Herbaceous Wines: Our Sommelier’s Picks for June
One thing I value for summer drinking is herbaceous wines, or rather, wines with herbaceous notes. Why? Because they make me want to cook. It's something that occurs in certain grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, but also shows up in certain regions even across different grapes and winemakers. The Loire Valley tends to display herbal notes in its reds, even if it's Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir or Malbec. So, in order to inspire culinary exploration, I've combed through the Westgarth archives to point out herbaceous wines that have savory notes. These are the ones you'll pop as the grill heats up, or you're drying that last bit of lake water off while you settle into pre-dinner snacks. Enjoy the sun, pop those bottles and make the most of summer!
Jackson's Somm Picks
Giorgio Rivetti is one of Piedmont's star winemakers. With decades of winemaking under his belt in both Barolo and Barbaresco, he's one of the most recognizable figures in the region. La Spinetta's wines demonstrate class, power and grace. This Barbaresco bottling is from the Gallina vineyard in the village of Neive. I will say this – these wines are not the soft, elegant Barbarescos you might know from names like Produttori and Marchesi di Gresy. These are firm, rich, spicy wines with a hint of new oak balanced by classic Nebbiolo notes of dried marjoram, tar, sage, black cherry and licorice. This is a steak wine, but is equally at home with refined lamb burgers or a roast chicken.
A Super Tuscan that's 100% Cabernet Franc? Why, yes indeed. Le Macchiole has been producing this unique cuvée since the inaugural 1989 vintage. Bordeaux varieties have been growing in Tuscany for hundreds of years, so this is not a recent precedent. For whatever reason, this wine continues to fly under-the-radar of most Italian wine drinkers but it's a shame since it's really fantastic. Cabernet Franc on the Italian coast achieves a ripeness and sense of weight that you don't really get in the Loire Valley and this wine stands well on its own, or with food. This is a herbaceous wine, with notes of ripe red bell pepper, fresh rosemary, black plum and mint julep come forth, supported by a ripe palate of currant and pepper jelly. Pair this with peppercorn steak, or ratatouille.
Guigal's Syrahs are among the most intense wines in the Rhône - very dense and aromatic. Ex Voto is a special bottling of Hermitage that is only made in favorable years. This 2012 bottling makes sense as 2012 was a classic, perfumed year in the Northern Rhône and the wines are fantastically expressive. Many wines from the likes of Guigal can lay down for decades and this certainly could, but the 2012s are drinking nicely right now. And this one is at a nice crossroads in its flavor between savory, fruit, and earth notes. Black pepper, black currant, boysenberry and herbes de Provence. Smoky and satisfying.
Clos Rougeard is a hard wine to find. If you want to taste one of the most electric, ethereal, aromatic Cabernet Franc wines in the world, this is the way. The Foucault family gave Clos Rougeard their fame and renown and although ownership changed recently, there's still a commitment to quality and purity. This has the classic red currant fruit of Loire cabernet Franc, but is wholly more delightful, rich, and weighty than your average Loire red. This comes from vineyards around Saumur-Champigny.
Another Loire wine, but this time a white, made by the Dagueneau family. Didier's trademark eccentric nature and natural spirit live on in his wines, like this very intense Sauvignon Blanc. Grown across the river from Sancerre in the Pouilly-Fumé region, this is proof that Sauvignon Blanc really can age well and carry distinctive weight with it. This is a herbaceous wine which leads with peach and apricot fruit, supported by crisp acidity and finishes quietly and soft.
So, let herb be the word this June when it comes to your wines and your food. Please let us know if there's anything that catches your eye. Most of all, have a fulfilling, happy summer!
View more of our Master Sommelier’s hand-picked wine selections here: