A couple new members of the family
One of the best things about loving and studying wine is the constant discovery of new styles and varietals. Letting go of your own favorite brand and diving into the unknown can indeed be frightening but it’s where growth and discovery lie. My goal with the wine list here at Bitto is to try and make the process of discovery less intimidating but still exciting. At last count, our flight and glass list represents over 60 different varietals! Picking a favorite is impossible, some wines shine by themselves, some need a cloudy day, some need food, some work with dessert and some work best with breakfast!
We’ve recently brought in a number of new wines and I wanted to show off just a couple of the new faces. The Godello had a great following, but the new vintage didn’t live up to the last one so I found a new Spanish white that I’m now in love with. It’s the Mustiguillo Mestizahe from the hills outside Valencia not far from Don Quixote’s plains of La Mancha. Here at almost 2500 ft, Toni Sarrión has almost singlehandedly saved the indigenous Merseguera from extinction. These cool hillsides are also great for the notoriously challenging Viognier. This organic blend of 75% Merseguera, 20% Viognier and 5% Malvasia brings so much to the table retailing at only $14 a bottle (in the Wine Cellar). Viognier’s floral and candied apricot nose, soft white peach flavors are present and envelop the sturdy body and bracing citrus acidic foundation of Merseguera. The limestone shows subtly as the wine warms and even more flavors of pear, Meyer lemon and a hint of herb become apparent. Bottom line is bottom’s up!
When our Washington Merlot suddenly left the market, (it happens a lot in Colorado) I searched for another domestic Merlot. While they seem to be a dime a dozen (not literally), I strive to serve wines that are grown, produced and bottled by the folks on the label. I’m sorry, but if you made your name at the Judgement of Paris, or have a Wine Speculator 95pt estate grown wine, trading in on your name recognition with bulk juice from the Central Valley in a pretty package (add some edgy name or sexy picture) is not the kind of “discovery” I’m shooting for here at Bitto. I was tasting and tasting and tasting until I chanced upon a lovely Italian Merlot from the Veneto. I know I have a lot of Italians, but sometimes you can’t help yourself (I married an Italian after all!).
The Veneto is home to a special technique known as Appasimento (finished wines are named Passito wines). This process involves drying the grapes to concentrate flavors and sugars prior to fermentation. The most famous example of these wines are the Amarones. My personal theory is the Venetians were jealous of the fame (justifiable) of their neighbors in the Piedmont who crafted the magically monstrous Barolos and Barbarescos from the ethereal Nebbiolo. Their own thin skinned grapes were much better suited for light quaffable styles like Bardolinos and Valpolicellas unless they found a way to strengthen the must and hence boost alcohol and concentration. But they have been doing this style since Roman times, and yes, I’ve completely diverged from my WA Merlot challenge but bear with me as I circle back!
Merlot has been grown in the Veneto and in neighboring Friuli for a few hundred years and does very well there, bringing softness to acidic or tannic wines although we don’t yet see much of it here in Colorado. Bertoldi’s Gran Passione is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Corvina (the most important grape in Amarone) with the Corvina dried on mats in the appasimento process. What ends up in the bottle is a delicious “baby Amarone”, an affordable introduction to this style of wine that suits American palates perfectly. Intense aromas of plum, cocoa and blackberry greet you and flavors of blackberry chocolate covered blueberries with a ripe tannic foundation round out the tasting experience. And it retails for about $15!
Obviously with about a dozen or more new wines coming onto the list this month, I can’t describe them here but will try to tell a few more stories about our new additions in the coming weeks and months! Got to run taste some rose's for our direct import this summer...