Goodbye 2020, and for many reasons, a good riddance. But, putting fires, hurricanes, heat waves, political chaos and a global pandemic aside, what a great year it’s been! (At least from a purely wine-drinking point of view.) Looking back over the past year, our club has featured wines from the arid desert regions of Spain, from the volcanic soils on the slopes of Mount Etna in Italy, from the hillsides of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Central coast of California, from the islands of Greece, and more. These are just a small sample of what the world has to offer. The producers we have featured all share the same passion and devotion to their craft, which shines through in their wines. In a time where travel is restricted and social interactions limited, wine can provide a welcome distraction from the multitude of challenges we all face. The New Year promises to hold more new wine discoveries and treasures as we continue our oenoligical exploration. Fasten those organoleptic seatbelts, it’s going to be a delicious ride! From all of us at PlumpJack, we hope you drink well, eat well, and have very healthy and happy holidays!
2018 Giovi Etna Bianco DOP Sicily, Italy
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. At its widest point, between Messina and Marsala, the island measures 175 miles east to west, and about one third that distance north to south. For more than 2,500 years, Sicily has been a significant center of viticulture in the Mediterranean. Blessed with consistently bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, its classic Mediterranean climate is ideally suited to the needs of vitis vinifera. The key grape varieties used in Sicilian viticulture are a combination of indigenous and newer international varieties. Nero d’Avola and Catarratto are the most important natives, occupying about 16% and 32% of Sicily’s vineyard area respectively. A large proportion of what remains on the island is used to make Marsala, including two other white varieties, Grillo and Inzolia.
The Mount Etna region in northeastern Sicily is among Italy’s most vibrant wine regions. Vineyards have flourished here as far back as the 6th century BC when the Greeks first colonized Sicily, inspiring ancient writers and poets to sing the
praises of Mount Etna wines. The Mount Etna region’s primary wine producing zone rises up the slopes of Mount Etna, an active volcano that has erupted from time to time, sometimes savagely, for thousands of years. Vineyards are planted
up to an elevation of 3,500 feet and higher, putting them among the highest commercial vineyards in the world. The steeply sloped, terraced vineyards are difficult to navigate with mechanical equipment so most of the tending and
harvesting of the vines has to be done by hand. Grapevines at these high elevations benefit from considerable variation between day and nighttime temperatures which not only facilitates berry growth and coloration, but also promotes complexity in grape flavors. Mount Etna boasts grape vines well over a century old, with some reaching the two-century mark. Etna’s rich volcanic soil contains a high concentration of sand, a combination that has proved to be highly resistant to the phylloxera root pest that decimated other European vineyards in the late 1800’s. The wines of the Etna region are primarily dry red and white wines but also include a few rosato (rosè) wines. The Etna Bianco (Etna white) wines must have a minimum of 60% Carricante, a little-known, indigenous white variety that is grown exclusively in the Etna region. While 40% of the blend can consist of other authorized local white varieties, some of the best Etna Bianco wines are made entirely of Carricante.
Giovanni La Fauci built his first still when he was thirteen years old. Years later in 1987, with the title of Master Distiller, he founded Distilleria Giovi with head offices in Valdina, near Messina. While still involved in Grappa production, today
he also produces wine, bringing the same intense passion he has for distilled spirits to the craft of winemaking. The vines are cultivated naturally and sustainably without any use of chemicals. For all his wines, the grape musts are only fermented with native yeasts. The wines are then aged in botti from 220 to 500-liters for a minimum of two years and no stainless steel is ever used. The botti are stored in a natural underground cavern that maintains a temperature between 46 to 52°F all year. Racking takes place respecting the lunar phase and only a limited amount of metabisulfite is used upon
The 2018 Giovi Etna Bianco is a blend of 85% Carricante and 15% Grecanico. The vineyards are planted on the northeast slope of Mt Etna near Randazzo at an altitude of 1,970 feet. As a result of volcanic eruptions over the centuries, the soils are sandy, black, and dark brown and are rich in iron and nitrogen.
