4 Newbies

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It's spring time, the season for us to start introducing new wines to our Wine & Words family.  Here are four that will serve as a great start to the process.
Farnese Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (Ortona, Italy) - Everyday low price $11.40
The Farnese (far-NAY-zee) were a prominent Italian Renaissance family. In 1582, Princess Margherita of Austria (wife of Ottavio Farnese) bought the town of Ortona on the Adriatic coast of central Italy. That’s right, a whole town...along with many hundreds of hectares she thought looked good for agriculture, especially grapes. So you see that winemaking has been a tradition for Farnese’s in Abruzzo for a long time.Farnese vineyardFarnese vineyard
The main grape for this wine is Trebbiano. Though this grape accounts for a third of all white wine production in Italy, it is often thought of as “inferior” - good mostly for blending, for making brandy, and for making Balsamic vinegar. That reputation comes from the fact that the wines that are 100% Trebbiano are sometimes thin and acidic. This one is fruity and floral, and it gets those characteristics both from the ripeness of the grape and from the addition of Malvasia, a grape usually associated with sweet, floral dessert wines. It’s a very refreshing blend that will go well with summertime fare.
Serving temperature recommendation for this wine is 12°-14° C. (54°-57° F.) That’s certainly warmer than most refrigerators, so this would be a good opportunity for me to introduce you to the “20-minute rule” I recently read about in a wine blog. For some time I’ve been telling you that red wines are usually served too warm and whites are usually served too cold, but I never had a simple way, a “rule”, to implement it. The “20-minute rule” says: Put red wines in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving; take white wines out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving. The only exceptions I would add (of course, there are exceptions to every rule) are the aged, bold reds that actually need to be decanted at room temperature for about an hour before serving, and the crisp, light whites (like Vinho Verde) that are meant to be served ice cold. I do have a hard time following this rule when I’m serving wine at Back Bay Cafe. I often tell people, after pouring the first glass of a nice white wine that has been chilled to refrigerator temperature, that I will leave the bottle out on their table and they should watch how the flavors develop and expand as the wine warms a bit, both in the bottle and in their glass, while they enjoy their meal. Harder to do with the reds. People don’t want to wait 20 minutes for me to bring them the wine they just ordered. In the summertime, I do keep a few bottles of the Featured reds in our dry storage pantry near the window air conditioner that keeps that room cooler than the rest of the building. You could do the same thing with an a/c vent in your home.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2009 (France) Regular $18.25/ Feature $15.51
I’ve written before about how French winemaking laws stipulate what grapes can go into a wine that bears an AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) designation, as well as the rule that the names of the grapes are actually prohibited from the label. In France, you’re just supposed to know. For instance, we’ve talked about how red Bordeaux wines are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with allowable amounts of Malbec, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. White Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. In Burgundy, the reds are Pinot Noir and the whites are Chardonnay (with the exception...I told you rules always have exceptions...of Beaujolais, where the grape is Gamay). When we come to the Rhone valley, it gets more complicated, but for reds it’s basically Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre and Syrah. White (“blanc”) Rhone wines are usually a characteristic blend of Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc, making a layered and complex wine that is wonderful for sipping at the bistro table. The exception to this rule is the far northern region of Condrieu, where the wines are 100% Viognier and are known for their richness and elegance. Condrieu wines are very limited production and are therefore rather expensive (the 2006 Guigal Condrieu Doriane can be found online for $110/bottle).
The Guigal family owns vineyards in Condrieu and in the Côte-Rôtie (Syrah with up to 20% Viognier), as well as such prestige Rhone appellations as Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Tavel. In our Featured Côtes du Rhône Blanc you get the lusciousness of Guigal Viognier (50%) with the complex intertwining of the other Rhone blanc grapes at a price that is tres raissonable.
The professional critics agree:
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gives the wine 89 Points and writes, “The 2009 Cotes du Rhone Blanc...is just lovely. Fresh honeyed notes with some tropical fruits and other assorted citrus all jump from the glass of this medium-bodied, crisp, fresh wine, which over-delivers in personality, flavor and complexity."
While the International Wine Cellar gives 88 Points, with this luscious description: "Melon, nectarine and honeysuckle on the nose, with notes of anise and white pepper adding complexity. Gains sweetness with air and offers pliant honeydew and orchard fruit flavors, with a touch of spice on the back half. I like this wine's complexity and finishing sappiness."

With what one writer referred to as a combination of “flamboyance and fortitude” this wine is no wispy breeze when it comes to food pairings. If you prefer white wines, even with hearty stews or spicy Asian cuisine, try a bottle of this Guigal. It’s got personality to spare.
