Saturday, July 16, 2011

Whole Foods Market's Top Ten Summer Wines

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Whole Foods Market is aiming to help us all with summer wine selections by highlighting wines with great quality and price throughout this summer. Called the "Top Ten Wines", there's actually a list of 12 wines split between six red and five white, with one sparkler in there for good measure. In June Whole Foods held a live, virtual tasting with some bloggers from around the country, unfortunately I wasn't able to participate that night but the awesome people at Whole Foods were kind enough to get me some samples anyways, so that I could check each wine out and feature them in this blog.

One of the things Whole Foods has done right is to feature wine from all over the world, the list contains bottles from France, Argentina, California, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, and Spain. Price wise, these run from between $6 and $20, offering a variety to choose from at prices that will play nice with your budget.

The Whole Foods wine people were kind enough to set me up with six selections off of their Summer Selections to taste through and comment on. Over the course of the past few weeks I've been opening and tasting each wine, jotting down impressions as I pair them with food or simply enjoy a glass on a warm (or cool) evening.

2010 Elios Mediterranean White
Ready for this? A white blend: 50% moschofilero, 30% chardonnay, 10% roditis, 10% savatiano. A Greek kitchen sink wine. Color-wise, not much there. It's almost like looking into a glass of Fresca, without the carbonation. I loved the nose of ripe melons, salt air, summer flowers and hints of lemon zest. While not overly complex, the Elios smelled delicious and appropriate for the 82 degree day on which I opened the bottle. The mouthfeel was light, helped by the acidity and citrus flavors of grapefruit and lime. Though the chardonnay lent weight through the mid-palate, it did muddle some of the stone fruit and grassy flavors, leaving me a trifle disappointed. For a food-friendly, inexpensive summer white wine though, this is damn good stuff. B-. BUY recommendation.

2010 Santa Julia Innovac!on Torrontes/Pinot Grigio Argentina
Palest of straw hues and 13% alcohol, a wine that combines two of my favorite white varietals from a region exploding onto the scene in the last decade. The Innovac!on smelled like a summer bouquet of orange blossom and Bartlett pear. Peach nectar mixed with a mango smoothie, perhaps?. On my palate, a very light wine, clean and nicely acidic, yet not at all what the bouquet promised. I struggled a little bit to find lemon peel and a bit of tropical fruit but that is about all there is to this wine. Not too interesting, nothing wrong with it though. C+. Pass.

2010 Presto Moscato Dolce
I like how Moscato is really exploding right now, one of the highest-growing categories of wine in the United States. It's the perfect gateway wine, getting people into wine and allowing them to have a solid base to jump into other grapes and styles. The Presto is a "dolce", meaning it's definitely got some sweetness to it. I opened this on a hot evening after chilling it for a few hours in the fridge and it hit the spot. At once sweet yet refreshing, it's no Cava or Champagne but at around $10 it isn't designed to be. The bubbles in the Presto Moscato seemed smaller and softer than in either of the aforementioned sparklers.  Soft notes of apple and sea breeze, a hint of sweet peach, and smiles all around. Very nice and a great change of pace. B. Buy recommendation.

2009 Perrin Nature Cotes du Rhone France
Perrin is a big, big producer in France's Rhone valley, hundreds of thousands of cases big. This is their "Nature" wine, made from organically grown grapes predominantly from the Southern Rhone river valley. It's another $10 value from a critically acclaimed vintage. The Perrin pours a dark purple with a bit of violet towards the edges, it looks very much alive and full of personality. I liked the whiffs of leather and crushed red fruit along with a good hit of bittersweet chocolate. I enjoyed the balanced ripeness, crushed white pepper, earth, and firm tannin. The word of the day for the 2009 Perrin Nature: "rustic".  Some rough edges yet a deliciously different $10 bottle of wine. B, BUY recommendation.

2009 Vitiano Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese Italy
This is a Leonardo Locascio selection, Mr. Locascio being a guy who brings in a lot of good quality Italian wine. Clocking in at 13% abv, it's what I would term a "Super Tuscan" red wine. The color is dark, vibrant red that's nearly opaque, perhaps a tribute to the cabernet sauvignon in this blend. I smelled ripe cherries, almost overripe to the point of being like cough syrup. Cedar and spice, red licorice and a bit of brettanomyces to round out this rustic red. Very smooth initially with firm tannins carrying heavy red fruit through the entire taste. Barest hint of a snappy red currant too, but very easy drinking wine if somewhat simplistic. This is rustic Italian red wine, best enjoyed with grilled eggplant or a meat lovers pizza. Thin crust please. B-. Pass recommendation.

2009 Altovinum Evodia Old Vine Garnacha Spain
From 100 year old grenache vines comes a ripe, rich, big, fruit bomb of a wine. That is just what is needed on a summer day with your buddies, standing around a hot grill of awesomely charred meat. Evodia does age the wine in oak for a bit, tempering some of the acidity and tannin from the grenache, and enhancing the mouthfeel. I was assaulted (in a good way) by ripe plum, blackberry, and red currants, hints of cooking spice, a touch of green herbs and some warm oak. Perhaps my favorite of the Whole Foods Top Ten Wines lineup, the 2009 Altovinum Evodia is begging to be paired with a chunk of mancego cheese, or better yet, a thick burger with bacon and a chunk of mancego cheese! See where I'm going with this?! B, STRONG BUY recommendation.

During my exhaustive research, I tasted through each wine at least twice, over a minimum of two days, this helped me gain impressions that might not have been there on the first day. The exception to this was the NV Moscato, which had lost all it's bubbles after the first night and was rendered into sweet, gross, fermented grape juice rather quickly. As such, the notes on that wine are from the first day only.

For the red wines, I opened each one about two hours before I tasted them, then poured each red wine through a Vinturi. When I tasted the white wines, I removed them from the refrigerator about one hour before tasting, to allow each bottle a chance to warm up a few degrees and therefore allow the taster (me) a better idea of the wine's acid and sugar levels.

Before this blog gets longer, I will post my final thoughts and impressions. To be honest, I'd never considered Whole Foods Market as a place to buy wine before, but with this tasting, my opinion is beginning to change. The wines I tried were all interesting in their own right, while there were a couple of clunkers, none were actually bad wines. At Whole Foods, the wine buyers are doing a good job finding unique selections at varying price points, I admire them for that. As we continue through the summer months, I urge you to go check out your local Whole Foods Market and take a peek at their Top Ten Wines selections.. Chances are, you'll walk out of there with a few bottles of yummy wines.

Follow Whole Foods on Twitter, and send them a tweet asking for the account of your local store!

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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