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Posts Tagged ‘Tannat’

The Region Which Started It All

May 15, 2018 8 comments

The wine had been made in the Southwest of France ( Sud-Ouest in French) almost forever – in terms of human life, 2,000+ years well classified as “forever”. The region is considered one of the “cradles of winemaking” in Europe, and it maintains its uniqueness and diversity today – for example, out of 300 grape varieties used in the winemaking in the region, 120 are not found anywhere else.

Of course, we know that winemaking started about 8,000 years ago, and not in the Southwest of France. So what’s up with “started it all” claim? Glad you asked! Let me explain.

We live in the times when the wine is a part of daily life of many. Drinking wine is a norm and normal, simply a part of the daily routine for many, not a luxury or a weird exception anymore. Yes, that’s how it was in Europe forever – but now I’m talking about the rest of the world, countries such the USA, and even China now heading that way. The demand for wine had been constantly increasing since the late 1990s, and even Great Recession of 2008 didn’t kill it (just shifted the “acceptable” price ranges). Is it all just a normal course of events? We can, of course, settle for this. However, I believe that on a deeper level, there are exact reasons, “tip the scale” moments for many things which seem to happen just on its own – however, sometimes it is not easy to identify those “reasons”.

Remember the impact of the movie Sideways on consumption and production of the Merlot in the USA? That movie was the reason for a huge slump after 2004, and production and interest to Merlot are still in the recovery mode even now, 14 years later.

Late in the 1980s, the world started talking about The French Paradox – French eat cheese and foie gras, cook with butter and duck fat daily, and nevertheless, the coronary disease rates are much less than in the countries with comparable living standards and much lesser fat consumption. Possible explanation? Red wine. French consume lots of red wine, and resveratrol, one of the prominent substances found in seeds and skins of the red grapes, acts as a defense against clogging of the arteries. That was the outcome of the extensive medical research study conducted in France, which became known in the world as French Paradox.

In 1991, CBS in the USA dedicated one of their popular programs, 60 Minutes, to the French Paradox, and you know how Americans are, right? We are always looking for an easy way out, so wine sounded like an easy enough cure, and I believe this became a pivotal moment which triggered a renewed interest in the wine. Almost 40 years later, it seems that the wine successfully keeps the momentum. And before you will attack me with all the facts from the latest research – yes, I’m aware of many articles pointing to the issues with the study. Whether French Paradox study conclusions were medically solid I have to leave to professionals to debate and decide on. But it was still that pivotal “tip the scale” moment which changed the perception of the wine for many in the world.

At this point, I’m sure you want to see the connection between the title, the Southwest of France, and the story of the French Paradox, right? Here it is. While attending the tasting of the wines of Southwest France, I was listening to the presentation by sommelier André Compeyre, who mentioned that Southwest France has the biggest number of centenarians in France and it was one of the main regions where the French Paradox study was conducted – here we go, now everything is connected and explained. Is it time for a glass of wine?

The tasting took place at the little store in New York called the French Cheese Board – what can be better than wine with a little cheese, right? Especially if both come from the same region, where they trained to live together for a few thousand years…

We started tasting with the sparkling wine, moved to the white and then red. As usual in such events, there was not enough time (and desire) for the formal notes, so below is the best I can offer. However, overall, the word is “outstanding” – the wines of Southwest France are well worth seeking – and you will not be disappointed.

NV Domaine du Moulin Mauzac Méthode Ancestrale Gaillac AOP (12% ABV, $15, 100% Mauzac) – very nice and simple. 7+

2017 Domaine du Tariquet Premières Grives Côtes de Gascogne IGP (11.5% ABV, $14, 100% Gros Manseng) – semi-sweet wine. It appears to be a traditional wine in the Southwest of France, which people are accustomed to drinking. It is possible that the wine was not cold enough when I tasted it, but I really didn’t appreciate it. If you like sweeter wines – this might be the one for you.

