noir and chardonnay, the Bride Valley Brut Reserve opens with a fine, lively mousse that melts to a luminescent gold-silver hue with small, steadily flowing golden beads. The nose welcomes with an abundance of floral notes, which include primrose, then opens to aromas of baked apple, lemon and a touch of yeast and spice suggestive of fennel-seed biscotti. The starting sip is all silk, with pear and kiwi joining the apple and lemon notes. The abundant acid, most apparent on the attack, is crisp, not tart, and yields to a more ample mouthfeel on the finish, suddenly slamming on the brakes to showcase a gripping minerality. An enjoyable experience on its own, but try with fondue au crémant, creamy smoked salmon pasta with arugula, and, of course, fish and chips.
This is one of the better British bubblies out there, and for $65 you can be the first to tell your friends about it.
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Cave Spring Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula 2017
Ontario, Canada, $20
Upon retiring from his masonry job, Italian immigrant Giuseppe Pennachetti decided to return to his homeland hobby of winemaking. He shared this passion with his family, who eventually planted European vines on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench and became one of the wine-industry pioneers in this region. A sub-appellation of the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada, the vineyards are just a few miles away from the moderating effects of Lake Ontario. Natural springs below help keep the vines hydrated.
French native cabernet franc is an earlier-ripening parent of cabernet sauvignon. The 100 percent varietal Cave Spring Cabernet Franc is bright cherry red with scarlet highlights. The nose is an enticing blend of aromas — first smoked tea leaves and tobacco, next yielding to dark cherry and raspberry, and finally revealing nuances of mint with a hint of cocoa. The mint and cocoa repeat on the palate, where the raspberry notes evolve into a rich cassis. Tannins announce themselves on the finish, firm but more than amenable after a touch of aeration. This is everything a New World cabernet franc should be. Enjoy with venison and sweet potato Dauphinoise, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with roasted new potatoes, or simply go Canadian and pair with poutine.
For $20, you can sip this one with a meal or slowly savor while snuggling on the old chesterfield. Eh?
Amalaya Estate Grown Malbec 2017
Valle de Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina, $17
The hot summers of Argentina present a challenge to winegrowing in this region. To combat warm temperatures, winegrowers are planting grapes at increasingly higher elevations where they can fully ripen while maintaining more of their natural acidity. Residing at 5,900 feet above sea level in the country’s northwest corner, Amalaya is one of the highest vineyards in the world. The word amalaya, which comes from the native dialect of the region, means “hope for a miracle,” a reference to farmers making offerings in hopes of a bountiful harvest.
Amalaya Estate Grown Malbec is 85 percent malbec bolstered by a small percentage of tannat and petit verdot. The thicker skins of malbec grapes grown at a higher altitude contribute to the wine’s rich crimson robe with near-magenta highlights. The nose is earthy and herbaceous, with notes of thyme and South American huacatay, surrounding a core of dark red fruit. Ample alcohol tickles the nose. Cherries and ripe red plums permeate the palate, where the wine’s crisp acidity is delightfully divulged. There is an enjoyable juiciness to this wine, which finishes with medium tannins and a slightly spicy kick. Pair with flank steak with chimichurri sauce, pulled pork sandwiches, or an apple-smoked bacon cheeseburger.
This wine is proof that miracles do happen, and this miracle will only cost you $17.