When we think of certain grapes, we may immediately think of the specific country, region, or specific city, and it is often the place where the grape originated or first attained notoriety. The Albariño grape may lead you to think of Northwest Spain’s Rias Baixas region, and Pinot Noir may bring you to Burgundy, in France. If you shop wine store shelves, often you may see the name of a familiar grape, but from a place far away from the grape’s origins.
This week City Vino’s tasting will feature wines made with the grapes that will perhaps lead you to say (or at least think) “I didn’t know they grew that there.”
When one mentions Pinot Meunier, if the grape name is familiar at all, it is because of it is one of the three predominant grapes used to make Champagne, alongside Pinot Noir (a relative of Meunier) and Chardonnay. The grape has red skins like Pinot Noir, so it won’t be found in Blanc de Blanc (white from white) Champagnes, but could be a Blanc de Noir (white from black) Champagne, or Champagne without either of those annotations.
There is not a plethora of varietal wines made from Pinot Meunier, but we have one to share with you. It is not from the Champagne region of France. It is not from France at all. Let us introduce the 2018 Darting Pinot Meunier Trocken, from the Pfaltz region in Germany. It is 100 percent Pinot Meunier. This is a beautifully aromatic wine, projecting a bouquet of roses, along with red berry notes which are echoed on the palate. A complex wine with many layers of flavors including strawberries, cranberries, fruit jams, and fresh berry pies. Though there are fruity, jam-like flavors, the wine is dry (Trocken) with medium plus acidity, fairly light tannins, and a medium body.
The grape Garnacha, called Grenache in France, originated in Spain. Its notable regions in Spain are Aragon, Priorat, and Rioja. France is famous for its use in wines in the Southern Rhône, like Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Garnacha/Grenache is a red grape that produces wines with red berry flavors and a hint of white pepper. Wines from this grape tend to have lower acid, tannin, and color, and that is why they are often blended with Syrah, Carignan, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault.
There are scads of varietal Garnacha/Grenache produced in the world, but our adventure skips Spain and France and goes down under to Australia. We present the 2020 Thistledown Wines Gorgeous Grenache Old Vine No. 1 Small Batch, from South Australia which is 100 percent Grenache. The term “old vine” has no legal definition in any country, but usually indicates vines of at least 20 years old. The term “old vine” may be important to know, because as vines age, they produce fewer clusters overall, and smaller, more-concentrated grapes, leading to more complex and richer wines.
For the Thistledown Grenache, you may experience gentle violets, followed by red berries on the nose. The palate may show a mix of red and blue fruit, including strawberries, cherries, black plum, and yes, that white pepper in the finish. There are barrel notes of vanilla, cedar, and baking spices. The tannins are bolder in this old vine wine that are often encountered with this grape, along with a good, weighted body, balanced well with the acidity.
Viognier finds its roots imbedded in the Northern Rhône. It is a grape that has found a bit of a second home in Virginia. One great feature of Viognier is its ability to produce a wine that is a heavier weighted white wine, yet has a lush and soft character. It usually shows notes of peach, pears, and violet with a hint of minerality.
The Viognier that we are presenting to you is from South America and is the 2019 Viña Siegel Naranjo Viognier, from the Valle de Colchagua in Chile. The wine is 100 percent Viognier, and its color is in the gold family, showing flecks of orange. The aromatics show green apples that have started to slightly brown (oxidize), white flowers, dried peaches and spice. The flavors include peach, melon, ginger, lemon, and lime, with a slight bitterness on the finish. The ability of the grape to produce a fuller-bodied wine is definitely shown here, and complements the medium-plus intensiveness of the fruit.
The grape Chenin Blanc is a white variety hailing from the Loire Valley in France. It has high acidity which makes it a good grape to use to make sparkling wine, or one with a little bit of residual sugar to balance that acidity. White wines labelled as Vouvray, Saumur, and Savennières are made from this grape.
The Chenin Blanc we have in this week’s line-up is from grapes grown in different places is the 2020 Sula Vineyards Chenin Blanc Estate, bottled from Nashik in India. Yes, Virginia, they grow grapes and make wine in India. This Sula Vineyards wine is 100 percent Chenin Blanc, and is a light, refreshing and semi-dry wine, featuring tropical fruits galore, with hints of honey. This is India’s best-selling white wine.
We hope you will come join us this week and taste the “I Didn’t Know They Grew That There” wines. As always, cheers to you and yours!