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Domaine du Somail, Minervois (Languedoc, France) “Le Vin de Plume” 2020 ($18)
 With 37 acres biodynamically farmed in the eastern corner of Minervois, the domaine produces a range of reds.  Its “Plume” is a blend of 80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah which was a step up over many popular reds from Minervois relying on Carignane.  Quite dark, it opens up quickly to reveal aromas of dark fruit with hints of mint and an herbal note.  Medium+ bodied, it has ripe blueberry flavors mingled with black pepper.  Gentle tannins and good acidity hold it together, and the youthful finish bodes well for short term aging.       
91 Norm Roby


Posted by Miranda Franco on August 11, 2022 at 10:51 AM

The Perfect Summer Sipper: Txakolina

With temperatures soaring across the country, you’ll need a cold drink to lull you out of your heat-induced stupor.  Look no further than Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-lee-nah) an effervescent, incredibly crisp, refreshing wine that can cut through the hottest summer days.  Txakolina (also called Txakoli or Chacoli) by no means is exclusively a seasonal drink; however, it's hard to deny that it is an ideal wine to enjoy on a summer terrace.  The Basque region's answer to Vinho Verde, most Txakoli wines have relatively low alcohol (typically 10-11 percent), making them perfectly refreshing for hot summer days.  A hint of salinity and ample acidity also make these wines perfect for social drinking over shared plates on a warm afternoon.

Txakolina is the traditional wine of the Basque region in northern Spain.  Until recently, most Txakoli wine was consumed within the region.  It was only in 1989 that the Basque town of Getaria was given its Denominación de Origen (DO), with the Bizkaiko Txakolina DO created in 1994 and a third tiny appellation, Arabako Txakolina DO created in 2001.  These three distinct subregions make differing styles of the uniquely Basque delight.  The good news is that you don't have to travel to Spain to get your hands on a bottle, because many beautiful examples of this wine have started to pop up across the U.S.  

As Txakolina is becoming more and more popular in the United States, so too are events featuring this iconic wine.  To toast the summer season, I recently attended Maxwell Park’s (a brilliant wine bar with two locations in Washington, D.C.) Txakoli Fest, where I had the opportunity to try notable Txakolinas and chat with Mike Aloi, DC Account Manager for Free Run Wine Merchants, to discuss the appeal of Txakolina.  

Miranda Franco (MF): "Where should one begin their exploration of Txakoli wine?"

Mike Aloi (MA): "You should be able to ask for Txakoli at any good Spanish restaurant, and it is increasingly available at seafood restaurants with serious wine lists.  I love Txakoli and oysters.  One of the most iconic producers is Ameztoi, a 5th-generation family estate in Getaria.  These carefully made wines, iconic for their brightness and signature spritz, are easily the most recognized brand of Txakoli in the United States."

MF: "What can someone tasting Txakoli for the first time expect from it?"

MA: "Txakoli is in one word: FRESH.  Coming from the cool, coastal vineyards of Spain’s Basque Country along the Cantabrian coast, these wines are always light, bright, saline, and bursting with notes of citrus zest.  Often bottled with a little bit of fizz, they are the perfect aperitif meant to be served alongside the tapas and pintxos.  The tapas bar-lined streets of San Sebastian are practically flowing with Txakoli to wash down salty snacks like olives, anchovies, chorizo, and Marcona almonds."

MF: "What do you love most about Txakoli?"
MA: "Above all else, it is joyous and refreshing.  I generally gravitate towards high acid, low alcohol wines - especially in summer.  These wines are also extremely versatile on their own and with food.  Most importantly, they are meant to be shared.  These wines go down easy – by the bottle or passed in a communal drinking vessel called a porron (look it up – it’s as fun as it looks).  These wines are just plain fun."

MF: "Why did Free Run Wine Merchants decide to work with Txakoli?"

MA: "We are lucky to have De Maison Selections as one of our import partners, and they are the undisputed kings of Txakoli in the US.  They are a boutique importer of wines from Spain and France that just casually has four different Txakoli producers in their portfolio.  That’s a commitment to a region, style, and wine-drinking culture."

"Beyond Ameztoi there are a couple of other producers I’d love to call out."

