With the holidays just around the corner, literally, are you ready with dinner party wines? Do you still need a unique gift for that wine lover, and want something with some character? Do you struggle with the imminent small talk that accompanies holiday gatherings? To help, here are some wines to consider, and a little conversation to go with them. There are wines that not only inspire sonnets on what is going on in the glass, and then there are those that encourage more in-depth conversations on the history and the story of the how, and who, of that wine.
While traveling and bicycling in Morocco, winemaker Alain Graillot had the idea to take his native Northern Rhone-style of Syrah and apply it to the gravelly terroir. With a hat tip to both parties, the wine is named, Thalvin Alain Graillot Syrocco Syrah from Zenata, Morocco. The vineyards are worked by hand and farmed organically—an extension of their practices used back home in France. Syrah has French roots, yet has the distinct characters of Morocco. This is fruit-forward with an old-world finish.
Domaine Alain Graillot opened in 1985 and still exists after his death, with his sons, Maxime and Antoine. They carry on with the same force and drive, with new ideas and renovation of others. Still, very few producers match the quality of their Syrah. Like their father, Maxime and Antoine Graillot, decided to look for a challenge. Their love of Gamay led them to the bucolic vistas of Beaujolais. The granite vineyards the Graillot family owns have the perfect environment for Gamay. The sons went on to create their own label, which the Domaine De Fa Beaujolais En Besset is under.
Want to talk about Italian wines? A couple of suggestions: First is the Tenuta Ponte Greco di Tufo, DOCG from Campania. Their 25-hectare estate experiences languid and warm days, with cool nights, at 450 meters above sea level. The air is fragrant with citrus and earth spices, which are expressed in the wines. The estate has a blend of volcanic and clay soils, which lends the wine poise, along with the signature minerality. This wine will breathe expressive aromatics and talk boldly of fantastic viscosity. The clay-laden soil leads to conversations of minerality all day long, with breaks for boasting of rich lemon curd, and green apple. This is a great alternative to Chardonnay, and has some conversation-worthy characteristics! Or you could talk about the name. “Ponte” means bridge in Italian, and the property is named after the 2000-year-old Roman arc you cross to get to their vines. It was built during the Roman Imperial Age; the bridge was locally known as the "ponte dei diavoli" or "devils bridge.” Folktales dictate that “demons” built the bridge to use it as a meeting place on dark and stormy nights. One certainly gets the sense that those first Romans on the scene made a distinct impression!
Second is Aia Vecchia Sor Ugo Bolgheri Superior which is a Super Tuscan. With the combination of being 80 meters above sea level and having sandy loam, clay soil, the Bolgheri Superior Tuscan is full of deep long conversation. With a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, this wine has some bold statements to make! Or you could debate who coined the name “Super Tuscan” first, and who made it popular. Bagheri is where it all starts either way! Robert Parker had called it out as a valuable wine region, despite the wines having very little Sangiovese!
The last conversation topic we will throw at you is from Spain, more particularly, the Campo de Borja region, where we meet Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veratron. The Garnacha grape is one of the varieties that best expresses its terroir. This is due to very strict selection of grapes and the limestone, marl, dolomite, quartzite and slate soil in which they are grown. This lovely wine is full of deep discussions of smoke and minerals, and will keep evolving in its conversation. Pair either of these wines with Beef or Lamb.
Whatever you decide as your conversation starter or accelerator, make sure you enjoy it first! The dialogue that follows will be more animated and charming. Plus, this should be a wine to celebrate and to celebrate with! Life is too short to drink bad wine. Love the wine you are with and enjoy the time you have with family and friends. That’s what it is all about! Cheers!