Great Gifts for Geeks

What all the cool kids are drinking this year

 


After compiling lists for so many great wines to gift in 2013 I am left with a few wines worth recommending that just don’t seem to fit in anywhere. They are, for a lack of a better word, geek wines. Not that some of the wines that made my list weren’t geeky enough. These are simply wines that tend to fall outside the mainstream of wine appreciation, and as such don’t fit into the easy categories of my previous articles.

They are wines that may very well emerge into the mainstream, as for example Gruner Veltliner has after being a geek’s darling for many years. Though that is somewhat unlikely, seeing as the geekiness factor has been ratchetedup over the years and now focuses on not only the obscure, but oftentimes the rare as well. What follows are ten wines worth trying, and tracking down since they are of course obscure. They are perfect for gifting to your favorite wine geek being relatively unknown, delicious, and rich with history.

Carignan

Long a blending grape used throughout the Mediterranean basin, in Chile and California, Carignan has of late become something of a sensation. Varietal bottlings, while rare, are proliferating as people become more interested in the variety and the concept of both terroir, exemplified by single vineyard wines and the ancient vineyards that many of these wines come from. 
 
 
Carignan is quite at home on the island of Sardina and Cantina Santadi is one of the great producers of single vineyard examples. Their Terre Brune is a benchmark wine, but almost impossible to track down, opt instead for the more available Shardana, a blend of Carignan with a hint of Syrah, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous floral and fruity aromatics, rich slightly rustic fruit, and Carginan’s bright, cleansing acidity. 
 
 

Carignan

 
Another benchmark for the variety is this single vineyard bottling coming from the Roussillon region of France, planted, as the name states, in 1903. It’s a rich, powerful example of Carignan redolent of wild herbs, minerals and dark fruits with more tannic punch that you might typically get from the variety. A wine for the cellar, that shows it’s best from 5 years following the vintage and should continue to age well for another decade at least. It’s a wine that speaks clearly of it’s origins and the small, dark berries of old vine fruit. 
 
 
 
 
 

Mencia

Mencia may have had it’s moment in the geek sun already, and there are many examples that have hit the retail shelves and gained quite an audience, but the best examples continue to live somewhat on the fringes of the mainstream. For me these come from the Ribera Sacra where steep vineyards rooted in poor rocky soils trace the path of the Miño and Sil rivers in Galicia, Spain.
 
 
A relative bargain, the wines of D. Ventura epitomize the bright clarity and touch of finesse that these wines are capable of. Mencia is often compared to Cabernet Franc, and here you can get the association, though from the weight and tense structure of the wine. Mineral driven dark raspberry and cherry fruits are framed with mineral and peppery spice notes in a very refreshing, easy to pair with food style. 
 
 
 

Mencia

 
If the Ventura is similar to Cabernet Franc this Dominio do Bibei reminds me of Cru Beaujolais with it’s red fruit and bright, fresh palate impression, though this is fairly tannic and powerful. It’s made from vines that range from between 15 and 100 years old in a beautifully bright style. 
 
 

Orange Wines

Orange wines, so-called because of their color which ranges from pale yellow to deep orange, are white wines that have been produced as if they were red wines. That is to say that they are produced by keeping the skins in contact with the juice for an extended period of time imparting not only color to the wine but also a bit of tannin and flavoring compounds held within the skins. These will probably always remain Geek wines, due not only to their unusual appearance and flavor profile but also due to the rather broad range of styles they are produced in. Many of the wines are organic or natural and a large portion also are, to one degree or another, oxidized.  While they tend to be unusual, their blend of savory and fruity flavors and sometimes rich and rustic textures make them the perfect wines to pair with dishes that can often be a difficult match. Raw fish for example, and dishes flavored with great olive oils seem to be natural partners. 
 
 
Wines do not get much geekier than this. An orange wine made by nuns under the guidance of Giampiero Bea, of Paolo Bea fame. This blend of Malvasia, Verdicchio, Grechetto and Trebbiano has all the honeycomb, dried floral and slightly dried fruits that are typical of this genre. It’s an affordable entry point into the world of Orange Wines. 
 
 

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Great Gifts for Geeks

1.
Cantina Santadi Shardana (2008)
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2.
Domaine le Roc des Anges (1903)
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3.
D. Ventura Vina Caneiro Ribeira Sacra (2010)
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4.
Dominio Do Bibei Lalama Ribeira Sacra (2009)
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5.
Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Rusticum (2010)
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6.
Gravner Breg Anfora Venezia Giulia IGT (2005)
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7.
Caves Jean Bourdy Cotes du Jura Blanc (2006)
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8.
Puffeney Poulsard Cuvee M (2011)
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9.
Lustau Emilio Rare Amontillado Solera Reserva Esquadrilla
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10.
Equipo Navazos la Bota de Fino No. 35 Macharnudo Alto Sherry (NV)
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