2016 Héritage Blanc Saint-Mont AOP (13% ABV, blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Arrufiac) – excellent, bright, crisp, but very complex and thought-provoking. A touch of grass, vanilla, ta ouch of honey on the palate, green apples, wow. Excellent acidity. Great complexity. 8. And let’s not forget 2 new grapes – Petit Courbu and Arrufiac

2017 Domaine de Joy l’Eclat Côtes de Gascogne AOP (12% ABV, $7, blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc)  – crisp, clean, superb. 8

2012 Château de Haute Serre Cahors AOP (13.5% ABV, $22) – superb, ripe berries, blueberries, round, delicious, acidity, vanilla, the backbone of minerality. 8+

2012 Château Montus Madiran AOP (15% ABV, $32.99, blend of Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon) – smoke, campfire, tobacco, great concentration, powerful, excellent, great acidity, outstanding. 8

2011 Jean-Luc Baldès Triguedina Clos Triguedina Cahors AOP (14.5% ABV, $40, 85% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 5% Tannat, 12 months in oak) – touch of barnyard on the nose, delicious fruit, ta ouch of funkiness on the palate, great acidity. 8

2015 Domaine de Terrisses Terre Originelle Gaillac AOP (13% ABV, $16, blend of Braucol (Fer) and Prunelart) – beautiful Cabernet nose, crisp, cassis, Bordeaux style -outstanding. 8. and a new grape – Prunelart

2015 Réserve Bélingard Côtes de Bergerac AOP ($15, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot) – beautiful, warm nose, vanilla, cassis, beautiful, soft. 8

2013 Chateau Peyros Vieilles Vignes Madiran AOP (13% ABV, $18, 80% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc) – excellent, soft. 8-

2017 Domaine de Joy l’Eclat Côtes de Gascogne AOP (12% ABV, $7, blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc)  – crisp, clean, superb. 8

In addition tot he wines, we had an opportunity to indulge on the local cheeses of Southwest France – Ossau Iraty, Buche de Lucay, Bethmale Chèvre, Chabichou, Valencay, and Comté. Sorry, I’m not going to give you any individual notes, but all the cheese were superb. If you are like me and accustomed to the Comté cheese from Costco – that Comté in the tasting was the whole different game (go visit the store and taste, you don’t have to believe me).

There you go, my friends. Have you had wines of Southwest France lately? Any favorites you want to mention? Let’s raise the glass to many happy wine discoveries – and some red wine as a solution to all our problems. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Cost of Everyday Wine, National Chardonnay Day, What the MS Do?

May 21, 2014 5 comments

satrapezo.jpgMeritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #103, Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 3.

For the long time, the grape trivia series was focused on the single grapes. But now we are stirring things up, so all the questions in the quiz are about blends (well, even if it is a blend of one ), as most of the wines in the world are actually blends. This quiz’s focus was on the red grape blends, and as usual, it consisted of 5 questions.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: As you know, Merlot is one of the Bordeaux stars. Below are some of the best Merlot wines Bordeaux can produce, but only some of them are made from 100% Merlot. Do you know what wines are those?

a. Château Le Pin, b. Château Petrus, c. Château Hossana, d. Château Certan Marzelle

A1: It really wasn’t a tricky question – I believe if you carefully read the question itself, it should be clear that more than one answer is possible. Another reason that this was not a tricky question is that two Châteaux from that list of four are growing only Merlot grapes thus they never produce a blended wine. So the correct answer is a and d – both  Château Le Pin and Château Certan Marzelle grow only Merlot grapes thus their wines are always made out of 100% Merlot.

Q2: What is common between the following 3 Bordeaux producers: Château Trotte Vieille, Château Belle Assise, Château Le Bel

A2: While very unique and different for Bordeaux, all three of these Châteaux produce wines made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes.

Q3: Wine lovers around the world are well familiar with so called GSM wines and their great range of expression, coming from Rhone valley in France, Australia, US and may other places. If we are to replace the Syrah in GSM blend with the Cinsault, which will produce powerful, dense, concentrated, long living red wines, where do you think such a wine most likely will come from? You need to name not just the country, but the exact region in order to get a full point here.

A3: Bandol! Mourvèdre grape is the star in Bandol, with Grenache and Cinsault often added to the blend, thus we can say that the abbreviation for the Bandol blend should’ve been MGC.

Q4: Sangiovese is a star grape of Italy, used in many regions and producing great range of wines. Montepulciano is another well known red Italian grape, most often associated with juicy, delicious and versatile wines made in the region of Abruzzo. If the wine is made as a blend of Montelpuciano and Sangiovese, often in 50/50 proportions (doesn’t have to be always 50/50), can you name the region where these wines would most likely come from?

A4: Rosso Piceno is the red wine from the Region Marche which is often made out of the 50/50 blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

Q5: Below is the [partial] list of grapes which I personally call “Power Grapes” (I’m contemplating the blog post under the same name for a while). When used on their own (at a 100%, no blending), these typically black-skinned grapes produce powerful, dense, extremely concentrated wines, often with gripping tannins. For each grape below, can you identify the region(s) and the country(ies) making best known wines from those grapes? You don’t have to name all countries and the regions, one per grape is enough:

A5:

a. Alicante Bouschet – Alentejo in Portugal, Valencia in Spain

b. Sagrantino – Sagrantino is the unique grape in Montefalco DOCG in Umbria, Italy.

c. Saperavi – Georgia. Actually Saperavi has a wide range of expression, but it is very much capable of producing extremely dense and concentrated wines.

d. Tannat – Madiran in France and Uruguay

e. Vranec (or Vranac) – Macedonia and number of other Balkan countries.

When it comes to the results, all the respondents voiced their concern with the level of difficulty of the quiz. It was definitely unintentional, but I still can’t promise that “I wouldn’t do it again”. Anyway, the Wayward Wine came the closest to the winning with 4 correct answers out of 5, and I would like to acknowledge both asueba and vinoinlove for their great effort. Well done everyone!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First, I want to bring to your attention an interesting post and the poll at the Wine Curmudgeon blog, pondering at [almost] an eternal question – how much the everyday wine should cost? Yes, of course it all depends, but assuming that you drink wine as it gives you pleasure, what do you find to be a reasonable price of the bottle of wine? In this post, you will find both an analysis and the poll to share your opinion. The poll will be closed on May 22 and the results will be published on May 24th, so make sure to have your say before.

What kind of wine to you plan to open on Friday, May 23rd? Well, you can open any wine, with one condition – it have to be the Chardonnay! On Friday, May 23rd, we will be celebrating the National Chardonnay Day, so it is obvious that Chardonnay for Friday is in order. California, Virginia, Washington, New York, Chile, New Zealand or Burgundy – you got plenty of choice and no excuses not the celebrate the noble white grape.

[Updated after the original post date] It appears that it is Thursday, May 22nd that is an actual date for 5th Annual #ChardonnayDay celebration. As explained by Rick Backas, who started the celebration, the #ChardonnayDay is always celebrated on the last Thursday before the Memorial Day holiday in US, which this year is on the May 26th, thus #ChardonnayDay falls on the 22nd. My take? You get to drink Chardonnay for two days now. Yay!

Last for today, an interesting article by W. Blake Gray, conversing on the subject of the MS and what they do. As you can guess, considering that this is the wine blog, MS stands for Master Sommelier, one of the most educated group of people in the world of wine (at the moment, there are only 214 MS in the world). The blog post analyzes how many of the Master Sommeliers actually work the floor and help people to have best possible wine experiences in the restaurant. Take a look the post, it is an interesting read – and, as usual, don’t forget to read the comments section.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #95: Grape Trivia – Tannat

March 22, 2014 8 comments
Tannat Grapes. Source: Wikipedia

Tannat Grapes. Source: Wikipedia

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, with the focus still on the red grapes, and today’s subject is Tannat.

It is interesting how different the grape stories are. Some grapes, like Bonarda/Charbono, have very convoluted history with changing names and uncertain origins. Some grapes, like Tempranillo, have a page-long list of synonyms, different names they are known under in the different parts of the world and even in the different parts of the same country. The Tannat story is a lot more straightforward. Wikipedia doesn’t list any synonyms for the name Tannat, which is quite rare – most of the grapes have some alternative names listed, and there are no confusions surrounding the Tannat grape.