The 2018 Giovi Etna Bianco has enticing aromas of Mediterranean herbs, fragrant flowers, citrus, and hints of acacia. The fresh, savory palate offers flavors of juicy lime, ripe pear, chopped herbs and minerals, combined with bright acidity. The finish is crisp and clean with lingering fruit flavors. Marinated mushrooms, prosciutto di Parma, Sicilian olives, carciofi (marinated artichoke hearts), peperoni ripieni (baked yellow and red peppers) frittata, cheesy arancinette (miniature rice ball croquettes) and polpette di melanzane (fried and braised eggplant fritters) are great Sicilian treats to compliment this Etna Bianco. It will also pair beautifully with a rich Seafood Lasagna, warm roast chicken with herbs, or pizza with clams and garlic.
The 2018 Giovi Etna Bianco is $25.00/bottle, $270.00/case
2019 Vignobles Bulliat Morgon “Nature” Beaujolais, France
Beaujolais, the largest and southernmost region in Burgundy, lies roughly midway between Burgundy’s famed Côte d’Or and the Northern Rhône Valley. In shallow, highly absorbent sandy soil consisting of pink granite dotted with blue porphyry stones (hurled out several million years ago by the Brouilly volcano), Gamay vines grow in solitary splendor. Beaujolais Cru is the northernmost appellation of Beaujolais, located close to the Mâconnais border. Made up of 10 separate areas in the foothills of the Monts du Beaujolais, this appellation produces some of the region's best-quality wines. Unlike the early drinking style produced in much of Beaujolais, Beaujolais Cru wines are made to be cellared, with aging potential anywhere from three to fifteen years (or more), depending on the style and sub-region of a particular wine. From the South to the North, on mainly granitic terrain, the 10 crus of Beaujolais follow one after the other, forming an almost perfect chain: after Brouilly comes Côte de Brouilly, followed by Régnié, Morgon and Chiroubles, closely tagged by Fleurie, Moulin à Vent, Chénas, Juliénas and Saint-Amour, the northern limit of the Beaujolais region. The red wines from Beaujolais are made from the Gamay Noir varietal, a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais, introduced to French soil by the Romans, who started wine production in the region, later to be carried out by the Benedictine Monks. Gamay was grown throughout Burgundy and was a huge asset around the time of the Black Plague, as it was easy to cultivate and ripened earlier, providing fruit faster to many starving people. However, due to its extremely thin skin and harsh acidity, it was not seen as being noble like Pinot Noir and was eventually pushed out of most of Burgundy to the south, where it flourished on granite soil.
Upon graduating from viticultural school, Noël Bulliat, the 6th generation winegrower in his family, started his winemaking career by purchasing 4 hectares of vineyards in 1978. The property, in the very heart of the Beaujolais region around the village of Morgon, soon grew to 15 hectares. In 2005, Noël’s son, Loïc, joined the family estate, bringing bright and creative ideas to improve their farming and winemaking techniques. Loïc was only 26 years old when he was first elected president of the Association of The Producers of Beaujolais – a huge recognition by the elderly winemakers for his talent, innovation, quality, and drive. Today, the estate covers 27 hectares in 8 different appellations in the
Beaujolais region, and produces around 70,000 bottles per year. Vignobles Bulliat uses eco-friendly techniques in the vineyards avoiding pesticides and limiting yields. All of the grapes are hand harvested and their production has been officially certified organic since 2013.
Vignobles Bulliat’s 2019 Morgon “Nature” is made from 100% Gamay that comes from a south-east facing 4-hectare hillside plot that reaches up to a 40° slope. The soils are composed of crumbly schist and granite, and vines average 60 years old. After the grapes are hand-harvested, whole-cluster fermentation takes place after a long maceration in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks using only indigenous yeasts. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is aged in concrete vats for 4 months and bottled unfined, unfiltered, with no added sulfites.
Bright and fragrant, with strawberry and cranberry infused fruit, Bulliat’s Morgon shows wonderful finesse along with its balanced tannin structure. There is also a clear mineral backbone, which adds to the beautiful aromatic and textural lift
present in the wine. One of the beauties of this Beaujolais is that it goes with just about everything. Try this wine with grilled salmon, roasted chicken with grilled vegetables, eggs Benedict, omelets with Gruyère and chives, thinner cuts of steak, sausages, and lamb.
The 2019 Vignobles Bulliat Morgon “Nature” is $26.00/bottle, $280.80/case