AG Pick: Avia Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Introducing the Sauvignon Blanc you’ll enjoy drinking all summer long: the 2011 Avia Sauvignon Blanc.

One taste and you’d never guess the country where it comes from: Slovenia. Yes, the small European country bordered by Italy, Austria and Croatia is producing some exciting wines that are now available in the United States.

Avia Sauvignon BlancPronounced ahh-vee-ahh, this wine is grown and produced just over the eastern Italian border in a region called Goriška Brda. It’s an area of low rounded hills (brda means hills in Slovenian), with a Mediterranean climate and a winemaking tradition that is several centuries old.

One look at the colorful label and you’ll see that this is meant to be a fun wine. Easy to drink and with flavors that are more fruit-driven than grassy, the Avia Sauvignon Blanc is a crowd-pleasing wine.

Aromas of citrus and tropical fruit introduce flavors of pineapple, Meyer lemon and white grapefruit, with a hint of lemongrass. The wine is well-balanced and soft in the mouth, with gentle acidity and a clean finish.

Costing less than $10 a bottle, the Avia Sauvignon Blanc is affordable and versatile. It’s a wine you won’t feel guilty about opening on a weeknight; it can be enjoyed with friends, outdoors on a warm day, on its own or with food. Serve the Avia Sauvignon Blanc as an aperitif or with salads, shellfish, white fish or poultry.

Interested in other wines from Slovenia? Click here to read about wines from Colliano.

$9, 13% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | More under $20

Riedel & Graffigna Introduce First Ever Malbec Glass

Steak isn’t the only pairing with a Malbec from Argentina. The South American red wine’s new best match: the Malbec glass from Riedel.

Riedel Malbec glassThe specially-shaped glass was unveiled Tuesday in Atlanta at a small tasting at ONE. midtown kitchen, following similar events around the country.

The first ever Malbec glass is a special partnership between Riedel and Bodegas Graffigna, one of Argentina’s oldest wineries.

As Federico Lleonart, Global Wine Ambassador from Argentina explained, the Malbec glass was more than one year in the making. Riedel and Graffigna started with 16 different shapes, then narrowed it down to five. Over the course of multiple tastings – with Graffigna Malbecs and Malbecs from all over Argentina – one glass stood out for its ability to bring out the optimal aromas, taste and experience of Argentine Malbec.

What makes this glass perfect for Malbec? The wider bowl and the narrower rim heighten and concentrate the aromas, particularly the red and black fruit notes. As you sip, the narrow rim directs the wine to the center of the tongue, targeting specific taste buds and sensations.

Altogether, the shape of the Malbec glass enhances the wine’s fruit forwardness and fresh flavors, the sweet and smooth tannins, and the silky texture.

Does the Riedel Malbec glass really make that much difference in the smell and taste of Argentine Malbec? The answer – a resounding yes.

Malbec glass tastingIn an experiment you can try at home, the participants at Tuesday’s event tasted the same Graffigna Malbec in three different glasses: a Pinot Noir glass, a Cabernet glass and the Malbec glass (pictured, left to right). The Pinot Noir glass made it difficult to smell the fruit aromas of the wine, and brought out a dusty quality in the taste. The Cabernet glass, while bringing out more fruit notes, gave off more oaky notes and made the tannins harder. It was a completely different experience drinking Malbec from the Malbec glass – the aroma was fresh fruit-focused, and the taste, texture and tannins came together in perfect harmony when the wine was sipped.

If you want to be among the first wine fans to own the Malbec glass, the glasses are only available through Graffigna Wines for the next six months. Visit www.themalbec.com to purchase a set.

Riedel makes a variety of grape-specific wine glasses. To view their entire collection visit www.riedelusa.net.

Graffigna is located north of Mendoza in San Juan, and was the first winery founded in San Juan in 1870. Their wines are imported by Pernod Ricard USA. For more information visit www.graffignawines.com.

De Martino Winery: Reinventing Chile

“Reinventing Chile” is more than just a tagline for De Martino. It’s both a mission statement and a vision – to produce wines that are not just exceptional for Chile, but truly world-class.