"Arotmaña ‘Xarmant – from steeper slopes further inland in the mountains of the Basque country, these wines – who’s name means “charming” in Basque – are certainly that.  A little more fruit-forward and with a bit less acid and residual carbonation – these make a great entry point to Txakoli, especially for lovers of Riesling or Chenin Blanc.  It also comes in a beautiful 250ml can that is ideal for the beach, the pool, or the park."

"Doniene Gorrondona – Perched on the precipitous green cliff above the Bay of Biscay in the seaside village of Bakio, near Bilbao, Doniene Gorrondona is making some of the most singular and interesting wines in the region.  Helmed by female winemaker Itziar Insausti, Gorrondona is pushing the conversation forward regarding what the region can produce.  Yes, they make a light and refreshing entry-level Taxkoli but also a few very special single vineyard white Txakolina with more power and structure than a drink like Chablis.  Truly a delight."

"They are famous for never giving up on red or “tinto” Txakoli and are home to some of the oldest parcels of pre-phylloxera Hondarrabi Beltza (Cabernet Franc) vines in the region.  It is easy to draw parallels between her red and the best wines of regions like Chinon in France’s Loire Valley.  They also have a distillery on-site at the winery where they make Orujo (Spanish Grappa) from the pomace (seeds and skins) left over from the winemaking.  They are making a couple of really cool liqueurs from this brandy base.  One with herbs and spices similar to an amaro and another with seaweed from the nearby coastline that tasted unlike anything I had ever had."

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
The Double Lives of Philippe Bascaules
Roger Morris

Sept. 21, 2022: To be named estate director at any one of the world's greatest wineries would be, for most winemakers, a lifetime achievement. But to be named director at two of the world's great wineries is practically unheard of - especially if the positions are being simultaneously held at both wineries, involve two unrelated owners, and are located on two different continents, but still in the same hemisphere (meaning bud breaks and harvests at both estates are just days apart). For the past half-dozen years, this has been Philippe Bascaules' daily life. In 2011, the Bordeaux native was hired as general director at Francis Ford Coppola's Inglenook Estate after serving 11 years as estate director for Château Margaux, working alongside Paul Pontallier, the managing director. In 2016, upon the death of Pontallier, Bascaules was enticed to return Margaux while retaining the title of director of winemaking at Inglenook.
Viognier: A Hedonistic White Wine Goes Mainstream
Norm Roby

Sept. 21, 2022: Even before I learned how to pronounce it, Viognier intrigued me. I still recall tasting an early vintage from Calera and thinking, 'This is unlike any other white wine, something new and distinct to check out.' But this was in the late 1980s and there were not many produced. Joseph Phelps had experimented with it, and in 1986 La Jota made a small batch from its 3 acres. But today, after a long and often bumpy course, Viognier is gaining acceptance worldwide. It is grown in every wine country and shows up in unlikely places like Virginia and Israel. According to the folks at Tablas Creek, 'Viognier as of 2016 accounts for some 40,000 acres worldwide, including more than 20,000 acres in France, and significant plantings in Italy (4,500 acres), and California (3,000).
Wine With
WINE WITH…Steak on a Bed of Buttered Corn

July 20, 2022: Most of us have a pretty clear idea of what we consider the perfect steak. In general, Americans tend to like their steak big, and they tend to like it grilled over charcoal. I am usually happy with a smaller steak, and I like it somewhat thinner. My ideal steak is usually seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, and it is quickly seared in a very hot and heavy cast iron skillet. If the wine you're going to pour with that steak is special that might be even more reason to let the steak's natural flavors shine through.
On My Table
Riding the Lingering Waves of Summer
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Sept. 7, 2022: Labor Day is history. In some parts of the country, early morning temps have dipped into the mid 40°s. But just as daytime drinkers might remark that 'It's 5:00pm somewhere!' summer persists for many of us, in our hearts. These very good renditions of rosé and Sauvignon Blanc are for those who share that persuasion. You might have caught past columns of mine reviewing red wines by MacRostie - Pinot Noir and Syrah. MacRostie is a fine, reliable winery whose wines I have enjoyed for years. The 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir is a wine that I particularly like. It carries the appellation 'Sonoma Coast' because its grapes come from both Russian River Valley and the Petaluma Gap. The former source is a special block of MacRostie's Thale's Estate Vineyard; the latter is the winery's newest property, Nightwing Vineyard. While I was savoring the rosé, my tasting partner became excited by the Sauvignon Blanc for its true varietal expression. 'Clockwise" is a small-lot wine from MacRostie's winery-within-a winery.