- Q & A
Semillon grown in the Hunter Valley near Sydney is a unique offering as it needs 10-30 years of bottle age to perform its magic in the bottle. With typically no oak, the light, simple wine in its youth transforms into a lusciously nutty, pear, apple and fig treasure chest of flavors. Difficult to find, but worth searching out.
Zinfandel is a California original in that it's origin is not known for sure. An all-purpose red wine that is produced in a wide variety of styles. The typical aspect of the varietal is a berry-like character, similar to raspberries or strawberries. Generally fruity, somewhat spicy in nature. Many producers have built their entire reputation on this grape and rightfully so. While the best come from top vineyards, many with vines 60 years old and older, even the mass produced wines at bargain prices generally offer more flavor than any other grape in the price rang
Grenache is the principle grape in Chateauneuf du Pape and succeeds there like no place else. The best Chateauneuf are densely rich with spice and cranberry flavors and can live for decades. The warm climate almost guarantees a good vintage every year with few exceptions. Cabernet Franc provides the beautifully scented and flavorful wines of Chinon and Bourgueil with their hints of red apples and cranberry and one of the greatest Rosés in the world from d'Anjou. Pinot Blanc and Tokay Pinot Gris produce exceptional wines in Alsace offering exotic fruit and soil components matched with piquant acidity.
Wines made from the Nebbiolo grape in two small villages in Piedmont named Barolo and Barbaresco can sit alongside the greatest of the great wines of the world. Medium in color and body, Nebbiolo packs an acidic wallop that often takes years to soften, but when it does, comparisons to the greatest Burgundies or Rhone wines are warranted for its sweet/tart cherry, earthy and almond qualities. Unfortunately, it ripens so late that it is constantly threatened by rain or even hail so the vintage is almost as important as the producer in choosing a wine. Barbera is becoming the new darling of the wine trade as many producers are finely taming its Nebbiolo-like acidity and softening it in French oak. The top choices from Piedmont present a myriad of exotic spice and fruit flavors as engaging as they are unique. Sangiovese is the principle grape in Chianti producing a rich, leathery licorice amalgam with sweet cherry fruit and a long finish. Very age worthy.
Austria's own Grüner Veltliner makes one of its most (if not its most) exciting and engaging wine. Part Riesling-like, part Pinot Blanc-like yet still distinctively its own it offers a white peach and green apple flavor with touches of earth and slate that are very inviting. Prices range from under $10 to over $40 with each offering value for what's in the bottle.
Canada makes icewine from the Vidal grape, a French hybrid crossing of Ugni Blanc (a.k.a. Trebbiano) and Seyval Blanc. The best are incredibly luscious and offer both sweetness and acidity along with the botrytis influenced apricot flavors that no German Eiswein can ever attain.
Pinotage is a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir. Many are quite simple ordinary wines, but a few dedicated producers produce incredibly luscious and inviting wines that easily stand up to any in the world. They feature a lightness akin to Pinot Noir but and lasting finish and spicy and engaging almost Grenache-like fruit. Worth seeking out.
Malbec has been extremely successful here producing rich, blackberry flavored wines often outshine its home in Cahors, France.
Tempranillo is the principle grape in the wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. With hints of qualities associated with Sangiovese, Grenache and Zinfandel, this grape excels in blackberry and spicy, leathery components as well as an ability to age like almost no other red grape.
Chambourcin grown in the Midwest can yield a hefty red wine with flavors reminiscent of a cross between Syrah and Zinfandel. Seyval Blanc produces very pleasant white wine offering some of the apple flavors found in Riesling and the herbal melon flavors found in Chenin Blanc.