Great wines for 2020, Part I

Authentic Dolcetto. | Lou Phillips

To ring in the New Year, let’s explore the 12 months in front of us with the joy only a wine adventure can bring. Unlike the vagaries that might ensue on an actual vacation, I can guarantee smooth sailing, a good time, good wine and a road map to perhaps your most adventurous wine year ever.

Might as well begin at the beginning by jumping into France. Most of the well-known grapes originated or gained fame in France, but this country has always had regional favorites — the vast majority of which have not been known or grown outside of their village or commune. The Savoie is a mountainous region in east-central France and the Trousseau grape, aka Bastardo, has become their signature red wine. It makes for a fresh dark-berry elixir that will stimulate more than your taste buds and that’s what we are shooting for along this road less traveled.

Most of the well-known grapes originated or gained fame in France, but this country has always had regional favorites — the vast majority of which have not been known or grown outside of their village or commune.

Southwest France’s Jurançon appellation is home to the Gros and Petit Manseng family. Most wines from here contain both grapes, with the former predominating in the dry versions and the latter in the sweet. Either style will have nice acid balance and prickly spice with unique citrus flavors leaning toward tangerine and Mandarin orange.

Grillo from Sicily. | Courtesy Donnafugatta

Our final member of the French resistance is Burgundy’s white stepchild Aligoté. This is typically Burgundy’s greatest bargain and I also have to mention California’s Calera Wine Company as another stellar producer of this always electrically energized white that is as good a match for briny seafood as you will find.

Off to Italy and Piedmont to visit our perky, little, red-headed friend Dolcetto. With its prime vineyards proximal to those of the Golden Geese that are Barolo and Barbaresco, it’s a wonder anybody still makes this lithe beauty. The past few vintages have all been stellar and that’s great because these sassy and sexy Italians show best when young. Pizza, charcuterie, cheese plate — yes, yes and yes.

Way at the other end of Enotria lies the island of Sicily, which is most known for red wines, but births some wonderful whites, as well. One of my favorites is Grillo, which comes off as an Italian Sauvignon with a savory minerally edge. Herby salads or white meat dishes cry when they can’t find a Grillo to partner with.

Last stop is Campania to visit cousin Peidrarosso, or red feet, named for what one’s boots look like after a trip to the vineyards. This is as much of a combination of old-world and new-world red and goes with anything you care to roast. Think damson plum meets dirt, but in a very good way.

Next column, it’s off to America for a little cross-country exploration. See you there.