8/25/2023 — Barolo Buy + fresh 2022 vintages of our favorite Albariño

Offer available through Monday, 8/28/2023, or as inventory lasts.

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Hi everyone –

Over the upcoming four weeks, our Friday offers will be a bit abbreviated in length but no less impactful in price and quality. Why? We’re off to Europe on a three-week wine journey, which you can follow on our Facebook and Instagram pages, and while I love sitting in a European coffee shop getting some work done, we expect to be spending most of our days touring and tasting.

And between now and the end of the year, we will occasionally revisit old favorites and end-of-inventory opportunities on wines we had on the Friday offer previously. This week is a good example.

Onward to this week’s offer: the last inventory on a stunning Barolo, and fresh arrivals of our favorite Albariños!

Marrone Barolo 2015 (last 25 bottles available)

We first offered this in October of 2022, and we sold a load of it. The importer reached out and said they had 25 bottles left and offered us a bargain price on the remaining inventory. Booya!

Excellent Barolo is becoming more common in wine shops. That’s the simple truth.

A combination of factors, including (let’s be honest) a bit of global warming, have led to a series of stunning vintages in Barolo and Barbaresco. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, maybe two years out of ten were phenomenal. But look at the current vintage chart from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

In many ways, it’s never been a better time to be a lover of Barolo.

But note what I said: Excellent Barolo is becoming more common.

But let me add that Monumental Barolo is still hard to find. And what we have here today is crazy, incredible, monumental Barolo at a significant discount.

Gian Pero and Giovanna Marrone, and the “Tre Fie” — their three daughters that now run the operation.

About Marrone Barolo

From the importer’s website:

Over a century of winemaking: four generations of passion, tenacity, investments and hard work. A story of tradition with a watchful eye on the future. The origins of Agricola Marrone date back to before 1887. A family that cultivated local grape varietals and showed ambition from an early phase.

When Pietro Marrone was born in 1887, his father Edoardo was already producing wines. From the time he was young he was very passionate and ambitious. In 1910, at 23 years old, he asked his father to grow some vineyards. In the early 1920s/30s the winery progressed and started cultivating vineyards using techniques that were revolutionary at the time: reducing production yields to prioritize higher quality and avoiding sowing wheat between vine rows, a standard practice at the time. An early adoption of what became modern cultivation practices. The family grapes became the most beautiful of the village, so slowly all the vineyards converted to that modern production system.

Since 2011 the winery is run by “Tre Fie,” the three daughters of Gian Piero and Giovanna. Valentina is the winemaker, Serena runs marketing and business operations, and Denise is the hospitality heart and manager of the visitor programs and restaurant. They farm with the least intervention and carry that through harvest to winemaking. “Oak in wine is like salt in soup.” This statement perfectly illustrates the careful attention the Marrone family pays to their wines – resulting in elegance with structure, delicious and judiciously crafted wines that are enjoyable at release and evolve for decades.

http://www.thesortingtable.com/grower/agricola-marrone/

What sets this wine apart

First, it’s a 2015 vintage Barolo. 2015 is one of my favorite of the recent vintages, gracing much of Europe with top-quality fruit and making wines that have stunning longevity. 2016 might rank higher than 2015 in the ratings, but note we’re starting from a high bar … both of those vintages, if plopped into the 1980s, would be the two top vintages of that decade.

Second, it’s a textbook-perfect Barolo. Aromas of violets, roofing tar, black raspberry, worn saddle leather, cloves, and licorice. It’s the kind of glass you sit there and smell over and over, forgetting to sip. The aromas evolve over hours (if not days), marking this wine as a wine to really take your time with. Decant the day before or lay in the cellar for five to ten years.

Lastly, the finish of this wine is crazy cool. Your average to above-average Barolo will finish with a dry bitterness from the Nebbiolo tannin, but stunning wine like this seems to go beyond that into another realm of the taste profile. It’s hard to explain, but late in the finish of this wine, after swallowing, the tannins dry out your palate but then there’s this slow-motion rebuild that happens over the next 15 seconds. It’s really special if you’re paying attention to it, and it’s the result of careful tannin-acid balance that only appears late in the taste. I rarely find it in any wines, but here it is.

Super limited

There are only 25 bottles left of this wine. Grab it while you can.

The return (fresh 2022 vintages) of our favorite Albariño: Granbazan!

These are the PERFECT WINES for the shoulder season of late August into late October!

We just got word that the fresh 2022 vintage of our favorite Albariños has landed in MSP, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Albariño is on a roll, as evidenced by last week’s Eric Asimov article in the New York Times. Early in that article, he makes an unambiguous statement regarding the boom of Albariño’s popularity vs. quality.

The result has been a popular commodity wine: cheap, aromatic, easy to drink and forget. In many people’s minds, that’s all albariño can be.

