Not much to say–just that there’s no time like the present!
Man, Gigondas! Whenever I think I have a decent grasp on some region–in this case, the Rhône Valley–some small Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée will pop up and surprise me!
Just as a minor tangent, the name of this wine, L’Hallali, is the traditional call made on a simple brass instrument (searching for more specific details is unfortunately pushing the limits of my French vocabulary) before and after a hunt–thus the horn and dogs on the label!
Gigondas, as I mentioned, is a small AOC in the Rhône Valley. It’s often considered a smaller brother of the terribly prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a similar climate and selection of grapes. However, it is distinguished from Chât-du-Pape and the rest of the southern Rhône by the Dentelles de Montmirail–literally, ‘The Lace of Montmirail’. These mountains serve to split Gigondas into two distinct regions–one noticeably warmer than the other. In the warmer climate especially, this tends to lend the primary grape, grenache, a notable heft and muscularity. This also correlates with a relatively high ABV–in which our Hallali is no exception, sitting pretty at 14.5%!
Height of the vineyards also makes a difference on the wines produced in Gigondas. And while it’s not Mendoza and their Andes, grapes are grown as high as 600m, introducing a literally rarefied air to some Gigondas wines.
This wine is a fairly standard mix of Rhône grapes–though substituting the traditional carignan for the pair of mourvèdre and cinsault. This lands it at a quad-blend of grenache (they specify noir, though it’s more often that I see the blanc explicitly specified), syrah, and the aforementioned mourvèdre and cinsault.
Some pertinent info:
Full Name: Gigondas la Cave, L’Hallali, Gigondas, 2015. Appellation Gigondas Protégée. Grape(s): Grenache noir (75%), syrah (25%), mourvèdre (5%), cinsault (5%) [sic]. ABV: 14.5%. Price (to the nearest $5): $20.
Nose/Color – Lush cherry color. Lighter than expected.
– Bright red fruit on the nose. A touch of herbaceousness.
– Tart, bright fruit. Savory herbs?
– Tart, but smooth fruit. Soft mouth-feel.
–Darker, fermented fruit. Returning to that herbaceousness. Lingering acidity and fruit.
Finishing the bottle several days later
– Same general profile, though the pepper notes are more pronounced, especially on the finish. The fruit has calmed down a bit.
Overall, this is a really lovely bottle. I’d love to see what it looks like with a few years on it; as it stands, a highly-drinkable, powerful wine. While 14.5% is a bit high for causal drinking, it nevertheless remains relatively subdued; no boozy notes here. Nice color, nice region, nice wine. Can’t complain!
Wikipedia contributors. “Gigondas AOC.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 Dec. 2017. Web. 8 May. 2018.
First (real) field report is here! I was fortunate enough to be able to swing by Wildman and Sons‘ Burgundy tasting earlier today–and try a great number of wines that I will likely be unable to afford a bottle of for several years.
Quick review of Burgundy (very very terse, honestly–I’m quickly realizing that there are very very few regions in wine that are straightforward or simple): almost exclusively chardonnay and pinot noir. There is a third grape, aligoté, but that’s mostly used in the southern region for easy-drinking quaffing wines of no particular distinction. And, also, I suppose technically, Beaujolais, but that is separated from the rest of Burgundy by both grape (gamay) and fermentation process (carbonic maceration), so while technically Beaujolais is Burgundian wine, it’s rare for it to be described as such on the bottle.
The region is almost as far north as Champagne (in fact, the chardonnay-only section of Burgundy, Chablis, is about twenty miles away), meaning a difficult, unpredictable climate prevails. This means that different vintages from Burgundy can vary wildly–grapes and vines having been subject to lesser or greater degrees of alarming things such as storms, heatwaves, hail …
The seasonal weather is a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters.
Burgundy, as a whole, is broadly considered to be the most ‘terroir-conscious’ of the wine regions of France–”… in a thoroughly holistic way, they reflect the individual site and unique environment–from sun and soil to shade and slope–in which the vines grew. In fact, the very idea of terroir is a kind of mental construct that, at least in Burgundy, is inescapable” (MacNeil, 188). Even though the region itself is not large at all, the sheer variety that of wines produced there is staggered–as is the number of separate AOCs, with almost 150 different sections, all with different requirements for the Appellation. Furthermore, those are separated even more finely at higher levels; with the village-level distinctions (called lieux-dits, or, roughly, ‘called places’), the number of ‘AOCs’ jumps to upwards of 500. Yee-ha.
Moreover, these AOCs are categroized by tier–in ascending order: Burgundy Red and White (wine made anywhere in Burgundy), Village Wine (wine made exclusively from grapes surrounding a given village), Premier Cru (wines from a specific vineyard), and finally, Grand Cru, which is wine made from the best vines in the best vineyards of Burgundy. Staggeringly good, staggeringly expensive (for reference, a 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru is running around $1,000 a bottle).
