I worked wildly to wrangle an amazing alliteration alluding to the wonderful wines we wrested from peppy, personable pourers at the Brandon Wine Society’s special season-starting session, which featured uncommon, usually unconsumed grapes, at least in this part of the world.
But as you see, I failed miserably.
However, the wines made from these weird-to-us grapes were truly fabulous. While I liked many of the whites, which I detailed in last week’s column, I was REALLY impressed with all five of the reds on offer. I’d had three of them before, but not for a while, and revisiting them made me happy all over again. And the two new-to-me ones were lovely, and one in particular knocked me out.
As I said last Saturday, the title of this tasting was "Odd Grape Varietals," and most of them I hadn’t heard of before. And it was really, really fun to try something new for a change, since I’m not often one to take a risk on something I don’t know.
As an aside, I have a close friend who’s really into labels — she bought a bottle of wine awhile back just because of the name and the picture on the front. I know lots of folks who do that, so clever marketing ploys really MUST pay off, but I’m afraid I’m not susceptible to that kind of stuff. If anything, it makes me back off a bit, maybe even a lot.
But back to the issue at hand. These reds were big, ballsy and flavourful, and I adored all of them.
I wrote just a few weeks back about the Heartland Dolcetto & Lagrein from Australia. This red wine, a blend of the dolcetto and lagrein grapes, is stellar It’s a hearty, meaty wine, rife with aromas of blackberry and herbs, and the flavour blends those with black pepper, cedar and cherry. If you like savoury wines, this one’s for you. The Dolcetto & Lagrein sells for $22.75.
I’ve also sung the praises many times of the Westend 3 Bridges Durif, which is from Australia. Durif is very much like Shiraz — in fact, what’s referred to as Petit Sirah is, in many cases, actually durif. Inky-dark, this wine is redolent with dark fruit aromas and flavours — I love its depth, its intensity and, well, everything about it.
It was extra interesting at the tasting, though, because the pourers said that of the 60 or so of us in attendance, when it came to the 3 Bridges, there was no middle ground. People either loved it or they hated it. I, as I’ve said, have loved it for years, but I think the 2009 vintage, which was poured that night, needs to be cellared for a couple of extra years. When I recently drank the ’07 (which I preferred to the ’09, but I think this is why), it was six years old at the time of consumption. And what people may not have liked about the ’09 at the BWS gathering was the fact that there’s a bitter sort of brambliness in there that I’m convinced dissipates over time. The ’09 tastes a bit young, but it’s still a super wine, at least in my opinion. The 3 Bridges Durif sells for $22.99 and was a big hit at the 2012 Winnipeg Wine Festival.
I’d had the Rivera Cappellaccio Aglianico Castel Del Monte Riserva on the recommendation of Corral Centre Liquor Mart Product Consultant Cindy Rousseau a few years back, and I thought it was marvelous. This Italian product, made from the aglianico grape, has aromas of coffee, chocolate and plum, and since it’s Old World, it has that earthy mustiness typical of those wines. So it’s fungal and barnyardy, but in a very, very good way. The Cappellaccio is a great wine for $18.09 a bottle.
Another Old World wine, this time from Portugal, was the DFJ Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca ($17.18). This blend is rich with black fruit, with the nacional being a bit more intense that it’s offspring, the franca. I liked this a lot — it was Old World without being overly so, if that makes any sense. It was very flavourful, but there was a smoothness to this one that made it a hit with me.
And finally, the Cline Ancient Vines Carignan from California. Also known as mazuelo or carinena, the carignan grape, because it’s from old vines, is high in color, tannins and acidity. When I had my first sip, I said, out loud, ‘Oh YEAH!!’
The aroma and flavour were of red berries — cranberries particularly, I thought — and there was a hint of fennel on the finish. It’s spicy and would probably go well with LOTS of foods, but it was just great on its own. It almost seems to be sweet, but it’s not. It’s just a lovely, layered, interesting wine, and I thought it was great, even at $22.25.
So don’t be shy about trying wines made from these unusual-to-some-of-us grapes. That tasting opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me, as well as broadened my horizons considerably. I will no longer balk at varietals I haven’t heard of before. In fact, I’ll welcome them with open arms, and now, an open mind!
» Diane Nelson is a long-time journalist and former Sun staffer who really likes wine. A lot. Chat with her online at vinelines.ca or on twitter @vinelinesbdn
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013