January is resolution time. How about abandoning eat less, work out more and embrace a wine-filled resolution? Domaine Biblia Chora has crafted a wine that is delicious and unique, perfect for a new year’s resolution of trying new grape varieties in 2017. The 2011 Biblia Chora Biblinos Oenos is crafted of a 100% un-named local varietal; clear deep ruby in the glass; aromas of fresh red and black fruit, black pepper, dusty earth, minerality, and a faint trail of pleasing charred oak; the wine offered medium acidity, tannins, body, and finish; it offers a very pleasing rustic earthiness, it is not overly complex but quite delicious. This wine is believed to be crafted of the same varietal from the 8th century BC used by the Greeks and Phoenicians to make Sacred Wine. Upon discovering these vines growing wild in an ancient vineyard and DNA testing the grapes, Biblia Chora confirmed the grapes were vitis vinifera, but not related to any modern grapes. So embrace something new this year with this ancient, indigenous, un-named varietal.
Rockin Red Blog
Baco Noir, created by François Baco, is a hybrid of the French variety, Folle Blanche, and an unknown variety of North American Vitis riparia. Once produced in Burgundy and the Loire, it made its way to North America, where it is now considered by many in the wine world to be a quintessential American grape. Because of its cold hardiness, it is grown around Canada and United States in areas such as Michigan, New York, Niagara Peninsula, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and Wisconsin. Baco Noir is darkly pigmented and possesses the zingy acidity that I crave in a red wine, making it fantastically food friendly. However, what I most love about Baco Noir is its bucolic quality and its ability to demonstrate terroir like nobody's business. Baco Noir can be made in a variety of styles, from Bordeaux-style to Burgundian, but I fell in love with the latter, lighter style made by Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, New York, Columbia County's first winery, which opened to the public in 2007. The winemaking philosophies of the winery - history, terroir, dirt, rocks, fruit, and wine - are showcased magnificently through its selection of Baco Noirs. I am especially enamored with how Hudson-Chatham handcrafts these wines with minimal intervention, unfiltered and unfined, which renders a rusticity that cannot be ignored. Combine that with its characteristic tart berry flavors, spice, minerality, and vibrant acidity, you have a delicious, masterful wine. When you seek out Baco Noir, Hudson-Chatham should be the first stop on your journey. However, once you have tasted theirs, the bar has been set and other examples may find themselves in the shadow of Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir.
Traveling Wine Chick
Baco Noir is a hybrid of the folle blanche grape used for French cognac, and the vitis riperia (riverbank grape) native to the North American midwest. The vitis riperia has a hearty roots that are resistant to phylloxera and leafy foliage that resist mildew and black rot, so it was a chosen as robust rootstock for French grapes capable of producing wine. Baco Noir is a grape variety I first tried in Canada. It tasted local, was easy to enjoy, and I was intrigued by the flavor profile and the capability of regional wines, cultivated and created in harsher environments than pinot noir. The result is a medium bodied, rustic red wine, deeply tinted in color, that is high in acidity. The wines often exhibit flavors of red and blue plums and berries, sometimes with an essence of cedar or wildflower, capable of maturing nicely in oak. And in Northern regions, they can survive challenging growing conditions and colder climates. Easily found in the Ontario Canada, Hudson Valley, and Finger Lakes wine regions to name just a few.
Jim van Bergen
Winter weather finds certain grape varieties in my glass that don’t often appear there in the summer months; one of them is Charbono. There are less than 100 acres under vine of this grape in California which is a lot more than you’ll find planted anywhere else. While it’s a cult grape today it has a history of higher prominence. Up until 1989 there was a Charbono Society that held dinners in and around Napa Valley. Over the last decade handfuls of additional producers have either made an occasional Charbono in the years they can get fruit, or in a few cases planted some and added it to their regular portfolio, albeit in fairly small quantities. The standard bearer of Charbono and the winery with the highest case production has for some years now been Summers in Calistoga. Their Charbono is available nationally and does a wonderful job representing this grape. The hallmarks that speak to me are the combination of juicy, dark fruits and firm backbone of acid. When handled appropriately this leads to a wine that is appealing in its youth when it’s full of boisterous and often brooding fruit flavors, as well as eminently positioned to age, often for decades. Summers 2014 Estate Charbono ($35) is grown on their property in Calistoga. This vintage has the classic characteristics that Charbono disciples crave. Black plum and spice leap from the nose. Blackberry and blueberry are joined by bits of black olive and copious spice notes on the palate. The long, firm finish shows off all of those characteristics as well as hints of sweet dark chocolate and a final dollop of blueberry. It’s incredibly appealing now but it’ll morph in appealing manners over the next 15-20 years.
