Sunday, May 15, 2016

Culmina releases its third Grüner Veltliner

Photo: Culmina winery's elegant cellar

The spring release wines from Culmina Family Estate Winery include a rosé and two white varietals.

I have notes on all of them but I want to give special attention to the winery’s Grüner Veltliner, the renowned Austrian white. Culmina called its wine Unicus since the release of the first vintage in 2013 because it was the Okanagan’s first Grüner Veltliner.

There still is not a lot of Grüner Veltliner – GV for short - being grown in British Columbia; only two other producers (De Vine Vineyards and BC Wine Studio) come to mind. I believe one or two other growers have planted the variety recently.

The only reason that the variety was not planted sooner is that, until recently, the growers had no source for virus-free vines; or no source that the Canadian government would recognize. It is a variety that should flourish, especially in the Okanagan.

In her book, Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson [with colleagues Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz] describes GV as an “internationally fashionable variety” that is on a bit of a roll, having broken out of its home base of Austria, the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries.

“When yields are high (up to … 5.7 tonnes/acre …) the wines are crisp, fresh and inoffensive, as in large swathes of the Weinviertel [in Austria],” they write. “But in the hands of the best growers and on the best sites … they can be stunningly concentrated and ageworthy: typically dry and full-bodied with a peppery perfume and firm, minerally citrus and sometimes spicy flavours … Wines produced on the plain are often more peachy and fruit dominated.”

The GV at Culmina, where it is well grown, shows some characters comparable with a well-made Austrian GV.

Culmina also grows Riesling in the same vineyard as GV, a mountainside property called Margaret’s Bench. The winery has released five vintages of Riesling but just three vintages of the more recentky-planted GV. Both are fine wines. I preferred the GV as the more demonstrative of the two in the glass. Riesling is a variety that flowers with a few years of age, at which time it should have no difficulty matching the appeal of GV.

The three wines reviewed here are available at the winery and to members of the Culmina wine club (there is not enough volume to list them in the BC liquor stores). I would encourage purchasers to pick up a few extra bottles of the two white wines to see how they develop with age. The winery says one to three years for the GV and three to five years for the Riesling.

Here are my notes.

Culmina Unicus 2015 ($27). This is 100% GV; some 24% was fermented in a concrete amphora, 33% in a concrete egg and 43% in stainless steel. This makes for a complex, richly textured wine. It begins with tropical aromas of citrus with that classic hint of white pepper. On the palate there are flavours of lychee and grapefruit. The acidity is fresh and the finish just goes on and on. 92.

Culmina Decora 2015 ($21). This is 100% Riesling. This was fermented entirely in stainless steel. The wine’s racy acidity gives this wine a brightness in its youth and great ability to age. It begins with aromas of lemon and lime zest. These are echoed on the palate, along with a backbone of chalky minerals. At this stage in its life, the wine is tightly wound, with a laser-like focus. 89-91.

Culmina Saignée 2015 ($22). The varietal blend is 42% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc and 9% Malbec. This wine presents with a hue of orange-tinted rose petals. Muscular and fleshy, the wine has aromas of cherry and strawberry with flavours cherry, ripe apple and rose hip. The robust character and alcohol (14%) reflects the hot vintage. 89.


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