Tannat originated in the Southwest France, in the area close to Pyrénées. Area surrounding village of Madiran was and still is the main wine growing area for Tannat, but today Tannat is growing in the number of countries in the world (albeit not in the major quantities). In the second half of 1800, Tannat made it to Uruguay, where today it is literally considered the national grape. In addition to Uruguay, the grape is successfully grown in United States  – California is increasing its plantings quite a bit, and some other states are experimenting with the grape. Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, Italy are all also have some plantings of Tannat.

Tannat is a late ripening grape, with the thick black skin. That skin makes the grape resistant to the mildew rot, and also becomes a source of tannins. Tannat wines are generally known to make firmly structured, tannic and powerful wines, which require quite a bit of aging to soften those tannins up  – however this is changing nowadays as many winemakers focus on making the Tannat wines more approachable while young. Similar to the other grapes with likewise characteristics (think thick skin/tannins), Tannat has very high level of procyanidins, which according to the Wikipedia are “good for reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and encouraging healthy blood clotting”.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Tannat was the reason for one specific winemaking technique to be invented relatively recently. Do you know what technique is that?

a. Malolactic fermentation

b. Micro-oxygenation

c. Carbonic maceration

d. Reverse osmosis

Q2: True or False: Tannat is primarily harvested by hand and not by the machine. Provide an explanation for your answer.

Q3: Name 3 grapes, often used as blending partners when Tannat wines are produced in France

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines with 90-94 ratings “Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style”. True or False: There are no Tannat-based wines rated as Outstanding by Wine Spectator.

Q5: Tannat ripens at about the same time as Cabernet Sauvignon. Assuming you have Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon which are both slightly underripe, which grape would you make the better wine from,  Tannat or Cabernet Sauvignon? Why?

Bonus: Have you ever had any Tannat wines? What do you think of them?

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Chrysalis Vineyards in Virginia – Definitely Worth a Trip

August 25, 2010 12 comments

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While traversing wine blogosphere, I came across a post about the book called “The Wild Vine” by Todd Kliman. This sparked my interest because of the two reasons – for one, it was talking about the grape called Norton, which was for a long time on my “to try” (of course partially due to the Wine Century Club and my Treble Journey). Another reason was that on the very first page the book was talking about Virginia, and Virginia already was set as my vacation destination for a coming week. To my full delight, Chrysalis Vineyards, located on Champe Ford Road in Middleburg, was the place where The Wild Vine book started, and it happened to be just around the corner of our intended destination in Virginia, which made visiting it very easy.

When visiting wineries in some “well developed” areas, like Napa Valley in California, you usually drive along a big road, simply making turns into short driveways. ChrisalisVineyards_reds Coming to Chrysalis Vineyards was pleasantly different – mile and a half on the narrow unpaved road, surrounded by luscious greens. Somehow you get this real rustic feeling, which sets you in the right mood for tasting the wines ( and probably affects the way wines taste, but I guess this will be a subject for another post :)).

There was a great line up of wines at the winery. There were simply no wines which I didn’t like (has something to do with the road and right mood, huh?), and all the wines were of a very good quality. The selection of grapes which are used at the winery also was very unusual – being accustomed to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from the West coast, and then Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir from the North East, seeing Viognier, Petit Manseng, Albarino, Petit Verdot and Tannat (and of course Norton), was exciting.

The tasting included 12 wines, out of which 2009 Viognier (exceptionally perfumed and vibrant), 2005 Norton Estate Bottled (80% Norton with addition of Petit Verdot and other grapes, very balanced with silky tannins and long finish), 2005 Petit Verdot (80% Petit Verdot and 20% Tannat, very soft and round) and 2005 Norton Locksley Reserve (again, very balanced and soft) were really shining, I would rate them all at 7+ and 8 (Viognier definitely deserves an 8).

All in all, if you have a chance to visit Chrysalis Vineyards – don’t miss it, go discover the Real American Grape for yourself – and let me know your opinion!