In short, all this to say: even though all I tasted today were chardonnays and pinot noirs, every bottle was distinct; that’s just how Burgundy is.
The tasting itself was pretty enjoyable. One of the best things about them is that you get the opportunity to sip, at least, some wines you’ll likely never get a full glass of. While proper tasting behavior is to spit every sip you take, I couldn’t help but swallow more than a few times–I’ve long held it’s really the only way to get a full experience of the wine. And when you’re tasting ten Grand Crus … well, gosh, it’s almost disrespectful of the wine itself.
The event was hosted in the Park Avenue Winter restaurant, which after reviewing their menu (looks delicious!), I realize is also out of my price range for the foreseeable future. However, they also had a quote on their sidebar: “Copious amounts of wine with dinner is always in season”, and damn, if that doesn’t sound like a restaurant that I’d love to go to. As hosting places go for wine tastings, this seems pretty standard; though I would note that it seemed a touch snug at times simply due to the floor plan.
Now, I don’t necessarily consider myself an expert on wine if I’m surrounded by people who have been doing wine for longer than I’ve been alive, but I know … more than average. I also reviewed The Wine Bible chapter on Burgundy, so I wouldn’t be totally out of my depth. There was a lot to review; it honestly felt a bit like a test. However, that’s not to say that people were actually asking me questions about my qualifications–that’s a lovely thing about many wine tastings; once you get through the door, everyone is assumed to be roughly as qualified as the next until proven otherwise. “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt” jumps to mind.
Moreover, given that I am not the oldest-looking fella around, and that most of the wine-tasting demographic seems to be in the 30+ range, I do stick out just a little. I can often tell that the people pouring (who can be anyone from workers with the importer, to employees of the producer, to les vignerons themselves) seem a little bit dubious about my presence there, and will fail to explain things as much as they do to older-looking folk. C’est la vie, I guess.~~~I wish I could give a more authoritative run-down of the wines I tried; I mostly was walking through various producers and trying their entire table–which is an excellent method of understanding that producer’s style.
Among the producers I tried:
Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils–Chablis, so all chardonnay. Exceptional wines–my favorite was the Chablis Grand Cru “Clos des Hospices Dans Les Clos” Monopole. monopole here means a single vineyard that is owned by the same producer, namely, Christian Moreau Père et Fils. Simply due to the fractured ownership of Burgundy (something that, hah, stems back to the original cultivation of vines in the regions by what I can only assume were quite tipsy monks), this is relatively uncommon. Grand cru, as you’ll remember, is the highest tier in Burgundy. For a case of six, this is likely going to run you $600-$700.
Domaine Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet–Couldn’t find a link to a site of theirs; but, regardless, they make wine in the Côte-de-Nuits, the most well-regarded section of Burgundy. Incidentally, my favorite was also theirs–Gevrey Chambertin “Mes Favorites” Vielles Vignes. I’m still unclear about what qualifies vines as ‘old’ but certainly this was a delicious example.
Stéphane Aviron–I am already familiar with their Beaujolais-Villages (minor note, ‘Beaujolais-Villages’ is the second tier of Beaujolais, the most basic being simply ‘Beaujolais’ right beneath it). That Beaujolais was and remains lovely, and his entire range showed an impressive depth. I was particularly struck by his Chénas Vielles Vignes, which was particularly spicy. I was informed that the red granite in Chénas tends to lend the grapes a characteristic spiciness, even in pinot.
I tried several others, though their names escape me now (even with the list in front of me). I was struck in particular by some of the producers’ tendency to stand behind the table and speak to each other in French while paying minimal attention to those in front of them. Like I said, likely a function of my age; nevertheless, it did not serve as a recommendation for the wine to me.
Overall, the tasting was a really fun experience. I wish I had more time; even though one’s palette can get exhausted after a while, it’s always nice to be able to touch on as many producers as one can.I really appreciated this tasting for hammering home just how specific and important terroir can be. As I was saying above, Burgundy may be among the most meticulous about their designations of AOCs, but I think it really shows in the sheer variety of wines I tasted today. If you step back and say, ‘okay, it was one region, two grapes–how different could these wines be?’–well, the answer is shockingly different. While some are certainly comparable, none was as similar to the next as to be called indistinguishable. Such an excellent real-world demonstration of the concept of terroir.
A superb outing for the day, I’d say. Many thanks to Frederick Wildman and Sons for hosting.
Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.
Wikipedia contributors. “Burgundy wine.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Dec. 2017. Web. 8 Feb. 2018.
Good evening, all! Hope your week is wrapping up nicely. Got a fun bottle this evening.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo for $10! Gee willikers! It’s pretty good, too. Some background?
Montepulciano, the grape, is a classic, classic Italian wine grape. From the most humble vino de tavola to some of Italy’s most renowned wines, montepulciano is a flexible, charasmatic grape. Here’s what the Great Grape Grimoire has to say about it:
Productive, deeply colored, firmly structured and widely planted. Montepulciano’s most well-known and often best-value manifestation is as the main or sole variety in Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC.
The best wines are deeply colored, with ripe, robust tannins, making them an ideal blending component with softer wines.
Ours is certainly no exception–but a little bit about Montepulciano, the region, first:
… usually an appealingly rustic wine, solidly built, with a soft texture, and good, thick fruit flavors in the middle.
Actually, that’s all the relevant info I can pull from The Wine Bible this time around. It’s the middle of Italy, so quite warm–lots of sun for the grapes to grow, and soil that is not particularly poor, which contributes to robust growth and happy vines. It helps that Abruzzo (the name of the larger region) is an approchable wilderness–the rustic-ness often attributed to montepulciano is partially due to that. Not to mention it is draw-droppingly gorgeous:
The wine itself, as the GGG and Wine Bible mentioned, is charmingly rustic. Some pertinent info:
Full name: Collegiata Collimoro, Cinta, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, 2015. Grape(s): Montepulciano (100%). ABV: 13%. Price (to the nearest $5): $10.
Nose/Color – Vibrant maroon with just a hint of purple.
– Spices, plums, dark fruit. A touch of earthiness.
– Pretty subtle. A bit tart.
– Strong, supple tannins. Dark berries becoming more pronounced. Blueberry/raspberry notes!
– Nicely acidic with balanced (but very present) tannins. Relatively long finish, with echoes of the fruit.
Thoughts? – Lovely, charming. Impressively drinkable for the price. Very much can’t complain!
The great thing about Montepulciano d’Abruzzos and montepulcianos in general is that they are generally a solid bet in terms of quality at a decidedly inexpensive price point. That’s not to say that you’d be wasting money if you bought one at $20, more that in the inexpensive versions tend towards ‘better than average’, in my experience. Always a safe starting point in the store.
I’m very happy with this bottle, and the label of said bottle–now all that’s left to do is enjoy the wine!
Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.
‘Hey, wait, that’s two weeks!’, you say. Yes, well, I forgot my notebook at work last Tuesday so here I am. Fun stuff.
Anyhoo, some lovely wines (and a tasting!) in the past weeks, let’s dive right in.
Wednesday, January 17th.
All right, starting out with a fun one–a pinot noir the Casablanca Valley in Chile, of all places. Forgot to take a picture, so alas, none here, but some pertinent info? 100% Pinot, 13.5% ABV, full name: Villard, Expressión Reserve, 2016. Wish I could tell you the price, but this bottle had been dropped off by a rep earlier that day; roughly $10 would be my guess.
Color was almost cherry, a bit of pink around the edges. Light body (it’s a pinot, go figure).
The nose was possibly the most bizarre aspect of the bottle. Almost … manure-like? Barnyard, some savory flavor I couldn’t place. I had a customer describe it as ‘wet stuff on soil’, which seemed apt. Really strange, pretty off-putting smell.
The approach was fairly tight, with the earthiness seemingly concentrated. Though there were some spots of bright fruit.
Midpalette was fairly innocuous, thought the fruit was really starting to bloom.
By the time it got to the finish, all the fruit appeared! Tart cherries, some darker stuff, too–blackberries? They were lovely, really sat at the back of your throat. Not the longest finish I’ve ever expereinced, but not bad either.
Final thoughts could basically be summed with, ‘good, but unusual’. I have to be clear, I was really struggling with the front end. ‘manure-like’ is not the ideal adjective to describe a wine with. The finish was good, though, and it was likely the first pinot I’ve had from Chile!
Thursday, January 18th.
An Entre-Deux-Mers from Bordeaux (it’s a white).
My thoughts on that bottle (and the first Thrifty Thursday!) can be found here!
… Saturday, January 20th.
Sparkling wine this time around. This one is coming from the AOC Crémant de Loire, in the Loire Valley, shockingly. As you’ll remember from my bit about sparklers, a crémant is a French sparkling that’s not from Champagne, but still uses the champagne method. The Loire Valley crémants tend to be a touch less clean and brioche-y than champagne proper, but nevertheless possess their own distinct charm.
Full name: Cyrille Seuin, Crémant de Loire BrutNon Dose, Crémant de Loire, 2016. It’s 100% chardonnay (i.e., a blanc de blancs). 12.5% ABV. $25.
Very crisp on the nose. There are actually some of those classic toasty champagne notes, though it’s cut through with lemon. Cool.
Lovely fine bubbles on the approach, relatively subtle flavor.
The bubbles sit nicely on the mid-palette, neither overwhelming or too little.
It finishes a bit boozy, though still quite clean–and the lemon notes do continue to shine.
It’s a perfectly acceptable substitute for champagne on a budget, though I do wish the alcohol was slightly less pronounced on the finish.
Sunday, January 21st.
You can tell my normal pen ran out of ink (fountain pens, even refillable, run out of ink fast) because my script switches from thicker, unreadable strokes, to thinner, unreadable strokes.
This guy is a white Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, essentially across the river. Since that description is about as specific as ‘The Empty Bottle reviewed a wine’, some specifics:
Full name: Marc Deschamps, Les Porcheronnes, Pouilly-Fumé, 2014. 100% sauvignon blanc. $20.
Pale straw color, with a richness, at the bottom of the glass.
Clean, fresh, floral on the nose. Like honey over apples.
Smooth mineral flavors come through on the mid-palette. The ‘gunflint’ becoming more pronounced.
The finish is well-balanced acidity. Just a subtle hint of yellow fruitiness. Excellcent acidity. ‘Short but sweet’ finish.
‘A broader, more expressive Sancerre’ certainly seems apt. More nuance and breadth of flavor than a clear, straightforward Sancerre. That being said, it nevertheless remains a characteristically French sauvignon blanc.
I think I prefer aTouraine overall, but this is a lovely change of pace.
Monday, January 22nd.
Oh, man! This is cool! I managed to get to a tasting for an all-too-short hour that Monday. The importer was Domaine Select, who import wine and spirits from all over the place–and who I’ve a fair bit of exeprience with, given that both of my shops use them as an importer.
While I’m certainly more familar with their wine selection, I was able to wander over to their spirits side for a quick peek at a few. Alas, I didn’t have the time to take extensive notes on … anything, but here are some of the things I tasted, in no particular order:
– Cowbell Cellars, Pinot Noir, 2016 (?).
– Jax Cellars, from the Napa Valley. I tried their Single Vineyard Chardonnay, and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Both 2016, I believe.
– Basically the entire selection of Champagne Philippe Gonet. Delicious.
– And this was a cool one–Famille Dupont Pays D’Auge Cask Finish Islay Whiskey. It was a Calvados aged in Islay Whiskey barrels. Enchanting apples, with a hit of peatiness. So delicious.
I gotta say, tastings are wild. Even almost six months in, it’s still kind of surreal that I can just wander in to one, with all of a ‘yeah, I work at a few stores’–and I’m in! While I’m sure there are a few unscrupulous people who pretend to be workers, it’s neat that it essentially works on the honor system.
It was also, you know, good wine, too. I was there with an industry friend who reps for a rum that I sell, and we had a brilliant time working through the wines–and just those few touches of liquor!
Definitely need to make it out to more of those.
[I’m thinking I didn’t exactly make the effort to try new wines most of the past new week, so the next wine would be on the Frappato on the 25th.]
… Sunday, January 28th.
Fun grape, often used as an accompaniment to oysters: jacquere. Also a great mouth-feel kind-of name.
This one in particular is: Philippe Ravier, Les Abymes, Vin de Savoie, 2016. 100% Jacquere. 11.5% ABV. $15.
The grapes are grown in the Alps (so not as luxuriously soaked in sun and rain as, say, Bordeaux), but grown on South facing slopes. So what little sun there is to be had in Savoie, these grapes get.
Nose and color are both quite delicate, with a noticeably pale yellow, and perhaps the slightest hints of flowers and … pear?
Approach is delicate and subtle.
Mid-palette is well-balanced and smooth. Polite.
The finish is short, with just a tiny, tiny touch of sweetness (honey-like). Lovely acid.
Quiet, lovely wine. It’s not the most expressive wine I’ve ever drank, but it’s good in the glass, and makes you want to take another bite (that’ll be the acid at work). ‘Polite’ I think is the best descriptor.
… Tuesday, January 31st.
Largely because of one bottle of Etna Bianco I had months ago, I have this perception of white Italian wine as being particularly savory and salty. Turns out, that’s not universally the case (‘However …’), but with this one it definitely is.
Popolo di Indie, Bianco del Popolo, 2016. 100% Cortese. 12.5% ABV. $20.
Even-bodied, full yellow. Savory, fleshy fruit and a touch of sea salt on the nose.
The approach has a touch of subtle plushiness.
The mid-palette is very fleshy, muscular, and full. Saltiness and just a touch of piquancy.
The finish is salty. Savory, plush fruit.
It’s a muscular, characteristic white. Would be absolutely stellar with seafood dishes–a shrimp scampi springs to mind.
Wines that I probably drank but have no distinct memory of because I didn’t write them down.
Petit Canet, syrah/carignan/grenache blend. A bit more aggressive and punchy than that blend usually is, which is a classic Côtes-du-Rhône blend.
Several cans of Underwood–The Bubbles, which is a perfectly agreeable sparkling chardonnay coming out of Oregon. A bit ham-fisted with the ‘we’re better than other wine-makers because we put our wine in cans’, but otherwise mostly harmless.
I tried a Gamay (using carbonic maceration, no less!) from Touraine called Terres Blondes. I was … unimpressed. It was perfectly fine, but I wasn’t stunned by its quality. Very fruit forward (shocker!) and somewhat grapey. Fresh and fruit-foward. Who knows, maybe I just wasn’t feeling it that day.
There was bit of a rushed tone to my post last Thrifty Thursday, due to making a full meal for seven or so people. But I also ordered in (another) bottle of the Chenonceaux, as well as the Moillard chardonnay which I unfortunately failed to take a picture of. Lovely, crisp, mineral chardonnay from France. Great stuff. Also that night was a bottle of the Orenia, a viogner/grenache blanc/roussane blend, which is wonderfully full and round in the mouth.
The picture up at front has a bottle of what may very well be one of my favorite bottles overall in the two stores–Cru Haut Valoir. It’s the classic Rhône blend I mentioned above, but with the subtle addition of mourvèrdre. It adds an entirely new dimension–as does the extra decade in-bottle. A 2005 for $25? Yes, please! Ridicuously good, complex-but-approachable, dangerously drinkable, beautiful stunning label French red wine. Nothing I can complain about. One of the first wines I’ve seriously considered getting a full case of. For the main course, we had the Birichino old-vine cinsault out of California. In a similar vein to the Haut-Valoir, stunning clarity and expression of terroir out of Lodi. A lovely accopaniment to Chicken with Forty Cloves, which is one of my absolute favorite chicken preparations–couple hours of marinanting with garlic and herbs, toss in an earthenware casserole, at 300° for an hour and forty-five or so … jaw-droppingly tender chicken and garlic that spreads like butter. Mmm …
I think that about wraps it up for this week–keep your eyes up for Thrifty Thursday tomorrow, I’m excited to see what I can find.
Hey folks! Sorry about the relatively quiet stretch, January is generally quiet across the shops.
It wouldn’t be much of a recurring series if I missed out on one the week immediately after its inception, would it? So I figured I’d get this down between the bread-baking and other cooking!
So, real quick overview of Frappato: it’s a very Sicilian grape, kind of Italy’s answer to gamay. It lacks gamay’s inherent grapey-ness, and shows much more of that characteristic raciness, which is a nice contrast to the often full-feeling gamay. Its fruit profile (which, at least in this bottle, reminds me very much of a brighter pinot noir). Wine Grapes describes it as “Fruity, fresh, and floral …” and it seems to be on the nose.
The region, Silicia, perhaps better known in the States as Sicily, is an island at the southern end of Italy. This wine in particular is from the “Terre Siciliane IGP”, which, as it turns out, is the entire island. IGP, or Indicazione Geografica Protetta, is the lowest level of the Italian AOCs, the two above being Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), respectively. While the wine regions and the classifications of Italy are almost as complicated as Bordeaux’, suffice to say that this wine does not come from any region of particularly great distinction. But that’s okay!
Full name: Feudo di Santa, Frappato, Terre Siciliane IGP, 2016. Grape(s): Frappato (100%). ABV: 12.5%. Price (to the nearest $5): $10.
Tasting Notes Note to the notes: these are being done off-the-cuff. Might be a bit different than most my tasting notes.
– Strawberries! Plus a touch of the herbaceous notes.
– Darker garnet, with just a hint of brick.
– Just a touch of piquancy.
– Smooth, and lovely. Getting hints of a spice–perhaps a touch of pepper?
– Long-lasting and deeply fruity. strawberries and just a touch of cherries. The spice comes back, and just hums at the back of your throat. Really lovely.
Honestly, I can’t complain. For $10, this is a lovely, and surprisingly interesting bottle. Inexpensive wines, especially from hotter climes, tend to ‘flabby and boring’–this isn’t, and it’s lovely. Charming and easily sippable.
So, I have been meaning to write more, but the problem with taking your notes in a physical book is that if you leave it in one of your shops, and your next shift at that particular shop is in three days, the writing schedule goes out the window. Sorry about that–we’ll return to our regularly scheduled wining soon!
Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.
Hey hey! Long time no see. Sorry about the hiatus–I had headed up to Vermont for a week or so, and was mostly collecting cuddles from cats and other fuzzy creatures.
But! Fortunately for us all, there is also wine in Vermont. Here’s a few of them!
This one was cool–the folks and I were at dinner with some old family friends, and they, being extremely experienced wine drinkers (and generous besides) brought out a bottle of this! As you can see, it’s definitely been sitting for a bit, and it was seriously delicious. The age had really given this Cahors (southwest France, known well for its malbecs (which I’m fairly sure this was?)) a nuance and depth to it that was really just incomparable. I didn’t take notes, unforunately, since I was several glasses of the previous few in, but nevertheless–just a joy to drink.
