The broader ‘Sud-Ouest’ has been one of the most eclectic and underappreciated wine regions in France. Despite being of comparable to most other significant wine regions, the sheer amount of variation between appellations transcends grape varieties and extends to styles, terroir, and culture. Among the more approachable and common IGP’s you will see is the Cotes de Gascogne, a large swath of land surrounding the city of Auch. At one point, this region was predominantly occupied with Armagnac production, but now uses some of the Armagnac varieties (Ugni Blanc, Colombard, etc.) to make easy-drinking, crisp white wine. Guillaman’s ‘Les Pierres Blanches’ is no exception, being an unoaked blend of Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc. Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc might feel a touch of déjà vu drinking this as aromas of wet rock, grapefruit, and hints of passionfruit arise from the glass. However, this is lacking in NZ’s (in)famous pyrazines and boasts hints of floral notes that add complexity to the familiar combo of citrus fruit and acidity. As a bonafide porch-pounder, raw fish is an excellent accompaniment, and the tuna carpaccio that finds its way onto Chestnut Tree’s menu occasionally is an excellent pairing.
When we have featured Spanish white wines in the past, we have generally featured examples from Galicia, where the climate favors the production of high-acid, austere wines. However, white wines are made in the overwhelmingly warm parts of Spain as well, albeit with different results. The Prado Rey Blanco is an excellent example, sourcing Verdejo and Albarin (Not to be confused with Albarino) from around Castilla y Leon and taking a richer approach. Following 5 months in concrete and oak each, this wine gives off complex aromas of apple, vanilla, flowers, and subtle baking spice. The palate is creamy in comparison to Rueda Verdejo we have offered in the past, with a combination of peach, apple, and pear supplemented with the aforementioned spice. This would go well with cream-based dishes, such as the wildly creative Rasta Pasta up at Graffiti.
If you were a member of the club this past month, you likely were introduced to Argentinian Pinot Noir; a product of the region of Patagonia slowly but surely making its way into US markets. Though Patagonia doesn’t produce anywhere near the amount of wine that Mendoza does (Roughly 75% of the total production), it does have the benefit of a moderating influence from the Antarctic, leading to a haven for many white varieties, and early-ripening red varieties like Pinot Noir. As a result, more and more producers from other significant wine regions are flocking to buy land to get in on the action. The Humberto Canale estate, however, has been cultivating vineyards in the area since 1909 and is now in the fifth generation of ownership. Their estate Pinot Noir is an excellent reflection of that experience, showing off the cool climate, but intense capabilities of the region. The wine opens with aromas of crunchy red berries, orange zest, and earth. The palate is medium-bodied, with light dusty tannins and mouthwatering acidity, and features the same chewy red fruits as the nose. Rich, toasty pork or lamb dishes are the pairing to go with here, but earthy vegetable dishes could go just as well, such as the falafel at Gyro 360.
Sometimes, the title of a wine tells you all you need to know. Red winemaking in Barossa is often a battle to maintain a semblance of structure as the oppressively hot temperatures ripen the grapes to comical levels. What would happen if you leaned into that ripeness a little? Well, this wine might tell you! The ‘Ink’ Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the incomparable Barossa Valley, where this wine has been forged into an extracted powerhouse. Aromas of cassis, fruitcake, and eucalyptus give way to a rich, viscous texture of vanilla, blueberry, and various baking spices that would make an excellent pairing for the melt in your mouth Thai Curry Pot Pie at Taan Eatery.
While Southern Rhone might not have the reputation for powerhouse whites that it’s cousin to the North does, there are producers making massive renditions of some of your favorite white Rhone varieties. Enter Mas de Volques, who longtime club members will be familiar with as a super team of both talented young winemakers and veterans from Chateauneuf du Pape. They benefit from the location and terroir of Duche D’Uzes, which is one of the most southerly, and warm, appellations of the Southern Rhone Valley. In the fashion of the latter, the Alba Dolia is a massive blend of Rousanne and Viognier that gives off aromas of apricot, pineapple, beeswax, and vanilla. The palate is rich and creamy, with explosive tropical and stone fruit notes cut with hints of vanilla. This wine needs something equally rich, think the fried oyster mushroom sandwich from Insurgent!
For such a tumultuous history, Carmenere has its perfect home in the Central Valley of Chile. Once a bonafide grape of Bordeaux, Carmenere was virtually wiped out by phylloxera in the late 19th century and was thought lost until the late 20th century, when Jean Michel Boursiquot determined that what was once called merlot chileno, was Carmenere. Since then, it is has been the signature variety of Chile, and has played an important role in creating a unique viticultural identity for the country. Vicente Aresti Astica founded the estate in 1951, and it has since been known for its faithful renditions of Chile’s signature variety. The nose offers the quintessential notes of bell pepper, black pepper, and tart plum. The palate offers dusty tannins and medium acidity, with flavors of strawberry and plum cut with notes of cacao and subtle herbs. The structure and savory nature of this wine makes it an ideal pairing for a variety of cheeses, would benefit from a visit to Justin at Ten:One Artisan Cheese.
You already know the deal, Malbec is kind of a big thing in Argentina. Across virtually every appellation, Malbec is the primary or one of the primary red varieties. Chief among them is Mendoza, with the subregions of Lujan de Cuyo, San Juan, and their delineations in particular. Agrelo is a subregion of the prior, offering some of the high elevation terroir (over 1000 ft above sea level on average) that makes some of Argentina’s most collectible wines. Though most Bordeaux varieties would, and do, succeed here, the huge diurnal shifts and moderating influence of the high elevations prevents Malbec from learning to much into its hedonistic, mocha-ish tendencies. The La Madrid is an exceptional example, offering aromas of plum, ground coffee, and violet. The palate might be comparatively light to some of the more retail-heavy brands from Mendoza, but the fine grained tannins, balanced acidity, and balanced dance between red and black fruits make for an incredible result. Try this with a Jackie Mays burger next time you see them!
A ‘big dog’ returns, and with it a strikingly balanced, but hedonistic Shiraz. Named for former winemaker Stuart Blackwell, the Blackwell Shiraz manages to dodge the aforementioned pitfalls of winemaking in Barossa and emerges as an amazingly complex rendition. Despite spending a considerable amount of time in American Oak, the nose offers a complex bouquet of flowers, bakers chocolate, blackberry, and black pepper. Though this wine could cruise for another decade, the blackberry, spruce, and milk chocolate dance around the palate surrounded by fine grained tannins and surprising acidity. Though this could work with some sticky BBQ, this is one of the few Barossa Shiraz’s that has the grace and complexity to match well with a high end cut of ribeye or filet.