From unsung Italian reds to budget-friendly whites, here are five must-try European wines

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      We’re grabbing our passports and heading out on a European vacation with this week’s column, featuring a quintet of wines relatively new to the Vancouver market. Get to know these wines well, as they’re some of the most exciting splashes I’ve had of late.



      Le Fay D’Homme Vincent Caille Méthode Ancestrale X Bulles

      (Loire Valley, France; $28 to $32, private liquor stores)

      The name of this delicious French sparkling wine is quite a mouthful, so let’s break it down. Le Fay d’Homme is the Loire Valley domain the wine hails from, and Vincent Caille is the fifth-generation winemaker now at the helm of the family business. His focus is minimal-intervention, natural wines from grapes he grows organically—and he’s starting to steer things toward biodynamics, too. Méthode ancestrale refers to the old-school method in which the wine’s made.

      When traditional-method sparkling wines are disgorged (removing the lees, or spent yeast) after their second fermentation in the bottle, it’s quite common to top them up with a splash of a “dosage” (sugar and/or base wine) to sweeten them a little bit before putting them under cork. The ancestral method involves no disgorging or addition of dosage, resulting in a wine that’s quite dry, though featuring great texture and dimension.

      Caille’s X Bulles, his proprietary name for this wine, is made from Melon de Bourgogne, the grape behind Muscadet wines. Like classic Muscadets, this wine sings with citrus fruit and crisp minerality, while those bubbles deliver extra freshness and pizzazz. Fun stuff for the next time Thai cuisine hits your table. Recently spotted at Marquis Wine Cellars.



      Laurent Miquel 2015 Vendanges Nocturnes Classic Collection White

      (Languedoc-Roussillon, France; $13 to $15, private liquor stores)

      Bargain alert! This cheery blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Ugni Blanc charms with pink grapefruit, lemon peel, and even summery notes of fresh snap peas. Vibrant with juicy acidity, it’s the perfect match for creamy seafood pastas, Mexican cuisine, or just a bag of popcorn on the couch.

      You can nab yourself a bottle, or a case, at North Vancouver’s Everything Wine—and if you can’t make it there yourself, it can deliver right to your door!



      Fontanavecchia 2015 Taburno Falanghina del Sannio

      (Campania, Italy; $21.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Next time you’re wandering the Italian section of the store and about to reach for Pinot Grigio, give this little number a try instead. Full of stone fruit, young almonds, lemongrass, and white floral notes, Falanghina’s a rather unsung indigenous Italian variety that should be cracked open anytime you’re preparing seafood or fish-forward dishes.

      While it should be served chilled, do pull it from the fridge 10 to 15 minutes before serving, as the character of the wine really develops as it moves a few degrees toward room temperature.


      Telmo Rodriguez 2013 “Gaba do Xil” Mencia

      (Valdeorras, Spain; $25 to $29, private liquor stores)

      Telmo Rodriguez is Spanish wine royalty, known for elevating awareness and quality of indigenous grape varieties, as well as for harnessing the terroir of lesser-known regions.

      The Mencia grape here is light on its feet, with cherries and notes of lemon balm lightly flicked by a wisp of smokiness. The granite terraces in this vineyard contribute a crunchy mineral character, while further swirls of the glass unleash notes of roasted hazelnuts and chestnuts amid all that red berry fruit.

      In fact, there are chestnut trees on the property among the vines. While it could be just the power of suggestion offering those nutty nuances in the aromatics, I’m always happy when a swirl and sip can transport me to the Spanish countryside.



      Casale Del Giglio 2013 Cesanese

      (Lazio, Italy; $23.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      The Cesanese grape variety is new to me, but after trying this wine for the first time a few weeks back, I’m hell-bent on tracking down more wines made from it. Yep, it’s another one of the zillions of indigenous Italian grapes out there. It was historically made into sweet or sparkling wines, but is now being embraced for its still-table-wine potential.

      Casale Del Giglio’s take on the grape is immediately quaffable and an absolute treat to drink. With a similar structure to a ripe, fruit-forward Pinot Noir, there’s an abundance of red fruit and purple flowers here, with maybe a pinch each of cinnamon and clove. It’s fresh and vibrant, and would make an easy match for poultry, duck, or game.

      Do serve with a hint of a chill—it’ll make things even brighter.