This last one is very cool. We had headed over to the old friend’s house early in the afternoon to begin food prep, and I had a bit of time to kill. They live just outside of Shelburne, Vermont, and Shelburne has (as I discovered) an exceptionally lovely wine shop called Village Wine and Coffee. Always a good combo.
I was lucky enough to make it while the owner, Kevin, was there, and we had a wonderful discussion about the industry, and the differences between NY and VT, and some of the wines he’s had in. This was one–full disclosure, Kevin gave it me because he specifically wanted me to try it! It’s a white blend, grenache blanc (60%) and roussane (40%), from a small AOC in the Rhône valley called Costières de Nîmes. While originally these wines had characteristics more akin to Languedocs (it used to be a part of that very region!), these have embraced the characteristics of the Rhône valley.
These wines are produced by a NYC/French-based winemaker and importer, Michele D’Aprix. They most certainly reflect her self-stated passion for both the wines outside of the norms of Bordeaux, and for making wine that reflects the care and effort put into it.
What I also particularly like is the writing on the back of the label, which I’ll quote a small bit here:
Caz translates to ‘crazy in a good way’, a sentiment I have come to embrace as I branch out from Bordeaux to bring wines from new terroirs …. It totally complimented [sic] the food and good, honest farmers grew the grapes. Maz Caz is fermented in steel and left unoaked. The grapes hail from the tippy-toes of the southwestern Rhône Valley where the attitude and exposistion are truly Mediterranean …. it’s the moment you taste it: with great friends, alongside great food, with no clock ticking. This project seeks to deliver the simple wine: fresh, young, uncorrupted and pure.
Lovely imagery. Hard to say I disagree, and I’m all for informative back labels. Some pertinent info:
Full name: Pentimento Wine, Maz Caz Blanc, Costières de Nîmes, 2016. Grape(s): Grenache blanc (60%), roussane (40%). ABV: 12.5% Price (to the nearest $5): $10.
– Clean, mineral. Tart yellow fruit. Some apples?
– Subtle, though I feel as if the tartness is becoming slightly more pronounced.
Mid-palette – Smooth, with the notes of the roussane becoming more pronounced. Very even.
– Clean. Dry, but not bone-dry. Good acid.
– It’s a steal at $10. Costières is a cool region. Great description on the back of the bottle–and cred for actually crediting the artist.
All in all, a really lovely trip. Both for wine, but also, y’know, to see all the lovely people in Vermont. I will forever love that state.
Whoo, boy. Hope you all are ready for a … strange? Awesome? Cool? …. regardless, totally neat wine. I’m gonna fiddle with the format a bit, and toss the pertinent information at the top of the post. There’s a lot of things I want to discuss about this wine. Grab a glass, find a seat–we’re going on a voyage of discovery!
Full name: Bodegas Viñátigo, Viñátigo, Tenerife, 2016. Denominación Islas Canarias Protegida. Grape(s): Listán Negro (100%). ABV: 13.5%. Price (to the nearest $5): $20 (if I recall correctly; apologies).
There’s … a lot to talk about. This wine is weird and cool in a lot of ways.
But first, let’s start talking about place.
Going to be a little bit too honest here … I had heard of the Canary Islands, sure, but beyond, ‘well, they’re islands, right?’ I couldn’t tell you much about them.
So I headed over to Wikipedia, which, contrary to every high school teacher’s testimony, is actually a great place to fetch a quick overview of a subject.
Said quick overview:
The Canary Islands (Las Islas Canarias, Spanish) are a set of seven large islands and several much smaller islets about sixty miles off the coast of Morocco.
They are an “autonomous community of Spain”, and considered to be one of the most outermost reaches of the European Union proper. Apparently, 2.1 million people live there, which is fun.
The vast majority of the economy is based on tourism, and with good reason: The Canaries are bona-fide gorgeous. White beaches, lovely climate, endless horizons … it’s all there.
For most of its history (as far as we know) it was largely unpopulated. It had been explored by peoples as diverse as the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians. When Europeans began to record the history of their exploits there, it was populated to some degree by “several indigenous peoples living at a Neolithic level of technology”. Of course, this meant nothing to the Europeans, and being European, they promptly started colonizing in 1402. Since then, it was a tumultuous series of conquerings and re-conquerings, as the Islands swapped hands from the Spanish, to the British, to the Dutch, and back again. In 1982, after the Franco Regime in Spain, a law was passed granting Las Canarias autonomy. Since then, the Islands have flourished as an a sub-community of Spain.
Las Islas are notable for another reason: like its larger Eastern cousin, Madagascar, the Canaries boast incredible endemic biodiversity. Due in part to its placement within throwing distance of both Africa and Europe (as well as being eminently accessible from North America, if you’re a swimmer!), its flora and fauna reflect a broad background, which in some cases blends to a remarkable number of endemic species. Charles Darwin, a minor scientist known for some small contributions to the field of evolution, was so struck by this biodiversity that the Canaries were the first stop on his perspective-forming voyage on The Beagle. Said biodiversity is aided considerably by the relative ‘isolation’ of the Canary Islands–an important aspect of why I’m lecturing you about them!