De Martino wines“We want to show people that Chile can produce exciting wines,” said export director Guy Hooper, who visited in Atlanta in March.

De Martino was founded in 1934 by Pietro De Martino Pascualone who came to Chile’s Maipo Valley from Italy. De Martino is still family owned and operated; today the third and fourth generations of the family work in the winery.

De Martino is committed to the environment. They began organic farming in 1998, and were certified organic in 2000. In 2009 they became the first carbon-neutral winery in Latin America.

Chile MapThe grapes for De Martino wines come from their 740 acres in the Maipo Valley as well as other locations in Chile. In their aim to produce the best wine, the winemaking team has sought out the best conditions for each grape. The Chardonnay comes from the Limarí Valley, a cool climate region approximately 12 to 14 miles from the Pacific that has similar soil to Chablis. The mild to warm climate of the Maipo Valley is best suited for Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Syrah comes from the rocky soil of the Choapa Valley, located at 2,500 feet above sea level. Click the map to enlarge.

De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay“Limarí is the future of Chilean Chardonnay,” said Guy, pouring a taste of the 2011 Legado Reserva Chardonnay. Clean, pure and authentic, the wine has elegant citrus and white flower notes. The use of older oak barrels softens out the acidic edges but does not overwhelm the crisp fruit flavors (half of the wine spent 8 to 9 months in used French oak barrels). This is an ideal Chardonnay for those who have gotten tired of the over-oaked trend.

De Martino achieves its goal to produce world-class wines with its Carmenere, as befitting the signature grape of Chile (De Martino was actually the first Chilean winery to export Carmenere).

Love Carmenere or never tasted it? These wines are for you.

The 2011 Estate Carmenere has spice and black pepper aromas, with flavors of ripe cherry, gentle tannins and a touch of sage and sweet oak on the smooth finish. The 2010 Legado Reserva Carmenere has notes of black cherry, boysenberry and black pepper. It’s velvety smooth in the mouth, with well-balanced acidity and restrained tannins that make it a great pairing with grilled meats.

De Martino’s Cabernet Sauvignon shows just how well this grape is suited for the Maipo Valley. The 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and fruit-forward with flavors of boysenberry, black currant and a touch of bell pepper. Forty percent of the wine spent 4 to 5 months in used French oak barrels, which adds an extra layer of complexity.

De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet SauvignonThe grapes for the 2010 Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon came from two vineyards – one with colluvial soil and one with alluvial soil. The first produces grapes that add intense flavors and aromas to the wine, while the second adds finesse and freshness. The Legado Reserva spent 12 months in used French barrels. This wine has flavors of black cherry, fig and mocha, with an elegant structure that makes it easy and pleasing to drink.

Great care was taken in the vineyards to ensure the grapes would not burn or over-ripen, to make sure that the wine would not have too high an alcohol content. The Chardonnay, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon are 13.5% alcohol by volume.

Guy ended the tasting with the impressive 2010 Legado Reserva Syrah. Reinvent Chile this wine does – whereas Syrah is generally grown in the warmer Colchagua Valley, the grapes for De Martino’s Syrah come from the Choapa Valley in northern Chile. Located in the Andes Mountains at Chile’s narrowest point, the Choapa Valley is dry and rocky. It gets an average of 4.5 inches of rain per year, versus the Colchagua Valley’s 23.2 inches. This results in a lower yield of high quality, high acidity grapes.

The Legado Reserva Syrah is supple and elegant, with flavors of plum, blackberry and cherry, and the faintest hint of vanilla from 14 months of aging in used French oak barrels. This wine exemplifies how world-class Chilean wine can be.

De Martino’s focus is not just on producing premium wines – it’s on producing wines that are a good value. Most of De Martino’s wines (including the wines in this article) are in the $10 to $20 range. All are intended to pair easily with food. Look for De Martino wines at grocery stores, wine shops and restaurants.

For more information on De Martino visit www.demartino.cl.