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Happy Surprises from a Local Harlem Wine Shop
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
May 7, 2024
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Within my household, I am the wine scholar — educator, wine school owner, Master of Wine  — but my husband is Monsieur le Sommelier.  He buys the wine and collects wine, and I share the drinking. Recent circumstances have made me the sole wine drinker in the family and separated us from our large cellar to boot. Now I am a wine buyer.

Short of time, I turned to my local wine shop in Harlem, The Winery, which is run by Eric White, a former student of mine who has done me proud.  It’s a small shop that by necessity offers carefully chosen wines from a thoughtful taster.  I have had no end of delight in exploring its shelves.  The following wines are a few examples.


2020 Fitz Roy Carménère, Maule Valley, Chile (about $15, 90 Points)
I headed to the small South America section of the shop because I know Chilean and Argentine wines to be good value.  Here was a Carménère from the far reaches of Chile’s Maule Valley, close to the Coastal Mountains.  This area is a rich frontier for Chilean vintners who are into older vines and top-quality fruit that’s vinified in ways that are the opposite of industrial.  I didn’t know the brand but was curious enough to try a bottle. And smart enough, it turns out.

This Carménère has a fresh, focused aroma of tart red fruits, dark plum, licorice and stony earth. In your mouth, it’s dry and medium-bodied with concentrated flavors of dark fruit, tart fruit, spice, and savory mineral notes.  There is enough tannin to give the wine grip and enough acidity to make it lively and long. With a chill on it, the wine takes on a near-juiciness.  This description unfortunately does not adequately convey the thrill of tasting a dry, flavorful, structured wine that’s precisely your preferred style and inexpensive enough to drink every day.  This is not an “important” wine, but there’s nothing about it I would change. Imported by Elixir Wine Group.

2021 Pipeño, Itata, Chile (about $18/liter, 90 Points)
It was the name of the region, Itata, that popped out at me from the label.  Itata, a newly exciting old wine region on the western coast of southern Chile, has granite soils and very old vines.  The word Pipeño is used by several producers to indicate a traditional wine that’s released early.  I assumed an Itata wine would be a País but Eric corrected me: the label’s fine print reads “Old vines Cinsault.”  It also reads, “Natural wine,” which is not necessarily an attraction for me.  But I liked the wine all the same.

This is a particular wine, not to everyone’s taste because it is lean and tart and without artifice.  It’s very dry, light medium-bodied with high acidity, and light tannin.  Aromas and flavors are those of red fruits, particularly tart red cherry and the taste has a note of bitterness.  I like the fact that the taste is alive, edgy, energetic, and long. I am a repeat buyer. Imported by Ripe Wine Imports

2021 Pedro Parra y Familia, Vinista, País, Itata, Chile ($16, 91 Points):  
Here the name “Pedro Parra” caught my eye.  He is Chile’s preeminent soil expert and is respected throughout winedom. He is a champion of Itata because of those granite soils; in fact, he names the soil on the label, “sandy red granite.”  The wine is made from old País vines.

This wine is pale, with an aroma of fresh, delicate red fruits and herbs.  It is fully dry and has light-medium body with high tannin but little acid.  Because the acid is low, and the alcohol is a solid 13 percent, the wine presents itself smoothly in your mouth until the tannin emerges as a second phase; then the wine tastes energetic and lively.  Despite the common wisdom that it is acidity that drives a wine’s finish, this wine’s finish is not lacking. Compared to the Cinsault from the same region, a “natural wine,” the Vinista País has a polish to it — energy without the ragged edge. Imported by Skurnik Wines.

These three wines affirm the wisdom of seeking value — more quality than the price might suggest — away the beaten path of well-known varieties and wine regions. And that having a knowledgeable retailer as your guide is a fortunate asset.