What could be more evocative of spring than the crisp fruit and peppery bite of Grüner Veltliner? Sparkling Grüner Veltliner! Burgenland, Austria, in the southeast corner of Austria bordering Hungary, had long been Austria's poorest and least established wine region, but in recent years innovations have made it the country's premier zone for lush, sumptuous sweet wines and dry reds. Sektkellerei Szigeti is making it into a destination for sparkling wines as well, focusing on top quality wines made using Méthode Traditionnelle, the same method used for Champagne. The Szigeti brothers ferment with yeasts indigenous to the Champagne region. What sets them apart is their desire to create sparkling wines expressive of terroir and varietal. Traditionally sparkling wines are blended, and the result is often a harmonious flavor with no dinstinct characteristics of one grape varietal. Their Grüner is crisp and lively with fine bubbles and the distinctive white pepper notes of Grüner Veltliner. The perfect spritely, pretty wine to toast the springtime.
Old-school Riesling from premier vineyard sites in the Middle Mosel, which is recognized as the source of the world's finest Riesling. Johannes and Barbara Selbach farm the dizzyingly steep shale slopes with the help of their son Sebastian. The Selbachs have been involved in the wine trade of the Mosel for nearly four centuries. Their mission is to craft wines evocative of the mineral-rich slate of the vineyards, showcasing the pure Riesling fruit--crisp, elegant, low-alcohol wines using non-interventionist methods. Kabinett Rieslings are made from grapes harvested just when ripe, so typically lighter and more graceful than their richer Spatlese and Auslese cousins. This does not make Kabinetts an inferior style--their beauty lies in their lithe, shimmering elegance. This example from the Zeltlinger Sonnenuhr vineyard is almost full-bodied, for a Kabinett, with slate and lime zest interwoven with buttery apple strudel. Delicate and floral, rich and racy, all at the same time. Try it on a spring evening alongside spring rolls or Sichuan, Thai larb gai or Indian kofta.
Muga Reserva Rioja 2010 - $26.99
Muga is typically Spanish in that it combines tradition with modernity, using French and American oak, sometimes in tandem, to craft elegant, bold wines brimming with rugged Spanish terroir and dusty Tempranillo fruit, with a backbone of oak and vanilla. Muga was founded in 1932, and is still family-run. Their Reserva Rioja is a blend of mostly Tempranillo with Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carignan), and a touch of Graciano. The blend is aged in oak for two years (the minimum required time for barrel-aging Reserva Rioja is one year, with three years total aging.) The wine is fined with egg white but unfiltered. Bold, ripe fruit, bitter chocolate, coffee, and spice come through on the nose and palate. It is a long and complex wine with a mineral, silky mouthfeel and dry tannins on the finish. Serve it with roasted or grilled lamb, in the Spanish tradition.
Ehrhart Domaine Saint Remy Cremant d'Alsace - $23.99
Lively, crisp bubbles with a toasty, yeasty nose and a green apple, snappy finish from old-school Alsatian producers. The Ehrhart family has been making wine in the region for nearly 300 years, with painstaking non-interventionist methods. Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart are proudly organic and biodynamic, harvesting their grapes by hand and fermenting them with native yeasts. They vinify all their parcels of land separately, such is the Alsatian emphasis on terroir (a French obsession, yes, but also a German one.) Their cremant is 100% Chardonnay, bottle-fermented in the Champagne method. Drink it with seafood or ripe French cheese, or on its own.
Mas Marer Monsant Red Blend - $15.99
A pleasing blend of Garnacha, Syrah, and small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Spanish winemaker Sara Perez and her husband Rene Barbier Junior. Sara Perez makes wine in the Priorat and Montsant with great success, farming organically and biodynamically. Her reds are elegant and full of fruit, spice, herbs and minerals. The Mas Marer is rich and full of sweet black fruit and restrained, herbal minerality. This wine would sing with Spanish dishes involving copious amounts of tomatoes, garlic, olives and herbs, but it's balanced and interesting enough to enjoy on its own.