Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/24/24


Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included some of the most legendary wines of New Zealand, from venerable producer Pyramid Valley, in the North Canterbury region of that country’s South Island. Started in 2000 by the late Mike Weersing and his wife Claudia, this fully-biodynamic, limestone-terroir-obsessed estate has long been making some of the very top wines in New Zealand. Their Chardonnays in particular sit amongst the very best interpretations of this grape anywhere in the world. The estate was sold in 2017 to Steve Smith and Brian Sheth, who have done an admirable job carrying on the Weersings’ legacy.

Indeed, the Lion’s Tooth and Field of Fire Chardonnays from 2020 are mind-bending in their finesse, vivacity, and deliciousness. They positively shimmer on the palate and, for those who haven’t had them, will challenge your very conception of New Zealand wine. Snappy Savvy Blanc these are most definitely not.

It’s hard for anything to hold a candle to those first two wines, but the 2020 Angel Flower and Earth Smoke Pinot Noirs are making a good go of it. The Angel Flower in particular has an effortless poise and elegance to it that proves quite seductive.

The Snake’s Tongue Pinot Noir is a new addition to the Pyramid Valley portfolio of wines. Sourced from a newer estate vineyard in Central Otago, it comes from a specific parcel that the new winery’s owners believe can live in the pantheon of the winery’s top bottlings. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t impress me as much as the North Canterbury wines.

Let’s stick with the southern hemisphere for a while longer, but spin the globe a bit, shall we? Over in Uruguay, the grape Tannat is king and has historically been made into robust, ripe, and oak-aged wines in the model of Bordeaux. Increasingly, however, producers are exploring a wider range of expressions for the grape, and that is a very good thing.

The Viña Progreso “Revolution” Tannat is bright and crunchy, picked on the early side, and designed to be a fresher interpretation of the grape, courtesy of Gabriel Pisano, whose family has been making wines under the Pisano name in the Progreso region of Urugay since 1924. Viña Progreso represents Pisano’s “experimental” efforts, though many of his wines have become regular annual productions.

As another example, the Folklore Tinto from the Castel Pujol brand (made by Bodega Cerro Chapeu) has co-fermented some first-press Petit Manseng skins and juice to make a lighter, perhaps fruitier version of Tannat that still manages to have a lot of depth and honesty to it. But at only 13% alcohol, it comes across as more elegant than powerful.

The Bouza Tannat, on the other hand, is made in the more “traditional” mold of Uruguayan Tannat, at least when producers seem to be looking to make something more “impressive.” Big, extracted, and given a serious oak treatment, this wine, however well-made, seems a bit old-fashioned at this point.

Returning ever-so-briefly to the northern hemisphere, I’ve got two wines to recommend from Compris Vineyard, a new-ish project in the Willamette Valley that emerged from the collaboration of two couples during the Pandemic. They’ve sent along a Tempranillo (a surprising variety to plant in the land of Pinot) and the other a Syrah. I liked the Tempranillo more than the Syrah, but both offer a nice combination of fruit, freshness and more savory qualities.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Pyramid Valley “Lion’s Tooth” Chardonnay, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a gorgeously flinty nose of lemon pith and bee pollen shot through with a smokiness that is quite alluring. In the…

Source : https://www.vinography.com/2024/03/vinography-unboxed-week-of-3-24-24