This week’s recommendations include two delicious wines made from Semillon, a grape too often ignored by producers and consumers. Plus, we have an exotic white wine from Italy, an intriguing “natural” wine made of grenache from southern France, and an inexpensive Champagne that shows this luxury wine does not have to command luxury prices.
Mendel Semillon 2016
Mendoza, Argentina, $26
I’ve always wondered why Semillon is not more popular with winemakers or consumers. Traditionally, it plays second fiddle to sauvignon blanc in white Bordeaux, but it can be delicious on its own. It has more body and richness that sauvignon blanc, with flavors of fig and pear and delightful, refreshing acidity. Mendel’s Semillon is racy and intense, with impressions of stones and minerals more than fruit. The acidity will help it age well, but it drinks beautifully now, especially if you open it about an hour before dinner. ABV: 13 percent.
Distributed by Bacchus in the District and Maryland, Roanoke Valley in Virginia: Available in the District at Wide World of Wines. Available in Maryland at Wine Merchant in Lutherville. Available in Virginia at Grand Cru in Arlington.
L’Ecole No. 41, Semillon 2015
2.5 Stars GREAT VALUE
Columbia Valley, Wash., $18
L’Ecole No. 41 has been a Semillon stalwart for years. This version is fruity and vibrant; it should age well for several years but is hard to resist right now. ABV: 14.5 percent.
Distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at Magruder’s, Rodman’s, Wardman Wines. Available in Maryland at Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia, Eastport Liquors in Annapolis, Maple Lawn Wine & Spirits in Fulton, Pine Orchard Liquors in Ellicott City. Available in Virginia at Aldie Peddler in Aldie, the Wine Outlet in Great Falls.
Chapuis & Chapuis Grenat 2016
Vin de France, $ 25
This is a “natural” wine from southern France, made from grenache. It has a bit of spritz from carbon dioxide, meant to preserve the wine in lieu of sulfur. Decanting it, or even opening the bottle and leaving it alone for several hours, will let the wine open up. It will also keep for a few days if you can resist finishing the bottle. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Bacchus: Available in the District at Cordial (the Wharf), MacArthur Beverages. Available in Maryland at Remington Wine Company and Wine Source in Baltimore; on the list at Banditos in Easton, Marie Louise Bistro and Pen and Quill in Baltimore.
Ottella Lugana Bianco 2016
Trebbiano is usually made into simple, nondescript white wines, the type you drink before getting down to business (as in, before the red wines). The Ottella Lugana, however, is a serious wine, with tropical fruit flavors to match seafood salads and pastas, or lighter poultry dishes. Simply delicious. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Distributed by Kysela: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Magruder’s. Available in Maryland at College Square Liquors in Westminster, Maryland Discount Beverage Center in Cumberland, the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Petite Cellars in Ellicott City. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese and the Italian Store in Arlington, Basic Necessities in Nellysford, Bottle & Cork in Alexandria, Classic Wines in Great Falls, Foods of All Nations in Charlottesville.
Kirkland Champagne Brut
2 Stars GREAT VALUE
Champagne, France, $20
When I was shopping at CostCo for my feature on the best-selling inexpensive wines in America, this champagne caught my eye. Not only is it inexpensive – decent champers starts at $30, and good ones generally cost $40 and up – but it is produced by Manuel Janisson. Virginia wine fans will recognize him as the French partner in Thibaut-Janisson, Virginia’s top sparkling wine. This Kirkland blend may be the sparkling wine of the year. It is perfectly balanced, with flavors of ginger, cloves and apples. ABV: 12 percent.
Exclusive to CostCo in the District and Virginia.
[Note: After this appeared in The Washington Post on Nov. 29, a reader told me of a different experience with Kirkland Champagne, with two bottles at the same party performing very differently. With big box store labels, it is always important to note the producer, when possible. My experience was limited to one bottle, and I was attracted to it because of the Janisson name. My reader did not know if the two bottles he experienced were made by the same producer or potentially two different producers. There are, of course, other reasons for bottle variation.]