1. Vinos Piñol Portal Blanco- $18.99 - More commonly known by its French name, Grenache, Garnacha Blanca is the white mutation of black Garnacha, or Grenache. It originated in the rugged northeast of Spain, where this wine is made. It crossed the Pyrenees into France, where it found a home in France's sunny southern regions and became an integral part of many Rhône and Languedoc blends
In Spain, like its red sister, it is often made into wine on its own, rather than being blended. It's a fascinating wine, with the body of a Chardonnay, and relatively low acidity. It still can be refreshing, despite its luxurious texture. It can take on all sorts of aromas and flavors like ripe pear, lemon zest, green mango, peach, honeysuckle, spice, and, if oak is used, brioche or lemon curd.
Portal Blanco is not aged in oak, but in stainless steel. The pure Garnacha flavor comes through, but it isn't a sterile, simple fruity wine. In this vintage there is a small percentage of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, which contribute to the richness and brightness of the wine. There is a strong sense of green herbs, both fresh and dried, and a mouthwatering lemony, green fruit flavor, along with stone fruit and notes of almond, ginger, and cumin. The minerality and citrus notes along with the rich body make it like Spain's answer to Chablis. The wine comes from old vines on limestone and clay soils, in the Terra Alta region of northeast Spain. The climate is hot and dry and the terrain is rugged and dusty, much like its neighbors Priorat and Montsant, with their dusty terraced vineyards and jagged mountains rising up like claws from the desert. This is a versatile wine with food due to its rich texture and lack of oak, but it pairs especially well with richer, fattier fish with a variety of green herbs and spices. Try it with Indian versions with mustard and cumin seeds, grilled with fresh lemon slices and cilantro and parsley.
2. Rabelo Roman Douro Red - $19.99 - The Douro wine region of Portugal was the world's first regional appellation, defined by the government. In 1756, a royal Portuguese charter for the Douro Wine Company defined the wine production areas of the Douro valley. Although for several centuries its reputation hung on Port alone, more recently its table wines have become popular for their bold, vibrant flavors, not dissimilar to Port, since their often made from the same grapes, but with much more refreshing drinkability. With 45,000 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards, the Douro is a stunning region, with views that call to mind the Mosel river valley in Germany, but with a distinct personality. Rabelo is a project that unifies 20 different tiny, independent Quintas in the Douro Valley as a way to bring together the terroir of each distinct pocket of the valley. There is freshness from Baixu Corgo, richness from Douro Superior, and minerality from Cimu Corgo. The wine is a blend of 55% Tinta Roriz, 25% Touriga Franca, and 20% Touriga Nacional, the classic Douro trio, and the three grapes most often used in Port production. The cuvee is fermented in stainless steel, then aged 50/50 in stainless steel and used French oak for 10 months.
The aromas are of fresh, pure berry, plum, and blackcurrant fruit, with spice and minerality on the palate that provides freshness despite the dry finish and fairly substantial alcohol. It's almost Bordeaux-esque in its structure and berry and plum flavors, but with a distinct terroir and dark fruitiness. Drink it with grilled meat like lamb or pork with spicy marinades and herbs and spices. The fruit and acidity will complement fatty, smoky flavors, while the full-bodied texture will stand up to the richness of the meat.
Aubrey Stout, Imbibe