It’s always gratifying to have one’s theories confirmed and that’s what happened when I ran into a friend who belongs to an exclusive wine tasting group (at least I think it’s exclusive because no matter how many times I’ve hinted, I’ve never been invited). Once a month this group gets together, one person prepares dinner (I’ve been allowed to see a couple of the menus—they’re very serious) and everyone brings a bottle of wine to fit a pre-determined theme.
The category this time was Châteauneuf-du-Pape. My friend was delighted that he alone had the clever idea to bring a white one. And he was even more delighted that his bottle was voted best in the tasting. Having seen some of the notes for earlier tastings written up after all the wines have been evaluated, I attest that these people love hearty red wines so my friend’s victory seems that much more surprising. But such are the vicissitudes of life. The wine he brought, by the way, is from La Bastide Saint Dominique, a blend of clairette, roussane and grenache blanc.
Coincidentally, at a tasting I had just attended I spoke to an importer of another white Châteauneuf-du-Pape who just the night before had shared a ten year old one with his dinner companions and it was so good he couldn’t tell me without a big smile on his face. I’ve never thought of laying down a case of the white, but now I want to.
Now how does this fit in with my theory? It is simply this: that certain wine regions become associated with one particular type of wine to such an extent that others from the region get overlooked.
With all the attention Argentina has gotten lately for its malbecs, I’d venture to say that not many people have tried the white torrontes that are also produced there. Intriguing aromas, floral and spice—cardamon and vanilla—as well as a bit of lychee, beckon you to this citrusy, medium-bodied wine. There are good examples from Tilia, Lo Tengo, Los Crios, and Santa Julia. It’s fun thinking up what food to have this with. I tried one not long ago with olive tapenade-crusted cod. Happily.
As Argentina goes with malbecs, so do the shelves of Austrian wine I see in stores seem monopolized by white Grüner Veltliners. But now I’ll be looking for Zweigelts (plus it’s fun to say)! This red grape variety, developed in Austria, is almost exclusive to the country (there are some exceptions). I was charmed by the importer Carlo Huber’s dedication to these wines, among which we sampled the 2009 Martinshof Zweigelt Niederösterreich and the 2009 Zum Martin Sepp Zweigelt.
Provence is justly renowned for its rosés, but at a recent tasting I decided first to pay attention to the white wines from this region and felt rewarded when I tried the Domaine Saint André de Figuière 2011.The fresh, crisp, and lively profile of this wine with a silky mouth-feel and lengthy finish won me over immediately. I was a bit surprised to learn that it’s a blend of sémillon, ugni blanc, and rolle. Now rolle is a funny grape, as it’s the same as what we more commonly know here as vermentino.
Ah, the Loire. The longest river in France can seem synonymous with great white wines to enjoy with seafood (or whatever else pleases you). Muscadet, Cheverny, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are just a sampling. But, hold on, what about one of my favorite grapes, cabernet franc? Why don’t the red wines (almost all of them one hundred per cent cabernet franc) from the Loire get more attention? Aside from being delicious, they go well with a wide range of foods.
At a party I was at last weekend I shared a bottle of 2010 Chinon Les Mureaux from Jean Dumont with some like-minded friends. Deep in color, robust, saturated with plenty of fruit to balance the tannins, this wine, we all agreed, was just what we loved to drink. And after all, if a wine’s been celebrated in literature as early as the 1500s (see Rabelais), doesn’t that say something about staying power?
Over the winter, I’ve had a few bottles of another Loire red, Bourgueil. They all shared the characteristics of being woodsy, earthy, smoky and pungent—think shitake mushrooms—and were dry, dry, dry. A 2005 vintage from Domaine des Chesnaies showed this wine ages well, yet I can recommend more recent vintages from the same producer.