Unique Wines from Around the World

By Kori ~ March 3rd, 2008.

On Friday, Dad (John) and I made the trek across the Cascade Mountains to Ellensburg to attend another one of the consumer courses offered through Central Washington University’s World Wine Program. Led by noted wine industry professional Amy Mumma, this program featured Unique Wines from Around the World.

20080303_uniquewines.jpgAs the program title suggests, during this course we tasted six unique wines from around the world. While many of us have our regular go-to varietals (Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.), this course was a fun opportunity to experiment a little and try some wines that we had never tasted before. I had only had two of them (Albariño and Amarone della Valpolicella) previously so four were completely new to me.

Surprisingly, my favorite of the evening was a dessert wine, the 2000 Royal Tokaji – Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos from Hungary. It is known as the “Wine of Kings and King of Wines.” It is very sweet but its high acidity balances out the sweetness so it does not taste sickeningly sweet. This wine is a dessert all by itself.

The 2003 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC was excellent as well. While many people have had Valpolicella before, Amarone della Valpolicella is made using a completely different process. It is made in the appasimento style; the grapes are dried on straw mats for four to six months after harvest. This wine is a good sipper but would also be good with game or other meats.

Since I had little or no point of reference for these varietals, the quality ratings are based solely on my personal preferences. All of these wines have limited availability and will probably have to be special ordered from your favorite wine outlet. Prices listed are those that Amy paid when purchasing the wines for this class.

While on a regular basis I will probably stick with my go-to varietals that are more readily available, it is always a lot of fun to try something new. Bringing out one of these wines when you have friends over for dinner would certainly spark some interesting conversations. And since most of these wines are relatively unknown, many of them are very reasonably priced.

Here’s a rundown of the wines that we tasted (regions listed in parentheses):

Dessert Wine:

2000 Royal Tokaji – Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos (Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary): Grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Sarga, Muskotaly. Beautiful, brilliant amber color. Lots of spice, honey, orange, apricot, and a bit of almond on the nose. Apricot bursts out on the palate followed by flavors of honey and spice. Sweet, high acidity, and a long finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $90 (500ml)


2003 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC (Veneto, Italy): Grapes: Molinara, Rondinella, Corvina. Medium red with a slight hint of browning (which indicates some age). Aromas of cinnamon, dried cherries, and leather. Cherries prominent on the palate as well. Dry but not drying. Rich and fresh with good mouth-feel. Full-bodied yet very smooth.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $37

2004 Teliani Valley Saperavi (Kakheti, Eastern Georgia): Grape: Saperavi. Dark, opaque with strong and dense aromas of black fruits (especially plums and blackberries). Not as much fruit on the palate. Extremely tannic, medium body. Very long finish with distinct flavors of bitter baker’s chocolate.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $14

2000 A&G Papaioannou Pape Johannou Vineyards Nemea (Nemea AC, Greece)
Grape: Agiorgitiko.
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Price: $16


2006 Laxas Winery Albariño (Rias Biaxas DO, Spain): Grape: Albariño. Clear and brilliant with a slight green tint (indicating it is from a cooler climate). Aromas of hay, kiwi, floral, and pear. More fruit on the palate than on the nose. Flavors of citrus, peach, and flowers. Soft body with a long, lingering finish. A very fresh wine, similar to Viognier.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Price: $18

2005 Clos Lapeyre Jurancon Sec (Jurancon Sec AC, Southwest France)
Grape: Gros Manseng
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Price: $14

Filed under: Dessert Wine, French Wine, Georgian (Eastern Europe) Wine, Greek Wine, Hungarian Wine, Italian Wine, Red Wine, Spanish Wine, White Wine, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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