The climate, as I mentioned in passing, is lovely, though I would likely think it a bit hot and dry (or ‘tropical’ and ‘desertic’ to use official terms). It is moderated a touch by “trade winds” which are “the prevailing pattern of eastern surface winds found within the tropics”. Cool. Anyways, yeah, hot! Specifically, Tenerife (the island this wine is from) has temperatures between roughly 60º and 85º, though the mean temperature sits pretty around 70º. On to more detail about Tenerife, the island of our main concern.
So Tenerife is the largest island of the Canaries, and one that posses a “subtropical humid climate”–sounds like a good place for grapes, right?
Our wine in particular hails from La Guancha, a small (5,000 people or so) town about ten miles to the east of Puerto de la Cruz on the map above. As Tenerife is a volcanic island, the soil that the vines grow in is volcanic (go figure!). Grapes from volcanic soil, as is also the case with say, Etna Bianco/Rosso, tends to have a certain stony clarity to them; Viñátigo is no exception.
Before I get on to a description of the grape itself, I’d like to point out something really important about the vines themselves. The following information (and excerpt) is from Karen Macneil’s stupendously well-regarded (and repeatedly published) The Wine Bible. It’s a fundamental text for anyone looking to get into wine, and can be found in both wine and book stores across the world.
But back to the vines: these vines are not the same vines that are found everywhere else in the world. These vines are endemic to the Canary Islands, because they literally could not survive anywhere else.
To explain a bit more, I’ll turn it over to Ms. Macneil:
“In the latter part of the nineteenth century, phylloxera … spread throughout Europe, destroying vineyards in its path. … Originally named Phylloxera vastaterix (the “dry leaf devastator”) and now specifically identified as the insect Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, phylloxera feeds on a vine’s roots, ultimately sucking life out of the vine. … Indeginous American vines belong to several species that are tolerant of the insect. Native European vines, however, belong to the species vinifera, which is suspectible to the pest” (Macneil, 25-6).
There was another outbreak of Phylloxera in 1983, which destroyed almost 2/3rds of the New World’s vineyards. By now, most of the world’s vines are grafted to rootstocks that come from the resistant American vines (and, increasingly, vineyards make use of a broader range of rootstocks, as to prevent any given over-enthusiastic insect or fungi from wiping out all of the viable grapes).
That’s not the case with Viñátigo, however.
As their website is eager (with good justification!) to point out, their vines are not of the same rootstock as the rest of the world. While they fail to specify whether or not they are pre-nineteenth-century rootstock, I find it likely, as pre-1983 rootstock sounds much less impressive–and would help explain why I have such a hard time placing this wine. But another part of that is the grape itself.
All of my information on Listàn Negro comes from Wine Grapes, by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and Jose Voillamoz. To say that the book is exhaustive comes off as a bit disingenuous; within its covers is described 1,400 wine varieties, ranging from the well-known Pinot Noir to grapes endemic to one island: Listàn Negro. While their commentary can be a bit … dry at times, it is incredibly informative in the way only an rigorous scientific endeavor can be. While I would not suggest the book is necessary for anyone below the level of ‘writes a wine blog’ (a physical copy tends to run about $150), if you ever get the chance to peruse it–take some notes, find your favorite grapes!
But on to the relevant things they have to say about Listàn Negro:
“… a recent study has shown that Listàn Negro has a distinct DNA profile that does not match any known variety …
Vigorous and productive …
On the grey volcanic soils, individual vines are planted in man-made, partially-walled craters or hollows to capture moisture and break the prevailing winds from the Sahara” (Robinson et. al.).
‘Winds from the Sahara?’ you say, ‘I thought they were protecting themselves from winds from the Atlantic? The trade winds, right?’
First off, excellent recollection! I forgot what they were called. But, yes! Tenerife is subject to a fair number of winds, including both the aforementioned. However (I swear, I’m going to write an article about ‘however‘s in wine), Wine Grapes focuses on where the majority of plantings are–on the south side of Tenerife. As Viñàtigo comes from the north, it is more subject to westerly trade winds than it is to easterly desert winds! Microclimates are cool.
So, we’ve covered place, viticulture, and the grape … shall we get on to the actual wine?
Just as a point, my tasting notes are essentially directly transcribed from my loopy cursive with minimal editorializing. Thus the tonal shift.
– Wicked light. Ruby. Pinot Noir-like in body. Very clear. No sediment.
– Herbaceous. Fennel … maybe? It’s a savory kinda … yeah, it’s an herb or something I can’t place. Spicy herbs, I guess?