Last year I enjoyed one of the most memorable white wines I’ve ever had; the 2008 Torre de Tavares Encruzado Dão. The wine was elaborated from what is arguably Portugal’s finest white wine grape; Encruzado. You’ve never heard of the Encruzado grape? Neither had I! It is an indigenous light-skinned grape variety grown almost exclusively in the Dão region of northern Portugal. It’s a grape variety that performs well in the vineyard producing grapes with balanced sugar and acidity. It is well suited to the Dão, where the grapes benefit from the diurnal temperature variation associated with higher altitudes. There it is used in blends and, increasingly varietal wines. If handled with TLC, Encruzado produces highly perfumed, elegant and complex wines with an apricot, quince, green citrus, floral, light spice and herbal character that are very fresh with an exceptional waxy mouthfeel. The wines can age well for decades. It may be a challenge to track down a bottle of Encruzado, but if you’re looking for a white wine that may evoke distinguished white Burgundies while exhibiting its own unique character, I bet you’ll find it is worth the effort!
ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
For those unfamiliar with Furmint, I highly recommend kick-starting the new year with this white grape variety. Furmint is native to the Tokaj region of Hungary. It is the main grape used in making the world-famous and deliciously satisfying botrytized dessert wines the region is renowned for. What is not well known is Furmint is vinified into a refreshing dry white wine, too -- one that is worthy of your attention. Like Riesling, Furmint has naturally high levels of acidity. High acidity is required in dessert wines to balance the residual sugars; otherwise, the wine will be sickly sweet and cloying. As a drier-style table wine, Furmint is lively and crisp and a natural partner to a wide range of foods. My pick for this post is Béres 2014 Tokaji Dry Furmint. This wine is bright and fresh with stone fruit and melon flavors joined by a slight nuttiness, citrus pith and an appealing mineral edge that surfaces towards the back-end. There is some richness in the texture that’s propped up by racy acidity that carries through to the vibrant, clean finish. I hope you can find this wine; I think you will like it! If you cannot find it, the next time you visit your local wine shop ask if they carry any Dry Furmint. If you find something you really enjoy, please share it with us in the comment section. Thanks for reading and I hope the new year is off to a great start for you!
My Vine Spot
There is a reason why a smaller number of Spanish growers rallied to save the Godello grape a few decades ago when it almost disappeared. Godello is a white variety of grape growth in Northwestern Spain (also thought to be the same as the Gouveio grape in Portugal). It has been described as akin to chardonnay but I think that it transforms with a little air in the glass – to me, it’s a mix somewhere between a chenin blanc, viognier and chardonnay. It has texture, floral notes, complexity, honeysuckle, citrus and a great minerality. I first discovered Godello on a #olewinos press trip to Bierzo and I have yet to find a bottle that doesn’t keep me guessing on which grape is best reflected.
Everything old is new again and Limnio, a wonderful Greek grape, though today elusive to US consumers, was famous in the world of Aristotle. He wrote about Limnio comparing its flavor to oregano. Cultivated first on the island of Lemnos, which gives Limnio its name, the grapes tend to produce higher alcohol wines with herbaceous notes, berry characteristics and interesting textures. I tried it in a blend called "Avaton" produced by Ktima Gerovasilliou. "Ktima" means "estate" in Greek. Ktima Gerovasilliou is a 138 acre parcel close to Thessalonika at the edge of the Epanomi wine region and somewhat adjacent to the Northern Aegean location of Lemnos. “Avaton” ($60) is made up of more than 50% Limnio with 25% Mavrotragano and 20% Mavroudi, which are all red Greek grapes. The resulting blend brings together the best from all its varieties into a luscious (and easy to pronounce) wine with earth, tobacco, plum and berry flavors and aromas. Aging in oak foudres enhances the texture. This wine is a perfect match for wintry dishes like game, stews and best of all grilled lamb. Look for this eternally modern wine to enjoy “new wave” history in a glass.
