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Top 10 wines in the US press

Simonsig Pinotage 2012

Dennis Sodomka, writing for the Augusta Chronicle, recommended this South African Pinotage – a grape that has been unfairly maligned in the past but which is now building a strong reputation.

He said: “That’s a good question because it is a widely misunderstood grape that can make great wine, but too often in the past made mediocre wine. The quality pendulum is swinging back now, and there are some great Pinotages available.”

Of this example he said: “It is a rich, lush, full wine with plenty of elegance and finesse and no harshness. It is a deep, inky red in the glass, with pleasant aromas of red berries and spice. On the palate, you get a lot of red cherry, plum and raspberry. The wine does not spend any time in oak barrels, so the tannins are muted. The wine is 100% Pinotage grown in the Stellenbosch region, which is blessed with weathered shale soils and cooling ocean breezes. It is ideal terroir for a difficult grape such as Pinotage.”

Price: $17 to 20

Muxagat Tinta Barroca 2013, Douro, Portugal

Dave McIntyre, writing in the Washington Post, recommended a number of wines that “limited to springtime or warmer weather, but their freshness and light or medium body make them ideal when the mercury and our spirits are rising”, including this Tinta Barocca from sunny Portugal. 

He said: “Most Douro reds are blends of several traditional grape varieties used in port. This is 100 percent Tinta Barroca, known for contributing dark color without excessive tannin. It starts off a little surly, as though awakened from a long nap, but once it stretches, the bing cherry and boysenberry flavors give a bright and refreshing contrast to the Douro’s signature stoniness. The distributor is just bringing in the 2013, so the (also excellent) 2012 vintage might be more available.”

Price: $20

Domaine Bellevue Rosé 2014, Touraine, Loire Valley, France

A classic summer staple, McIntyre also recommended this French Rosé.

He said: “Just about as fresh as a rosé can be, this is vibrant with acidity, finishing with a slightly sour strawberry note. As the summer progresses, the acidity should mellow a bit and let the fruit take first billing.”

Price: $13

Underwood Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon

McIntyre completed a trio of “good value” wines with this Oregon Pinot Noir, which has become increasingly pricey in recent years as quality and popularity have increased.

“Yet there are still several moderately priced wines that give a true taste of Oregon pinot noir character”, he said. “The Underwood is a blend of grapes from the Willamette and Rogue valleys. It offers bing cherry and oolong tea flavors. It will soon be available in 12-ounce cans, ideal for picnics and any venue where glass bottles are a problem.”

Price: $14

Duckhorn Vineyards The Discussion Napa Valley Red Wine 2010

Sandra Silfven, writing for Detroit News, picked a selection of wines from Napa’s Duckhorn Vineyards, a winery established by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976 that specialises in Bordeaux varieties.

Of its Discussion red blend she said: “A wine that is all about beauty and balance, not overt power” is how Duckhorn describes the pinnacle of their portfolio relying on grapes from the best blocks of the estate vineyards. It’s named The Discussion to describe the ongoing dialogue about great winemaking. This beauty is intense, knit together like a fine garment, every nuance contributing to the whole experience. And it’s approachable; it won’t hammer your palate. Tannins are soft as silk; oak is perfectly integrated; the blend is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot from a special block of their Monitor Ledge Vineyard. Aromas are dark berries, dark licorice, plum and cranberry. Flavors are bright and delicate: black cherry, blackberry, spiced cooked plum, brown baking spices. The whole package resonates on the finish: That lovely expression of fruit and tannins and acidity lingers long after you swallow. It’s a beautiful wine.”

Price: $135

Duckhorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Monitor Ledge Vineyard Napa Valley 2011

Slightly less pricey at $95, Silfven described Duckhorn’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon as a wine that “dazzles the palate” with its “dense texture, concentrated flavors, sturdy acidity, seamless oak and balanced tannins”.

“Think dark berries, stewed plum, dark chocolate, spice”, she said. “Monitor Ledge is Duckhorn’s warmest estate vineyard with excellent sun exposure and lean, gravelly, well-drained soils. Both the Cab and Merlot were undaunted by the vintage so many winemakers lamented. In fact, the Merlot was so impressive this wine goes right up to the blending limit of 25%.”

Price: $95

2011 Stéphane Aviron Julienas “Vieilles Vignes”, Beaujolais, France

Irene Virbila, writing for the LA Times, picked this “serious” Beaujolais cru as her wine of the week, made from 50 year old vines that are farmed biodynamically.

“Beaujolais cru has almost nothing in common with the thin, fruity stuff known as Beaujolais Nouveau, which shows up on retail shelves like clockwork on the third Thursday of November”, she said. “That’s meant for the moment, but Beaujolais cru, which comes from 10 designated villages, is serious wine, one with structure and complexity, yet it’s so easy to drink.”

Of this “classic” Julienas from Stéphane Aviron she said: “The fruit is velvety, with a bright acidity, tasting of blackberries, cherries and sweet spices. A wonderful example of Julienas from a conscientious and talented producer who revels in showing how very good Gamay can be from this corner of Burgundy. This is just one of several crus Aviron makes, including Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent and Chenas, the latter made from pre-phylloxera vines. Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.”

Price: $16

2011 Jean Foillard Fleurie

Another Beaujolais cru, Virbila recommended this “big and muscular” Fleurie from “top-notch producer” Jean Foillard who she said is “one of the original Gang of Four who changed viticultural and vinification practices in Beaujolais for the better, working their old vineyards organically.”

Of this 2011 she said: “Expect a big mouthful of blackberries, spice and a touch of smoke. Sheer pleasure, this is a wine for a special occasion, a bottle to break out for chicken with truffles, a wild duck or even a suckling pig. And if you want to age it for a couple of years more, you’ll have something truly impressive. Imported by Kermit Lynch.”

Price: $42

Indaba, Mosaic 2013, Western Cape, South Africa

“This cheerful wine is but one fine example of how wine grapes fare in the Cape Floral Region”, said Rebecca Murphy of this South African blend writing for Dallas News.

“It’s made primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Petite Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Its mellow flavors of blackberry and black currant mingle with cocoa and clove, brightened by zesty acidity and finishing with ripe tannins. It’s priced to go with tonight’s burger or a mushroom pizza.

“Indaba is owned by U.S. wine importer Cape Classics, a company that specializes in South African wines. Indaba’s winemaker is Bruwer Raats, who is also the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines in Stellenbosch. Raats works with growers to acquire the best grapes for making Indaba wines. A portion of wine sales funds the Indaba Education Fund, providing support for early childhood development and education.”

Price: $9.99

Red Car, 2014 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir

Finally Peg Melnik, writing for the Press Democrat, picked this “lush, yet crisp” Sonoma Coast rosé as her wine of the week.

She said: “This is a striking version of rosé. It’s rich, with a silky texture. At the same time, it has bright fruit, coupled with crisp acidity. Best of all is the high-speed chase of its wild strawberry finish. This lush, yet crisp rosé is a bit of an enigma, but it’s a rock star.”

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