Tement 2020 Sauvignon Blanc Ried Zieregg Styria 95
by Robert Millman
Despite is outstanding reputation among wine writers, the Tement domain located in Styria (or Steiermark in German) remains relatively unknown to many wine consumers. This is the Austrian home of Sauvignon Blanc, that tends to dominate plantings there. There is not a trace of Riesling or Grüner Veltliner in this region. Chardonnay—called Morillon here—also does well.
The Tement winery’s ascent to the top started in 2005 when Manfred Tement’s son Armin joined the estate. Conversion to organic then later biodynamic farming began soon thereafter. At last count, the estate makes seven different Sauvignon Blanc wines which includes: it village wine (a blend from all its sites); two Premier Crus (called Erste Lage in German) and an outstanding grand cru, the Zieregg which is responsible all on its own for three separate bottlings (from different lieu-dits within the larger vineyard). It is this magnificent wine which captured my imagination at a recent industry tasting. The Village wine and the Premier Cru (Grassnitzberg) preceded the Grand Cru. The village wine tastes like a cross between a tame New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine and a Pouilly-Fumé from the eastern Loire. The Premier cru has much more mineral activity and precision. Does terroir matter? Just these two wines alone would have answered that. And then came the Ried Zieregg. It was like moving from a regular Chablis to a Grand Cru. Firstly, the dominance of the variety all but disappeared—which is the mark of a successful Grand Cru. It is all about the vineyard. The Tement-owned sixteen sites within the Zieregg are usually blended together, though not always. The first thing that struck me about the wine was its sheer grandeur compared to its predecessors. The wine literally filled every nook and cranny of the palate yet without imposing itself on the taster. Yes, there is a background of citrus fruit, grass and limestone minerality. The wine is all about a tensile yet expansive texture which is so compelling. The mouthfeel is the key here, rather than specific scents and flavors. The fifty years of development of the vineyard on the part of the Tement family has reached fruition. Just as I do not think about Chardonnay when I drink a Chablis Les Clos, I did not find myself thinking about Sauvignon Blanc when I tasted and retasted the Ried Zieregg. The wine should be served with the very best white fishes. Mountain cheeses will work also. This is a wine to drink slowly and savor. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Speri 2021 Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 93
by Ian D’Agata
Finding a really good Valpolicella Ripasso can be very much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Nowadays, most producers treat the Ripasso category (in which Valpolicella wine is passed over Amarone skins: hence a re-passage, or ripasso) as a means by which to make ripely soft, slightly sweet, fleshy baby-Amarone wines, and in the process end up only making a very cheap, poor copy of the original work of art. Not so at Speri, the well-respected family firm in San Pietro a Cariano that makes some of Veneto’s best wines. A blend of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and happily 10% Molinara (plus other varieties), Speri’s 2021 Valpolicella Ripasso is one of the best I have ever had. I think that the presence of the Molinara is very evident here (that’s why I write “happily”), because it makes for a more politely-styled, perfumed, lively and totally refreshing red wine the likes of which is exactly what the doctor ordered for all us poor super-stressed humans forced to live in this super-charged, hyper-technological and relentlessly stressful modern world.
Bright deep ruby-purple. Captivating, very expressive aromas of red berries, sweet spices, and aromatic herbs are lifted by a very pretty and intense violet note. Then fresh and lively, with outstanding clarity and cut to the crisp, deep strawberry, raspberry and black cherry flavours. The aftertaste is long and luscious, smooth and refined, leaving a long wave of freshness that will have you looking to eat and then take a sip again. Like all good wines should. Aged in twenty hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels for twelve months, but you’ll never guess there was that long an oak aging. Knockout, delicious, wine: well done. Drinking window: 2023-2028.