– Yeah, I’ll admit, this is really pushing the limits of my ability to describe. It’s pretty subtle on the front of the tongue, but once it transitions to the …
– … it gets really interesting. The ‘savory-ness’ gets a bit more pronounced, though it starts getting balanced out with some the red fruit? Or is it currants? Seriously, I’m having a tough time getting a grasp on this.
Finish – Peppery, though at the very back of the throat, there’s this stewed, almost mulled-wine kind-of taste. Kinda like … cardamon or something?
That’s honestly where this wine has me at. I think all of the things we discussed above–the location, the vines, the history of the land–really contribute to a wine that I would describe as singularly unique. I certainly don’t have a great depth of experience with Canary Island wines specifically, but this wine really stands out as distinct with the (large) number of wines I’ve had. It’s one thing to to create a ‘strange’ version of a well-known grape, it’s another to use a grape that is completely unique.
That is not to say that Viñàtigo‘s only strength lies in the fact that’s unique. I actually do like the wine. It’s got a certain charming lightness and spiciness to it that makes it eminently suited to cold winter nights. In some sense, knowing where the wine comes from really makes me think of the wine in that context. It’s … warm. Laid-back. Intimate. Just a really lovely sipping wine. What’s more, it’s no lightweight at 13.5%–and I honestly never even noticed. It’s taken me a few hours to finish this review, and this bottle; I’m feeling both the 1,800 word count, and the five glasses. It’s really lovely, I gotta say.
Is it an everyday drinker? I mean … I feel like a better way to describe it is: it’s a wine that I would always want to be able pull off the shelf. It’s a very specific–and excellent–experience, but I’m not sanguine that I’d necessarily want to drink it everyday. I dunno. Maybe if I was on Las Caranias. I think I could probably deal with that.
Thanks for reading.
Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.
Wikipedia contributors. “Canary Islands.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Dec. 2017. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.
Wikipedia contributors. “La Guancha, Tenerife.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Dec. 2017. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.
Wikipedia contributors. “Tenerife.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Dec. 2017. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.
Wikipedia contributors. “Trade winds.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Dec. 2017. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.
One of my favorite things about being ‘the wine guy’ in my group of friends and family is that often people will save a glass–or a whole bottle!–of a wine they’d like you try. I love wine, but the fact that someone is willing to save wine, specifically for me, so they can hear my opinion on it … it really tickles me, and I appreciate it a great deal.
But, moving on to tonight’s wine: Irancy, produced by Benoît Cantin.
Irancy is a small AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, as you’ll recall from the Moulin des Dames. Also, I’m going to toss up a Glossary some time in the next week) a little bit north and east in France. As my father relayed to me (and so kindly left me the half bottle), Irancy is one of the regions farthest north in France that can still grow red wine grapes (specifically, Pinot Noir) and still have them yield a usable harvest.
The growing area of the AOC is specifically centered in a valley that is covered in vines and cherry trees–which will become important later. That same valley helps shield the vineyards from the worst of the winter weather, enabling the grapes to die less in the cold season.
On to the tasting notes! But first some pertinent information:
Color/Body – Very light, thin garnet. Red cherry, but in like liquid-glass-form.
– Wow! Holy heck, that is a lot of cherries! Very bright red fruit (and here we see why the cherry trees in the valley were important!).
– The sweetness almost … synergizes with the (perfectly normal) alcohol content? It reminds me somewhat of a sour cherry liqueur–but not at all in a bad way.
– The sweetness on the nose essentially ends up being tartness on the tongue. It’s like you’re making a transition from sweet cherries to sour ones in a sip.
Mid-palette – Really where the cherries come into their own. It’s actually very drinkable mix of the sweet and sour aspects of cherry, and a little more nuance in terms of other red fruits like strawberries and raspberries.
– Super super dry, but still … just a faint rêve of those cherries.
– Acidity makes itself remembered, too.
So, in case it’s not clear, my tasting notes are sequentially written: I’ll pay attention to–and write down–every specific aspect of the wine in the order you see.
Irancy, it seems, is a wine defined by cherries.
Now, I don’t actually think this is a bad thing; in my experience, one of the best things about Pinot Noir is really cranking out some super fruity, light wines. There’s a term that’s often thrown around vis à vis fruity Cabernets: jammy. It really describes wines that revel in being fruity, but also tooth-achingly sweet. Irancy is not jammy, and that’s a godsend. I think its saving grace is in that while the cherry profile is definitely its most significant characteristic, it has enough interest in that cherry to keep it from being overly sweet, or worse: boring. While I would never pair Irancy with basically anything that had cherries in it (it would likely make the meal become overwhelmingly cherry-y), it remains a charming and distinct bottle of Pinot Noir.
Would I buy it again? If I were looking for something specific, or I was trying to prove a point about being able to distinguish certain fruits in wine. This wine is a great choice for ‘proving a point wine’, wherein you hold it up as a example purely of what a grape or a region can do. Is it an everyday drinker for me? No. But, hey, if you really like cherries, boy do I have a bottle for you!