One of my personal wine intentions for 2017 is to expand my palate by exploring wines made from lesser-known varieties like Aidani, Godello, Fer Servadou, Nerello Mascalese, and hybrid grapes like Marquette. Hybrid grape varieties are often dismissed by oenophiles for producing foxy or one-dimensional wines (understandable in many cases). A committed group of farmers are helping to change the perception of hybrid grapes by making compelling wines made from these grapes. One of the most promising hybrids is a cold hardy hybrid red grape called Marquette. Developed at the University of Minnesota and introduced in 2006, Marquette is a cross between two other hybrids and is a descendent of Pinot Noir. Well made Marquette wines tend to be fresh, juicy, fairly high in acid with notes dark cherry and spice. One of the most compelling wines made from Marquette I’ve enjoyed is called Damejeanne from La Garagista Farm + Winery in Vermont (yes, Vermont!). With a focus on organic and biodynamic farming, La Garagista is a small yet amazing farm and winery that offers some of the most impressive wines made from hybrid grapes. The 2013 Damejeanne (includes 10% La Crescent) is fresh, juicy, offering notes cherry, spice and hints of earth. Balanced with lovely bright cherry acidity; delicious! La Garagista wines sell out as fast as they are made and are difficult to find so look for quality Marquette wines from Lincoln Peak Winery (Vermont) and Champoux Vineyards/Powers (Washington).
Drink What YOU Like
Sometimes in reading about a grape variety or varietal wine my interest is piqued and I go on a hunt to find that wine. The hunt becomes part of the fun of the discovery. Other times a new wine comes to me. Literally. It’s just poured into my wine glass. That’s what happened recently at a wine tasting when I was poured a glass of Pineau d’Aunis. Pineau what? Pineau d’Aunis (pronounced Pee-no Doh-nee) is red variety grown in several central Loire Valley appellations in France, perhaps since the 9th century. I’ve read a couple of theories as to where the variety originated and how it got its name. In any event, Pineau d’Aunis is not widely planted. It is unrelated to Pinot Noir and sometimes called Chenin Noir in the Loire Valley even though is unrelated to Chenin Blanc, a star of the appellation. Pineau d’Aunis is used to make red, white, rosé and sparkling wines. I came home from the wine tasting with a bottle of that Pineau d’Aunis, Pascal Janvier 2015 Coteaux du Loir Rouge “Cuvée du Rosier”. It is translucent ruby in the glass with aromas of black pepper, cedar and red fruit which are immediate and generous. Pomegranate and dried cherry flavors are liberally seasoned with the same black pepper and cedar so evident in the aromas. The body is light and tannins are drying and significant. Flavors and tannins last a very long time. It is contemplative, intriguing and complex. It was delicious on a chilly winter evening and it will be amazing on a warm summer afternoon as well. Intrigued? I hope so, and I hope your hunt will become part of the fun of a new wine discovery for you. Cheers!
Pull that Cork
Even though it’s winter – I’m actually writing this as I defrost from making a snow angel in 10F (-12C) NYC winter weather – I’m going to recommend an obscure white grape with zing: Ribolla Gialla. It is an ancient variety, first mentioned in 1296, and can be made sparkling, orange or typically light, dry and still. But what makes this quite special, in my mind, when made well, is that it can give floral notes and rich aromatics of honey yet has a bracing acidity that is exhilarating. Right now I’m drinking a 2014 Ascevi Luwa Ceròu Ronco Superiore Ribolla Gialla, from its traditional home of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy. It has a beautiful honeysuckle, white pepper nose with a distinctive honeycomb flavor with hints of lemon zest, a saline minerality and a bracing acidity that made me giggle with delight like a little schoolgirl. Last October, I was fortunate enough to taste a sparkling Ribolla Gialla from Piera Martellozzo, called 075 Carati. As you can imagine, its flavors and acidity went well with a sparkling style – but I’m afraid they don’t have distribution in the US yet. Finally, it makes the most famous orange wine in the world. Josko Gravner’s Anfora is Ribolla Gialla that has extended skin contact while fermented in clay amphora. It is orange in color with golden tints – striking in flavor profile as well as color. Life can still be surprising, fun and spontaneous – like an impetuous decision to fling oneself into the snow, or to grab an obscure white wine to drink when it’s way below freezing out. Life does not have to be the same old, same old, so make that leap and buy the wine that challenges your comfort zone. Happy winter drinking!
