What with the pandemic changing all the rules and turning the world of wine retail on its head (about time too!), in Ontario we have seen an explosion in the “mixed case” phenomenon.
Now, when I say phenomenon, I really mean that there has been a flurry of activity amongst importers who have been legally unable to sell their wines in this fashion previously, which is so messed up when one really thinks about it.
But enough about my gripes with the wine retail laws pre-COVID-19… this is about a mixed case from the Real Wine Club that was delivered to me earlier this year, but unfortunately I didn’t get around to opening and tasting until earlier this week.
Now, full disclosure here: The Living Vine (the company behind The Real Wine Club) are Good Food Fighters (read: invited sponsors of Good Food Revolution), and I’ve always been rather fond of their curly-mopped Commander-In-Chief, Mark Cuff. But let’s not let that in the way of what I honestly believe to be one of the more exciting mixed cases out there right now.
Is certainly a 12 bottle mixed case that caters to those with a sense of vinous adventure, but I feel that is half the fun with an offering like this. When I cracked it open I felt like a very fortunate child on Xmas day…
All of these wines I had never seen/tasted before! What a thrill!
Why the hell hadn’t I opened this earlier?
The Real Wine Club is a very reasonable $350 all-inclusive excluding delivery.
Delivery is free in the GTA and an extra $12 for anyone outside The Greater Toronto Area.
Although I get so much wine sent to me for review, I was astonished at just how much fun it was to get a hand-picked esoteric selection like this; so much so that I’m going to sign up for the next selection. Seriously.
Here are my takes on most of the bottles contained within…
NV Integrale Vino Bianco Frizzante, Veneto, Italy
Now this was an utter delight, a little glimpse of gorgeously warming Veneto sunshine on a miserably grey and drizzly Ontario fall afternoon… just like Scotland is year-round. This blend of Glera, Garganega, Serprino, and Pinella from volcanic soils is a million miles removed from your bog-standard Prosecco guff. Extended time on the lees (40 days) and eschewing filtration gives this wine both personality and texture, as well as an intriguing haziness in glass,
2019 Foradori “Lezer” Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
The blessing-in-disguise result of a less-than-perfect Teroldego harvest, this bloody excellent whole-bunch press bottling had me texting “WTF is this?!!!” to Mr. Cuff along with a pic of me enjoying the wine by a crackling fireplace.
This light-hued red definitely tastes at its best slightly chilled, and exhibits lashings of red cherry, cranberry, rhubarb, and faint herbs. The palate is juicy and mouth-watering with Teroldego tannins keeping all that fruit in check. A true delight to drink. Four and a half apples for being so damn enjoyable. More please.
2019 Le Ballon Rosé, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
What’s not to love about a simply gorgeous, dry, crisp, red-berry-fruit-driven Languedoc Rosé. Seeing as I’ve missed out on my annual Languedoc trip this year (and probably for the next few! *sigh*), this bottle brought me back to happier times sitting in cafés in Carcassonne guzzling innumerable bottles of rosé with my wine friends from around the globe… Ah, such happy, simpler times. I think I’ll seek out a case of this when it arrives in Ontario again!
2017 Pablo Claro, La Mancha, Spain
I’ll admit that I was split on this one, as it was a bit too full-bodied for my usual preference. I started tasting this before dinner, and wasn’t immediately smitten, but after I took the pork chops off the grill and settled down with some smokey patas bravas this dark Cabernet/Graciano blend totally came to life, the acidity from the Graciano working so well with the crispy fat of the chops, and bringing an earthy but almost perfumed nuance to the nose. I was rather upset when I came to the end of the bottle.
2019 Domaine du Séminaire Côtes- du-Rhône Blanc, Rhône Valley, France
Having always been a lover of the lesser-seen white Côtes- du-Rhône for decades, this was a nice little surprise. An organically made blend of the region’s Viognier, Roussane, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Clairette, this bottling went down a little too easily; one moment I was on my first glass, the second I was shaking out the very last drop. I’m not quite sure how that happened? Anyway, this was a wine with some good textural weight and richness.
