Okay, people, NOW you can drink those big, tannic, alcoholic, jammy, concentrated wines. This is the right time of year so get on with it. I know many of you like such beverages in August and September, which not an ideal time. Now is. We have always suggested drinking what you like when you like. And since you have indicated you do like these wines, do it now.
The chilling winds of winter are tailor-made for those big fruit bombs. And I am well aware that our “chilling winter winds” are not anywhere near the scale of the cold breezes in other cities. But to us it’s cold and that’s that.
What is really fun – and maybe even a little interesting depending on your ability to be entertained by the alcoholic beverages themselves and not just by the result – is that there are some amazing, even exotic, but not necessarily expected places, where these beverages are created. That all adds to the pleasure, a taste and a story, usually more engaging than any of the three singular points alone.
This week we have noted a couple of not-usual areas of origin, with some weighty grape expressions, perfect for a cold night and heavier dining fare. Most of these wines or their equivalents are available at our better retail wine sales outlets in the New Orleans area, like Pearl Wine Company, Swirl, Rouse’s, Martin’s Wine Cellar, and Aquistapace.
Slowly working its way back into America’s good graces after a long series of poorly structured, flabby, mediocre fruit expression vintages and wines. Did I mention overpriced?
But the Aussies are coming back around because it was not just America that shunned the wines from Down Under. Even the Mother Colony, Great Britain, thought less of the misbehaving offspring. Not quite a case of “all is forgiven, the porch light is always on” just yet. However with several good harvests in a row, and Europe, particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux France, having a tough time with ripening and controlling price increases. Mother is looking more kindly toward her former Penal Colony.
Ant Moore – Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc
Jacob’s Creek – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache
Penfold’s – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon
An entire country that has previously traveled on the back of one grape and one spirit. Pisco, distilled from grapes and also claimed by Peru, makes for a delightful cocktail, the Pisco Sour, done to perfection at a number of bars in New Orleans, notably the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.
The favored grape varietal, but not necessarily a solo act right now, is Carmenere, a lesser-known Bordeaux grape, and planted in its purest form in Chile. The vines in Chile are even an older expression than the vines in Bordeaux. Because Carmenere has many properties in common with Merlot – deep red color, rich palate-feel, soft tannins – it was confused with Merlot for many years, even misidentified in wine competitions which it often won.
Morande – Pinot Noir
Errazuriz – Carmenere
Antares – Carmenere
Casillero del Diablo – Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon
If the country and its economy do not implode, the wines of Argentina, made primarily out of Malbec, another Bordeaux varietal, will continue to be available at astoundingly low prices considering the delightful flavors and aromas they deliver.
Malbec is very susceptible to disease and Argentina, being a country surrounded on one side by a great ocean and the other by very tall mountains, has managed to block out most of the pests,, allowing this lovely vine to flourish.
Durigutti – Malbec Reserve
Denario – Malbec
Antigal – Uno Malbec
This country has always been fertile and able to grow fine wine grapes. The issue has been more political as opposed to agricultural. South Africa even went so far as to create a grape for its own use, Pinotage, a blend of the pinot noir and cinsault varietals.
Unfortunately for South Africa, a huge wine co-op got their talons on the grape and proceeded to run it into the ground, no pun intended. The result was a lackluster, sometimes even undrinkable wine, made from a grape totally associated with the country’s wine industry. Today, mainstay world grapes like chardonnay, chenin blanc, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon are thriving with proper viticulture techniques. Even pinotage is making an impressive comeback avoiding the ignominy, for a wine grape, of being banished to the jams and jellies section of the food store.
Mullineaux – Kloof Street Rouge, Kloof Street Chenin Blanc, Syrah
Catherine Marshall – Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, SMG
Mulderbosch – Faithful Hound (red blend)
Always considered too hot an area for top-quality grapes but, oh, that is no longer true…at all. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the hearty Zinfandel vines are all key characters in the modern landscape, east of U.S. Highway 101.
Paso is just now shedding its Wild West image and looking more like Wine Country than rodeo land. Still a lot of the latter around but now the land used to raise cattle has become too valuable for that purpose. A little to the West there is some conversion of both cattle land and vineyards to almond orchards. Paso’s cycle of life contains some interesting occupants.
Gary Eberle – Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel
Daou – Cabernet Sauvignon
J.Lohr – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah
Suddenly, the words, “It’s a dark and stormy night” do not have to mean boring and wasted.