Errázuriz Estate Merlot 2008 (Curicó Valley, Chile) Regular $14.65/ Feature $12.46
Being 4,500 km (2,800 miles) long from north to south, with a climate range equivalent to that between Central America and Newfoundland, Chile has become the Southern Hemisphere’s “garden to the world,” able to supply fresh fruits and vegetables for the entire winter season of the more populous North Hemisphere. Winemakers are onto this geographical blessing, as well, with “flying winemakers” who vinify one harvest in France or Spain or California, then fly down to Chile for a second vintage every year. The Chileans promote their wines through an excellent website called “Wines of Chile.”  It’s full of fun facts, trivia and real wine information.
Don Maximiano Errázuriz founded Viña Errázuriz in 1870 in the Aconcagua Valley, 100 kms North of the capital, Santiago. Don Maximiano sent for the finest wine grape clones from France and with tenacity and perseverance transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard. Today, the tradition of quality lives on with Don Maximiano’s descendant, Eduardo Chadwick. Eduardo is the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business, and he has overseen the modernization of winemaking techniques, as well as expansion of properties into the Casablanca and Curicó valleys.
This Estate Merlot is made by Errázuriz in the central Curicó Valley, where more than 30 varieties of wine grapes have grown since the mid-1800s, and winegrowing is its primary industry. Curicó’s modern winemaking history began when Spanish producer Miguel Torres of the Penedés region began his first New World endeavor there in the 1970s and began the flood of new investment into a wine tradition that stretches back 460 years to early Spanish settlers.
The 2008 Errázuriz Estate Merlot is actually a blend of 85% Merlot with 15% Carmenere, the grape that has become the signature red of Chile, much as Malbec has done for Mendoza in Argentina. This red varietal disappeared from European vineyards in the mid-19th century and reappeared among Chile’s Merlot vines a hundred years later. This deepest, darkest, purplest of all red grapes needs a long growing season to reach its fullest potential, and it finds what it needs in the moderate climate of Chile’s central valleys. Rich in berry fruits and spice (think blackberries and black pepper), with smooth, well-rounded tannins, Carmenere a very pleasing and easy to drink varietal. Blended with the Merlot it produces a very elegant Bordeaux-style wine with a New World accent that will pair very well with a hearty meal, while being very easy on your pocketbook.
Clos la Coutale Cahors 2008 (Cahors, France) Regular $21.95/ Feature $18.66
I learned about Cahors (kah-OR) a couple of years ago, while researching the origins of the Malbec grape that has created such great single varietal wines in Mendoza, Argentina. I knew that Malbec was one of the allowable grapes in Bordeaux but that it was used only in small amounts (for its dark purple color and tannic structure) because it is a thin-skinned, finicky grape that is very subject to a lot of diseases and ailments. But I read that Malbec is still the dominant grape in the region of South West France around the town of Cahors. That sounded interesting and I started looking for a Cahors wine, to see how the original compared with New World version. Now we’re in luck, as one of our distributors has picked up the portfolio of Kermit Lynch. Lynch, of Berkeley, California, is what is known as a négociant, one who makes the deals with small French producers and brings the wines to American consumers.
In this case, Lynch has been working with Clos du Coutale (coo-TALL) winemaker Phillipe Bernède, who was designated one of the Top 100 Winemakers in the world by Wine Spectator magazine. Bernède is known as an old-school traditionalist who isn’t afraid to try new techniques (like fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks) to get traditional results. Here he blends 70% Malbec with 15% each of Merlot and Tannat to produce a big, bold, inky wine that is more earthy and dark than the fruity Argentine Malbecs, but more approachable than the tannic old-style wines that needed years in barrel before becoming drinkable.
This is a wonderful wine for the table, combining Old World and New. It is a wine that will pair very well with the atmosphere of The Back Bay Cafe, which we often describe as “casual elegance.”
And for you armchair travelers who like a bottle of wine to “take you worlds away,” consider the description of the French tourism website:
The Cahors appellation is located in the département of Lot, which itself lies in the greater region known as Quercy. Sandwiched between the Dordogne and Toulouse, the rolling hills of the area that twist gently along with the River Lot provides the visitor with a fairy tale view around each bend; villages topping the peaks of small hills, blue sky and vine-covered expanses, castles tucked neatly into hillside folds or hanging precariously on the rim of a cliff...it's not surprising that this area attracts huge numbers of tourists and foreigners looking to buy retirement homes abroad! The Cahors vineyards date back to the Roman occupation, making them among the oldest in France.
Ahh....fairy tale views, vine-covered expanses, a bottle of inky Cahors wine, and a dish of Cassoulet bubbling in the oven. Life is good!
Vineyard Cahors FranceVineyard Cahors France