Yet, as is so often the case with wine, ideas about a grape’s potential for complexity and aging become fixed not because of a grape’s actual limits but because few people have tried make anything more of it. But when a producer treats a grape more ambitiously, things begin to change — just look at aligotésilvaner and bobal. How albariño is farmed and what sort of wine is intended will dictate its potential.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/10/dining/drinks/rias-baixas-albarino-white-wine.html

The last line is key: how it’s farmed and what the intention is will dictate its potential.

Albariño in the Twin Cities marketplace

When I was a wine consultant for Surdyk’s in the mid-to-late 1990s, the first Albariños arrived in Minnesota. They were variable in quality, even within a vintage. One bottle would be all about apples, the next all about almonds. It was hit or miss.

This may surprise younger wine drinkers, but consistently good whites from Spain and Portugal didn’t hit America’s shores until the early 2000s. 

Albariño in the 1990s and 2000s was not like it is today. It was far more nutty, rich, textural, simple, big and unwieldy. You never quite knew what you were about to get in a glass.

Everything changed in the mid-2000s, as modern winemaking techniques came to Rias Baixas and Portugal. Temperature-controlled fermentation, cleaner facilities, and a worldwide shift toward quality over quantity changed everything.

We are now experiencing the glory days of Albariño. And these three wines represent two of the best.

What is Albariño like?

And from the always dependable Wine Folly:

Albariño is a wine that deserves extended sniffing in your glass. It has a dramatic aromatic intensity as a result of the higher levels of two aromatic compound groups called terpenes and thiols. Expect aromas of lemons, limes, pear, grapefruit, honeysuckle, nectarine, and occasionally orange zest and beeswax, supported by subtle smells of freshly wetted granite and Thai basil when sniffing your glass. When you taste Albariño, you’ll instantly delight in its mouth-watering acidity, somewhat weighty mid-palate, saltiness, and long tingly finish that often has a subtle bitter note (almost like grapefruit pith).

https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/all-about-albarino-wine/

My personal take? A great Albariño should show loads of apple-lemon aromas, a touch of marine air, a bit of orange, and a hint of almond. If that sounds like a complex aroma, it is. As they said in Wine Folly, this deserves extended sniffing. 

Granbazán: The best Albariño producer (in my opinion)

“The top Albariño made” is a big statement, for other producers such as Do Ferreiro and Lagar de Cevera are incredibly well regarded. But in my humble opinion, nothing can touch the two wines of Granbazán. If you travel to this region and start asking around at the best restaurants and their sommeliers, you’ll hear the same thing. A few messages sent to friends who live in northwestern Spain confirmed this.

Founded in 1981, Granbazan was the original quality pioneer in the region, the first estate to invest in modern winemaking equipment and trained enologists, the first to use clean, free run juice and cool fermentation to realize the world class potential of the Albariño grape. Today, Granbazan remains ahead of the chasing pack, with its privileged terroir of granite soils planted with mature vines close to the sea, and its continuing commitment to excellence.

http://europvinusa.com/granbazan/

So why have you never heard of Granbazán? Because of a series of bad decisions on their part regarding the importation of the wines to the United States. They went with companies that didn’t have skilled salespeople who would take out the wines and tell the stories, and as a result, they had to hopscotch from importer to importer. Each time that happened, excess inventory was sold off quickly to big retailers, and the price integrity of the brand went down the toilet. Correcting a situation like this takes time and also involves pretty much pulling out of distribution for a number of years as the dust settles. They have now landed with one of the top importers around, Europvin, who is also the importer of Vega Sicilia.

What is the difference between the two? It’s all about the lees.

The “lees” are the spent yeast cells left over after primary fermentation. “Aging on the lees” is something you hear about in Champagne and Muscadet, but it’s pretty standard throughout the wine world. When you age the wine on the lees, it develops protein strains as the yeast breaks down in the juice, resulting in a touch of creaminess that can help balance out the high acid in some wines.

When you combine the citrus and apple aromas with the saline minerality of Albariño from Rias Baixas, a bit of lees aging can make some magic happen. 

BUT THE BEST PART OF THIS OFFER is that you can buy a bottle of each and learn for yourself what different levels of lees aging will do to a wine.

The Granbazán “Etiqueta Verde” Albariño (“the green label”) is aged for three months on the lees. It’s bright, flashy, alive, racy, and fabulous.

The Granbazán “Etiqueta Amber” Albariño (“the brown label”) is aged for eight months on the lees. It’s rounder, a bit richer, soulful, yet still dancing on the palate.

Both are incredibly delicious but serve different purposes. The green label is for dishes that you’d squeeze a lemon on top of (think a nice piece of salmon), the brown label is for dishes where you might not (think roasted chicken or grilled halibut … of course, you could squeeze lemon on those but I think you get my point here).

Buying advice

The Barolo is something special, especially at this price, and you should grab a bottle or two.

The Albariños are a wine class in themselves, and buy them (and serve them) in pairs, with good friends and good food. Paying attention to what you’re drinking will prove to you the importance of lees aging and winemaking decisions.

Thank you, everyone! We couldn’t do this without you!

Jason Kallsen
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education


Offer and special pricing are available through Monday, or as inventory lasts

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