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Here at Opening a Bottle, we spend a lot of our time focused on Old World wines. In general, we love their tradition, their use of local and indigenous grapes, their balance between fruit and savory, nutty, rocky, floral notes, and how well they work with food.

Many of Europe’s wines are strictly regulated to control grape varieties, grape yields, vineyard management and winemaking methods, all in an effort to preserve tradition or — more honestly — a brand name. In other words, if you buy an Amarone della Valpolicella, it ought to taste like an Amarone della Valpolicella. And in turn, nothing else in the world should taste the same way. At least in theory.

But for many wine drinkers in the United States, these rules are a barrier to entry. How can you tell what Gigondas taste like if you can’t even read what grapes are used on the label?

Our series of First-Taste Guides are meant to introduce readers to some of these wines by breaking down those barriers. In many cases, they were written shortly after our first taste of a particular wine, so while the research and background are as detailed as all of our accounts, the tasting notes are filled with a freshness and excitement for the experience that hopefully you’ll encounter, too.


Italy


Amarone della Valpolicella

Masi Costasera AmaroneVeneto, Italy
One of Italy’s most distinctive and labor-intensive wines, Amarone is a fully loaded, plush red wine made from dried grapes. Learn more about Amarone della Valpolicella.


Bolgheri Superiore

2012 Aia Vecchia Sor Ugo Bolgheri SuperioreTuscany, Italy
Bold and nuanced Bordeaux-style blends with a tinge of Italian rusticity. Learn more about the wines of Bolgheri.


Gattinara

2004 Petterino GattinaraPiedmont, Italy
Another Nebbiolo wine, but one that can be found at moderately affordable prices and often with 8 to 10 years of age. Learn more about Gattinara.


Lambrusco

Lambrusco ©Kevin Day

Emilia-Romagna, Italy
One of Italy’s oldest indigenous grape varieties thrives in Emilia-Romagna where its frizzante helps cut through the country’s richest cuisine. Learn more about Lambrusco.


Montefalco Sagrantino

2010 Còlpetrone Sagrantino MontefalcoUmbria, Italy
Perhaps Italy’s boldest and most tannic red wine … and a great excuse to cook pork belly or a Porterhouse steak for dinner.  Learn more about Montefalco Sagrantino.


Ribolla Gialla

Pierpaolo Pecorari Ribolla Gialla

Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
A crisp and refreshing white wine that has the potential to be among the world’s best food-friendly white wines. Learn more about Ribolla Gialla.


Valtellina Superiore

2010 Nino Negri Inferno Valtellina Superiore

Lombardy, Italy
All Nebbiolo, but with whispers of classic Pinot Noir from a sunny valley in the Italian Alps. Learn more about Valtellina Superiore.


France


Bandol

2011 Domaine de Le Galantin Bandol Rouge

Provence, France
Dark, fruit-packed, graphite-and-smoke laden Mourvèdre from the coast of Provence. Learn more about Bandol.


Chablis

2013 Francine et Olivier Savary Sélection Vielles Vignes Chablis ChardonnayBurgundy, France
Focused and crisp Chardonnay without the usual palate fatigue of … well, Chardonnay. Learn more about Chablis.


Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2010 Léon Perdigal Châteauneuf-du-PapeSouthern Rhône, France
Bold, juicy, nuanced and complex blends centered on Grenache. Among the most famous wines of France. Learn more about Châteauneuf-du-Pape.


Côte-Rôtie

2012 Bernard Levet "La Chavaroche" Côte-RôtieNorthern Rhône, France
Wild and complex Syrah from the famed “roasted slope” of the Northern Rhône. Learn more about Côte-Rôtie.


Cremant d’Alsace

Gustave Lorentz Cremant d'Alsace RoséAlsace, France
An excellent — and more affordable — alternative to Champagne, with a gorgeous texture to liven up any occasion. Learn more about Cremant d’Alsace.


Gigondas

2011 Domaine de Boissan Gigondas

Southern Rhône River Valley, France
Anthemic Grenache wines pierced with licorice and orange peel flavors from an area better known for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Learn more about Gigondas.


Margaux

2012 La Reserve d'Angludet Margaux. ©Kevin Day / Opening a Bottle

Bordeaux, France
Synonymous with the famous Château Margaux, this appellation offers rounded, supple Cabernet Sauvignon blends. Learn more about Margaux.


Pauillac

2007 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac

Bordeaux, France
Recalling black currant, coffee and tobacco on the nose, the Cabernet Sauvignon blends from Pauillac are among the world’s most distinctive. And three of the top five Bordeaux estates are located here. Learn more about Pauillac.


Pouilly-Fumé

2013 Domaine Seguin Pouilly Fumé

Loire River Valley, France
A brilliantly colored Sauvignon Blanc with delicate fruit and matchstick aromas, as well as a glorious texture. Learn more about Pouilly-Fumé.


Saint-Joseph

2010 Domaine Courbis Saint-Joseph

Northern Rhône River Valley, France
Gamey Syrah from the Northern Rhône … without the exorbitant prices of Hermitage and Côte Rotie. Learn more about Saint-Joseph.


Vouvray Sec

2009 Clos de Nouys Vouvray (Chenin Blanc wine)

Loire River Valley, France
An elegant and complex rendition of Chenin Blanc redolent of lemon, apricot and lavender. Learn more about Vouvray Sec.


Spain


Godello

Telmo Rodriguez Gaba do Xil Godello

Galicia, Spain
Galicia’s rich and full-bodied, Chardonnay-like white grape plays an excellent foil to its Pinot Noir-like partner in red, Mencia. Learn more about Godello.


Ribeira Sacra

2010 Dominio do Bibei "Lalama" Ribeira Sacra

Galicia, Spain
Elegant and expressive Mencia wines that recall Pinot Noir and all its glory. Learn more about Ribeira Sacra.


Toro

2014 Bodegas Matsu "El Recio" Toro

Castile and León, Spain
Bold, wild and tannic red wines made from the Tinta de Toro grape — a variant of Tempranillo. Learn more about Toro.


Hungary


Hárslevelü

2013 Csendes Dülö Szölöbirtok Hárslevelü

Badacsony and Tokaji, Hungary / Tokaj, Slovakia

This grape is cultivated mostly in Hungary and scattered spots around Eastern Europe, including Slovakia, and produces an aromatic and full-bodied white wine reminiscent of Grüner Veltliner. Learn more about Hárslevelü.


 

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  1. Pingback: First-Taste Guide to Chablis | Opening a Bottle

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