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Monday, March 24, 2014

Nebbiolo Revisited

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about this thing we started calling, “The Nebbiolo Man” - it got quite a bit of attention, and whether it was for the right or the wrong reasons...well, anyway, it got some attention, and it was fun to write, because it reflected some of my own personal opinions, which has been the case on this blog for some time now - making parallels: wine and people.

And for good reason, I still believe in the Nebbiolo Man - the man who, in my opinion, is at his best when aged a bit, especially if he’s the kind who ages gracefully.  (Go ahead and read the blog post, it’s from I believe September 2012.)

When I speak of the aging qualities of Nebbiolo, I mean the way in which Nebbiolo based wines (particularly from Barolo and Barbaresco) generally possess the ability to age longer than many other wines.  But interestingly enough, in their youth, sometimes they’re a little awkward, and not particularly approachable - they seem off balance, they have a strange and sometimes less than pleasant texture (and in the old post I likened it to a kid who looks a little funny and has to grow into his features, but once he’s older, he’s quite the catch) - anyway, you get the idea - he gets older, and suddenly he’s got it all.  He’s Nebbiolo.

I’ve also had some Nebbiolo in styles like basic Langhe wines, where the wine is approachable when it’s younger, and it’s not intended for aging.

But something strange to me is when I experience a very young Barolo or Barbaresco - and I’ve enjoyed them in general, but considering I like things “older,” I still prefer older examples of the greatest Nebbiolo wines of Piemonte.  Sure, they can be delicious and pleasurable, but knowing what Nebbiolo wines are prized for generally, I love to watch them show off their aging capability and complexity in their age.

It’s sort of like watching a person who was greatly underestimated in his youth develop into quite a man - attractive, worldly, complex, experienced, and desirable.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When I Need a Little Bounce in My Step

Yes, I know I just wrote a blog post 2 days ago, but I had some thoughts.  I realize that this blog has become more a philosophy and how wine sort of parallels things in our lives (or at the very least in my own life), and how I relate to wines, as opposed to the tasting notes and pairings that it used to consist of almost exclusively.

And before I forget, I’m sipping on a Bordeaux blend (mostly Merlot) and I’ve got a favorite Sherlock Holmes episode on in the background.

I was thinking today - if I’m having a difficult day, particularly an emotionally trying day, I crave Pinot Noir.  Pinot is something with which I connect so well, because it is honest yet unobtrusive in terms of fruit and earth, and it’s thin skinned, telling me that Pinot has feelings too, which is why Pinot has both the duty and privilege to express its own identity in terms of fruit, but also its soil type and climate, including variations in rainfall, temperature, sunlight, etc.

Pinot, for its sensitivity, is, for me, an ideal shoulder to cry on when I’ve had a rough day.  But Pinot isn’t one to be uplifting, in spite of its sometimes bright acidity.

But what about a personality like Champagne, or another sparkling wine?  They’re liquid joy, happiness in a glass.  Champagne, it seems, has a bright and lively smile, a positive outlook, and a bounce in its step.  I suppose most would find it hardly appropriate to drink something like Champagne on a difficult day - but why not?

Someone once told me that we should not open special wines (and he included Champagne) on just special occasions - in fact, he suggested that we should drink a special wine and make it, therefore, a special occasion, just because we opened the wine.

He’s right, of course.  And so why not open a happy wine to make it a happy moment?  I’ll drink to that!

We all have those people in our lives who let us cry it out on a rough day - they let us hash it out over and over and while we appreciate their lending an ear in our time of sorrow, that’s all they can give us.  Personally, I’m not sure how much better I feel after that, actually.  Yes, the sensitivity is good and serves its purpose, but there’s still something missing.

And then there’s the person who sees we’re feeling down.  The person says or does something, be it large or small, with the purpose of chasing away our sadness or discouragement.  They put the bounce back in our step.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Tannat - Making Believers

Sipping Primitivo and listening Tommy Emmanuel, I’m thinking.

I know I’m always saying that anyone who knows me, and then go on about how “it’s no secret that” blah blah - well here I go again.

It’s no secret that I love Tannat, and in fact I love a great many wines from the Sud-Ouest.  If you follow my blog or know me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you know this already.  (In fact, on Instragram I’m @tannatforlife, so there you go.)
Often I’m amazed by how few people are familiar with the wines of Sud-Ouest (think Cahors, Madiran, Bergerac, Pacherenc, Gaillac, Fronton, and Jurancon) - and considering Americans’ love for big, bold, rich wines, I’m even more surprised, especially since I find that almost no one knows the name Tannat - the dark grape used in Madiran and Irouleguy.  It makes some big, dark, rich wines (albeit very dry wine), and they’re not particularly expensive, most Madiran wines I’ve come across are around $17 (although Montus is generally higher), and most Irouleguy I’ve bought are between $20 and $26.  And now that I think of it, Madiran and Irouleguy would be ideal pairing wines for lots of American foods, especially since we love meaty dishes and (admittedly) fatty dishes.  Imagine a bold dry red with mac and cheese, or a bacon ad bleu cheese burger, or a ribeye steak - wow.  (I prefer that kind of wine with cassoulet, but it would certainly pair up well to American dishes.)

And also interesting to me is how few wine professionals seem to place any importance on these wines.  I’ve seen more Cahors these days in wine shops (but mainly more esoteric or upscale wine boutiques) and occasionally on wine lists, but still not often at all.  (And considering how popular Malbec has become, it’s really peculiar to me that Argentina gets all the placements and attention, casting aside the wonderfully expressive Malbec based wines of Cahors.)
But for now, I want to tell you a little more about Tannat, and some of my observations and thoughts.

Like I mentioned, Tannat is special to me.  Considering I generally prefer lighter to medium bodied reds from cool climate growing regions, the dry, honest, expressiveness of Tannat based wines of Madiran and Irouleguy have left their impression on me and in fact I crave them almost too often.

So imagine my thoughts (and borderline bewilderment) when a fellow wine pro has some less than flattering things to say about my beloved Tannat - immediately I embark on a mission to make a believer of the person.  (A brown bag is often the proper vehicle for blind tasting and prevents any prejudice before observing, smelling, and tasting the wine.)  All it takes is an excellent example of Madiran or Irouleguy, the Tannat based wines, often blended with a bit of Cabernet Franc and sometimes some Cabernet Sauvignon, and the wines can make a believer out of any cynic!  I suppose a concern of mine is that if the wines are brought in with indifference, many poor quality examples will be tasted, and certainly in time, the wine taster will become skeptical of the grape and regions in question.  But all it takes are some excellent examples to counter the negative experiences, and a dry, expressive, honest, well balanced wine will find its way into the heart of the wine professional, as it did to me.

Find some examples of them, and of other wines of Sud-Ouest too - you won’t be taking much of a risk as the wines, like I mentioned, are relatively inexpensive, and they’re fun, delicious, food friendly, and unique.