2006 Parmi, La Coma de Porrera Priorat
While the Priorat is the most exclusive and elegant wine region in Spain, we have rarely been able to offer its top wines in this club. The wines from Clos Martinet or Cims de Porerra, to name two of the most renowned, are both too expensive and just too limited for the club. So we are very pleased that our good friends at Small Vineyards represent a winery that can make more affordable wines at the same level of quality as the elite winemakers of the region. The young Italian owners of Parmi bring a north Italian perspective to the winemaking and the care of their century-old vineyards, refusing to sacrifice food friendliness to power. Here in the steep Porerra, the heart of the Priorat, the soil is thick, flaky schist, literally packed with iron and minerals. With the heavy marine influence, blistering days and cool nights, this moonscape is suitable only for grapes, not even grass. This cuvee is named for the daughter of two of the owners and is their flagship wine. It is 100% Cariñena, from a single site where the vines average over 100 years in age. All the grapes are picked individually, not in bunches, and then fermented in large French oak vats and aged in a clean, modern winery. The result is a wine of searing intensity, with an amazing nose of cherry and coffee, robust, earthy and elegant. Its high acidity makes it a great match with rich foods: duck or filet mignon comes to mind. Production was only 250 cases, so supply is extremely limited. While originally priced at $100, Small Vineyards has made it possible for us to offer it at $75, a real bargain in comparison to the famous wineries of the region. While it is already a stunning wine for your holiday table, it will continue to evolve for at least another five years in your cellar.
Antica Fratta, Franciacorta Brut
Over the years, we have rarely offered sparkling wines in this club, particularly since we have the Grower Champagne Club for those who want to drink the very best bubblies in the world. We do have to acknowledge that quite a few Italians would dissent from that statement, feeling that sparkling wines of equal quality are made in the Franciacorta region of Lombardy, a lake district in the Alpine foothills east of Milan. The soils there are gravel and sand over a limestone base, and the temperatures are quite mild and constant due to cooling breezes from the mountains and off the lakes. The first sparkling wines in the region were made in 1961, and the DOC regulations specifying that the wines were to be made only with the Champagne method were finalized in 1967. The primary grapes are Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (like Champagne), and wines must be in contact with the yeast in the bottle for at least 18 months, three months longer than in Champagne. This lovely bubbly is 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Nero, and is fermented in the bottle for a full 26 months. The original winery was founded in the mid-1800s (when still wines were made in Franciacorta) but eventually fell into disrepair and was abandoned. In 1979 Cristina Ziliani, whose father is considered the “father of Franciacorta,” bought the dilapidated estate, re-named it Antica Fratta, and entirely renovated the property. The wine is smooth, silky, and quite opulent with aromas of melon, honey, and toasted almond. As good as Champagne? It does not have the high acidity of the most expensive Champagne bottlings, but it does offer rich mouth-filling flavors and would go very well with the dry mountain cheeses typical of the region. And the price is also right: it’s only $29.75.