Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/18/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of lovely white Burgundies from Domaine de Bellene, a project by Nicolas Potel that began when a bunch of the growers he was working with decided to stop producing wines and offered to let him take over their vineyards. Potel also established Roche de Bellene, which is a négociant label under which Potel makes wines from fruit that he does not farm directly.

The first of the two wines is a Savigny-Les-Beaune blanc, made from Chardonnay sourced in the vineyards of three different villages within the SLB appellation: Les Planchots, Aux Champs des Pruniers and Dessus de Vermots that are farmed organically. It is quite pretty and has a warm richness to it.

The Saint-Aubin, which is made from sustainably grown purchased fruit under the Maison Roche de Bellene label, has a wonderfully sappy, tangy quality that resembles more expensive white Burgundies. The vines used for this wine are 48 years old, which would technically allow this wine to be called “vielles vignes” if the producer so desired. Saint-Aubin used to be the cheap seats when it came to excellent white Burgundy, but prices have climbed in recent years. Still, at $50, this is an excellent value for the region.

One more white wine before we head to Italy for some reds, I’ve got the latest release from the ambitious Eden Rift project in the Cienega Valley south of Gilroy in California. Their estate Chardonnay is an excellent value, and continues to improve in balance and complexity.

Only a few people grow Pinot Noir in Italy’s Piedmont Region, but Gian Luca Colombo, a consulting winemaker who started his own project in 2011 is one of them. His organic farm is working towards becoming fully biodynamic, and he produces a number of interesting wines, including this Pinot Noir, and a muscular Barolo, which I’ve also reviewed this week.

Good Barbera can sometimes be tricky to find, but when you do it is almost always affordable. This is no mean feat in a region whose wine prices have climbed to stratospheric levels in recent years. The Gaudio interpretation, from the higher-altitude Monferrato area of Piedmont, offers textbook Barbera flavors and character, and for twenty bucks, it’s a complete steal.

Rocche Costamagna has been the life’s work of the Costamagna family since 1841 when their ancestor, Luigi Costamagna was granted official permission to make wine in La Morra. The family’s last name has changed several times as the estate was handed down through the female side of the family, each taking the last name of their new husband. It is currently in the hands of Allesandro Locatelli, the 5th generation, who has been managing the estate since the mid-1980s and has both replanted the vineyards and moved to farm them more sustainably, avoiding pesticides and herbicides as much as possible.

The family farms plots in the famous Rocche dell’Annunziata area, and I’ve got two wines from those plots to share this week. The first is their standard Barolo, which has a classic character with lots of dried herbs, and the second is their Riserva bottling, which has a surprising mineral freshness to it, even as the fruit is moving towards its secondary characteristics.

Lastly, I have two wines from Reva, a small, certified organic producer in Monforte de Alba whose wines have consistently impressed me. At $30 their Nebbiolo d’Alba is outstanding and their Barolo is positively fantastic, brimming with energy and vibrancy. I highly recommend both.

Tasting Notes

2018 Domaine de Bellene Savigny-Les-Beaune Blanc, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of citrus pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, citrus pith, lemon curd, and white flowers have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of butterscotch in the finish. Made from 40-year-old vines. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 30% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.

2018 Maison Roche de Bellene Saint-Aubin Blanc, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Light gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, wet pavement, and a hint of resinous sappiness. In the mouth, that sappy quality ramps up with tangy lemon oil, lemon pith, and citrus peel flavors made wonderfully juicy by excellent acidity. A faint struck match note lingers in the finish. Excellent. Made from 48-year-old vines, which would technically qualify this wine to be labeled “vielles vignes.” Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 10% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and a touch of pineapple mix with sweet cream and white flowers. Decent acidity but could use a bit more to give it some zing. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Segni di Langa Pinot Noir, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color with just a hint of garnet, this wine smells of cedar and raspberries and a hint of animal musk. In the mouth, juicy acidity makes flavors of redcurrant and sour cherry bright and mouthwatering, as a lightly bitter cedar and earth quality emerges in the citrus-bright finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2017 Gaudio Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry and orange peel. In the mouth, boysenberry and black cherry flavors are shot through with potting soil and orange peel. Excellent acidity makes the mouth water and lasts through a long leathery finish with hints of licorice root. Contains 15% Freisa. 14% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2016 Rocche Costamagna “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in the glass with hints of orange, this wine smells of strawberries, dried sage, and lovely dried floral notes. In the mouth, intense strawberry, orange peel, and dried herb notes are mouthwatering thanks to juicy acidity. Faint, fleecy tannins drape like a blanket over the palate as the dried sage and road dust lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2013 Rocche Costamagna “Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva Bricco Francesco” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
A bright carnelian red in color, this wine smells of dried flowers and dried strawberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully savory notes of dried herbs and dried flowers mix with redcurrant and strawberry fruit that is fading towards the dried end of the spectrum. Muscular tannins grip the edges of the palate as orange peel and a hint of smokiness linger in the finish. There’s a wonderful mineral freshness to this wine that is compelling. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2017 Gian Luca Colombo Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a bit of brick emerging, this wine smells of cherry, strawberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, tight muscular tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and cherry fruit shot through with dried sage, dried oregano, and dusty earth. Faintly bitter in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 Réva Nebbiolo d’Alba, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of smoky, dusty earth and rose petals. In the mouth, strawberry and redcurrant and raspberry fruit are positively bursting with acidity. Citrus and berry notes linger in the finish along with dusty dried oregano and thyme. Wonderfully fine-grained tannins linger with the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2016 Réva Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry, incense, and lavender. In the mouth, phenomenally juicy flavors of strawberry and sour cherry mix with dried herbs de provence. Gorgeous muscular tannins are very fine-grained and linger, flexing their muscles in the finish. Beautiful, powerful, and elegant. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.