I was in California to speak at a wine tourism conference. During the opening night reception, I was making my way around the room intentionally tasting wines I had not encountered before. Someone suggested I go by the Georgia table. I am from Georgia - Macon Georgia - the land of fresh peaches, boiled peanuts, and traditional manners. I thought, of course I would go over and say “Hey.” But these were wines from Georgia - the Kakheti region of Georgia - the land of buried qvevri (clay fermentation vessels), the land where winemaking began. I was standing in front of the line up from Pheasant’s Tears and I was about to put something very ancient, yet very novel (to me) in my mouth. Before “orange wines” were trendy, like since 6000 BC, vintners in Georgia were leaving juice in skin contact (red and white) and adding in ripe stems. Wines are fermented and aged underground in the beeswax lined qvevri. What results are wines of complexity, texture, and layers of almost familiar wine notes in a concentrated, savoriness that hints at their exotic history. Wines you do not simply taste, but you experience. Fairly widely distributed, you can actually get your hands on Pheasant’s Tears wines in the U.S. I walked away with a recipe and a bottle of Rkatsiteli, a dry full-bodied white wine from a grape of the same name. (retail $20ish) I look forward to reliving its honeyed nuttiness. I will share notes on the pairing the next season heirloom tomatoes are available. For more on Georgia wines I recommend the book, For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey Through the World’s Most Ancient Wine Culture by Alice Feiring.
Jade Helm, DWS, CS, CSW
This New Wave grape is ancient. Susumaniello hails from Salento in Apulia, at the heel of Italy’s boot. It’s grown almost exclusively around the town of Brindisi, often finding its way into rustic blends with confederates like Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Malvasia Nera. But it’s now being made as a varietal wine, and Tenute Rubino, which I visited in September 2016, produces two versions that show the fruit’s flexibility. Their Torre Testa is dense and plummy, with a coffee-steeped body and ornaments of barrel spice. Meanwhile Oltremé is its un-oaked, youthful counterpart, jazzed with red fruits and sprung with pliant tannins. (Rubino even makes a sparkling Susumaniello, regrettably not imported.) A refreshing piquancy runs through these wines, proving Susumaniello a versatile companion to the region’s fare: the ripe, savory, and olive-oil-saturated.
Meg Houston Maker
When it comes to obscure grape varietals, there are literally hundreds that you could select from. If you look to any of my fellow wine writers that have shared their thoughts here, you can see that many of us are members (or aspiring members) of the Century Club; this unique society requires us to go out and seek unusual and lesser known varietals. My favorite obscure varietal is one I discovered while on a trip in Croatia – Teran. Known as Terrano in Italy, of which the Istrian peninsula was once part of, Teran is a dark and meaty grape that reminds me of Touriga Nacional. Classically, it was the workhorse grape behind the Yugoslovian bulk wine, which wineries were forced to produce. Today Teran is making a resurgence as an elegant, powerful red wine. With rich black fruit, spice, and earth, it is the perfect companion for a steak or duck dishes and will keep you warm on a winter night. Recently, Slovenia has come on the scene with sparkling Teran, similar in style to Australian sparkling Shiraz. This sparkling red wine is savory, meaty, and herbal in nature and makes for a delicious interlude with any meal.
Luscious Lushes Wine Blog
If you’re looking for a new palate adventure, check out wines made from Trousseau. This red grape hails from the Jura region of France, and is grown in appellations like Arbois and the Cotes du Jura. In Portugal, it goes by the hilarious varietal name Bastardo, and has also been used in Madeira wine. It likes heat and sunshine, but it’s unique in its tart, fresh, funky, sour red fruited appeal. These are not dense, viscous wines full of oak-influence and jammy fruit; think of them as reds to pair with cured meats and olive spreads, veggies, or even baked fish or chicken. Trousseau tends to show a wilder range of flavors like tart strawberry, sour cherry, black tea, pepper, pickle and sage. Jura Trousseau is a must for those who enjoy the “natural wine” notion, but there are some really cool iterations coming out of California, notably from producers like Copain, Arnot-Roberts, and Sandlands.
Isaac James Baker
Reading, Writing & Wine
The new wave yet, beginning to get discovered grape that I chose comes from emerging Macedonia. The red wine grape, Vranec, also known as, 'The Black Stallion' or 'Black Grape' has a reputation for being potent. When used as a blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, the aromatics of strawberries and red cherries create a seducing aroma. On its own, again, the aromatics lure you into sampling the complex, fruity grape that has a licorice and cocoa backbone. It's dark color and powerful fruit make Vranec a contender as a 'New Wave Grape.'
The Wine Hub