John Paul Kaminga
Prager Steal, Super South Styrian Sauvignon, White Rioja Magnificence
Updated: Feb 25, 2022
A bit of a random collection, but all so worthwhile, and especially notable for being really good deals. Many of the world's most delicious and distinctive wines are very expensive, but there are also many around $20, they're just a little harder to find. You've got three right in front of you right now.
Front and center, because this one shouldn't be in a mix of $20-something wines. We love Prager, but all of their wines are pretty pricey. This wine was slated to be $45, but we've got it for you at $24! Gruner Veltliner is often straightforward; perhaps eminently refreshing but with little in the way of complexity. An old cru, named in the 13th century, currently inhabited by vines planted between 1961 and 1983, Prager's Hinter der Burg regularly produces potent and intense Gruner, with the concentration and structure to age and develop in the cellar. The 2016 bursts with aromas of pepper, citrus pith, ripe stone fruits, blond tobacco, summer squash and crisp green vegetables. It is rich and silky on the palate, with lots of intriguing earth and vegetable elements, and a finish full of fruit, wet stones and white pepper. Long and staining, it is showing the beginnings of development, but it will be worth following for at least another couple years. For both those who already love the grape, and those who are not yet convinced that Gruner can be serious, this wine is an opportunity. Try this with a parmigiana made from small zucchini and fresh tomatoes.
2016 Prager Gruner Veltliner Federspiel 'Hinter der Burg' - $24
The arrival of this 2019 marks the third consecutive vintage we've carried of this fabulous Sauvignon Blanc from Tement; we think it is the best so far. As is typical of many Sudsteiermark wineries, Tement makes wine from several varieties, but Sauvignon is their specialty. Planted in Sudsteiermark (Southern Styria) since the 19th century, Sauvignon Blanc here ripens to make some of the world's most elegant and juicy examples of this very popular, if all to often very predictable, grape. Airy and bright, the 2019 Tement Sauvignon 'Kalk & Kreide' is gorgeous; we think it competes with many of the finest of Sancerre. It opens with aromas of sweet lemon, grapefruit, melon and peach next to so many typical Sauvignon notes, some perhaps telltale, others subtle to the point of transcending the variety's pungent reputation. A little mint, snap peas and currants, hints of diverse spices, flowers and sweet grassinesss, its non-fruit nuances are myriad but never overwhelming, its focus is refreshment, and it finishes long on juicy fresh fruit notes. This is will be very versatile at the table, but one should expecially consider it for salads made with local tomatoes and herbs (and no vinegar).
2019 Tement Sauvignon Blanc 'Kalk & Kreide' - $23
Not newly arrived, but about to disappear, we just received the last of the 2018 Rioja Blanco from Sierra de Tolono. It is one of Rioja's most exciting white wines. Harvested from various plots of old vines planted at high-elevation in Rioja Alavesa, the grapes for this wine were picked in October (2018 was a cool year in Rioja). Showing great texture and structure at only 12.5% alcohol, this features prominent salinity and minerality; it is a bit like a gentle Chablis, but with a hint of Mediterranean herbs. Crisp white peach, green pear and fresh citrus notes are accented by white flowers, herbs and salty sea air. On the palate, it is fresh and crystalline. While many fine white Rioja wines rely on oak and oxidation, this beauty is all about fresh fruit and a hint of reduction. It has no track record, but its intensity and balance are enough to anticipate positive development for at least a few more years.
2018 Sierra de Tolono Rioja Blanco - $22