Oeno? Oe-YES!!! Five Wines You Should Know…

From the swish to the surprising sip, here are five wines that you should try and savor…

5. 2009 Veiga Serantas Albariño

For a refreshing wine with good character, forget Sauvignon Blanc – drink this instead.  It’s really refreshing, clean, and bright.  A slightly floral nose, but on the palate is layered ripe Meyer Lemon and peach, lots of minerality, a spine of salinity, and well-balanced acidity, this wine is delicious with seafood and great just on it’s own.

Albariño is from ‘Green Spain’, specifically the Rias Baixas area in the Northwest, just above Portugal’s Vinho Verde area where it is cool and wet, leading to the lush verdant terrain (hence, the name ‘Green Spain’).  And Veiga Serantas is a tiny family owned winery that has been making wine in the region for over 100 years.  Their wines are grown on their estate and completely handcrafted.

4. 2010 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Cuvée Collection le Diplomate d’Empire

This is a Corsican wine, made up of a random mixture of mostly native varietals: Vermentino, Rossola Bianca, Bianco Gentille, Genovese and Brustiano.  Nonetheless, it is terrific, with great ageing potential, and from the best-kept secret (Domaine Comte Abbatucci).  The Domaine is family-run, and has been pivotal in saving native Corsican grape varieties from extinction, cultivating them since the 1960’s.  The wine is biodynamic, the grapes are hand-picked, and it undergoes a wild fermentation (no added yeasts), which results in a gorgeous wine with exotic fruit, beautiful fragrance and a full yet refreshing mouthfeel.

On a side note, an interesting little fact is that the Abbatucci family’s ancestors were famous during the Napoleonic Empire.  General Jean-Charles Abbatuci was a hero of the French Revolution, and Don Jacques Pascal Abbatucci, for whom this wine is named, served under the Napoleonic Empire (Napoleon Bonaparte was a childhood friend) as a diplomat.

3. 2011 Fable Jackal Bird

A South African white wine blend, dominated by Chenin Blanc (of course), including Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussanne… this is not your typical Steen.  In fact, this wine proves that long gone are the days that Chenin Blanc from South Africa is perfect plonk, it can now shed it’s Steen image.  While it helps that Jackal Bird is supported by a cast of floral and fruity grapes, the finesse in this wine predominantly comes from how the good people at Fable care for it: all of the grapes are hand picked and transported to the winery in a refrigerated truck (to maintain the integrity of the fruit), skin contact in open barrels for 3 – 5 days, separated pressings added back to the blend at the end, gravity transfer, and Nombolt egg fermentation.  But with Charles Banks behind this project (former Screaming Eagle and Jonata), that attention to detail and craftsmanship is to be expected.

This is a complex wine with great ageing potential.  The run-down of what will unravel in your mouth: white flowers, lemon and lime zest, a subtle blanket of underlying minerality, rounded richness balanced by solid acidity, and a touch of spice.

2. 1997 Ar.Pe.Pe. Rocce Rosse Sassella Valtellina Superiore

Ar.Pe.Pe. is named for the winery’s founder, Arturo Pelizzatti Perego – an abbreviation of his name.  The Perego siblings are fifth generation winemakers/growers who have carried on their father’s work of realizing the full potential of the unique Valtellina terroir with long aging Nebbiolo wines.

Valtellina is located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland.  The vineyards are stretched over very steep and stony slopes, which are kept in an extraordinary system of more that 2500 km of terracing that are built along the contours with dry stone walls that make the vine cultivation possible in the sunniest areas of the Rhaetian Alps.  Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, is most famously associated with the wines of Piedmont (Barolo, Barbaresco).  Move over bacon…  This wine is a fabulous find, and at half the price of it’s Piemontese cousins.  It’s ethereal cherries and plums, with notes of tobacco, nutmeg and cloves interwoven, and an underlying stoniness, all of which is delivered in a rich, balanced, velvety texture.  You almost don’t want to share it.

1. Bodega Chacra

This wine is as delicious as it is philosophically provocative.  A quick background: Bodega Chacra is located in the Rio Negro Valley in Northern Patagonia (which looks a lot like Arizona, weirdly, during crush), was purchased with a pre-existing vineyard planted in 1932, and essentially only produces Pinot Noir (there is a very small amount of Merlot that is made but does not reach most markets and was intended as experimental fun).  This property was purchased and transformed by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, who comes from a long line of Italian wine-making (the family famous for producing  Sassicaia), with the goal of producing world-class Pinot Noir.

Not an easy feat – especially in a region that has no history of doing so, but is certainly in the running.

More seriously artisanal winemaking happening here, with the biodynamic approach and everything done by hand.  Literally.  There is no automated mechanization at any point of the process of making these wines.

The Treinta y Dos (1932) is the flagship wine from Bodega Chacra, which is a beautiful masculine example of Pinot Noir.  But I really like the Cincuenta y Cinquo (1955, name for the single vineyard on which it’s grown that was planted in 1955).  It’s aromatic with solid minerality, concentrated pure expression of fruit, good acidity, great balance and is well-structured.  This is an elegant, complex wine that surprises and delights with the purity of the region and winery.


As a career sommelier, Kimberley Drake has overseen some of the finest wine programs and operations in America and Asia. Her accomplishments range from working as a sommelier at Jean Georges in NYC to opening Hong Kong’s Café Gray Deluxe as their chef sommelier. She can be reached at Kimberley@NewsWhistle.com.


Photo Courtesy of Anna Biancoloto/Shutterstock.com