2019 Equilibristes “Hirsute Blanc”, Périgord, France
Until I read the Real Wine Club’s notes, I wasn’t aware that Equilibristes meant tightrope walkers, and that makes total sense seeing as this house is a collaborative project bewtixt Parisian merchant/restaurateur and Dordogne wine-grower and oenologist Francois de Monval, and balance certainly appears to be their modus operandi. Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc are the order of the day here, coming together to create something unique to anything I’ve tasted previously. 50% of the wine sees a couple of days skin contact, so its orange wine leanings should satiate those obsessed by such matters. Nevertheless, it’s a damn well-crafted and lip-smackingly zestful wine, with that equilibrium being decidedly on point. I do enjoy the illustration of the hairy-faced gentleman on the label too.
2018 Garreliere “Le Petit Chenin”, Loire Valley, France
I’m a sucker for a decent Chenin, and this one certainly hits the spot. Whilst not being a overly complex wine, the biodynamically farmed “Le Petit Chenin” bursts with freshness and exhibits an abundance of white flowers and stone fruit on the nose; meanwhile the palate brings brisk, spry acidity and doubles-down on the stone fruit core. There’s a satisfying slightly saline finish here also.
2018 Meinklang Pinot Noir, Burgenland, Austria
Having tasted a fair bit of Austrian Pinot Noir over the years, I’m no stranger to the myriad permutations of that wiley grape in that particular country. I’ve tasted through as many terrific ones as I have absolute HOWLERS, the greater majority being pretty middle-of-the-road for my palate. Thankfully this easily falls into the first category. It’s certainly Pinot, a fault of so many so-called Pinot Noirs, that is for sure. Unmistakably so. Coming from Sandy Loam soils on the eastern side of the Neusiedlersee, on the border with Hungary, this is a lovely cooler climate wine, with ripe black cherries and a tiny touch of the herbal. Stainless steel ferment followed by ageing in neutral puncheons leads to a wine with undeniable freshness and vitality.
2016 Bodegas Jalón “Crianza”, Rioja, Spain
Hailing from vineyards located between 460 and 500m above sea level, this 100% Tempranillo (the 2017 had 20% Graciano) from the Ebro Valley-located, family-run Bodegas Jalón sees three years of ageing before release. At first I thought the wine to be slightly reductive, but given a couple of hours open it really came out of its shell, showing off a bouquet of dark plums, mocha, and dry herbs. There is a lovely Tempranillo roundness on this wine, with a decent weight on the palate and soft supple tannins. It’s quite a mouthful at 14.5% alcohol, so think big, bold, grilled, charred flavours and textures when pairing.
2019 Occhipinti “SP68” Bianco, Sicily, Italy
Very much the darling of many more “natural” wine lovers for a number of years, there’s no arguing that Arianna Occhipinti makes some bloody cracking wines, and this one is no exception. An enchanting macerated-on-skins blend of Albanello and Zibibbo (the local name for Muscat of Alexandria), this wine opens with a curious but most appealing delicately floral bouquet. The palate has that unmistakable did-I-just-lick-a-lava-rock? kind of flavour, a very zeitgeisty craving for many a wine lover these days, and I have to say that I’m a convert. A most enjoyable glass of saline-sprayed dusty hillsides.
2018 Luna Gaia Nerello Mascalese, Sicily, Italy
Another Sicilian bottle, but such a lovely one to finish upon. The ripeness on this with is simply unbelievable, but that’s not to say that it’s overdone, as it’s an extremely concentrated but well-balanced bottling. The nose and palate are all about a deep, dark, core of ultra-ripe, succulent, literally bursting-at-the-skins black cherries… and then some; it is absolutely ambrosial. The mouthfeel is gloriously juicy with ripe and supple tannins in the mix. I’m still puzzled by the label though; it shows what looks like a Roman soldier losing his mind over a couple making out under a tree… I’m sure there’s a classical reference, but it’s not coming to me right now…
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s glad he finally cracked open the case!