Turkey Dinner in 4 Wine Lessons

Thanksgiving_Turkey_imagekindcom_orange turkey

It’s not the bird as much as what we eat with it (sweet potatoes & heaven-forbid marshmallows, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, etc.) that causes the wine challenges with a turkey dinner. Many of these sweet & salty combos can cause wines to taste tart. Here’s your down & dirty guide to a wine that tastes great with a traditional turkey dinner:

Cheers_Languedoc Limoux

#1 — Bubbles
Well-made sparkling wine always has good acidity, and acidity is an asset when a food is salty (imagine an anchovy on top of an hors d’oeuvre), sweet (tastes great with chocolate or dessert or sweet dishes such as sweet potato soufflée), and rich foods (cuts through the fat of a cream puff or foie gras or pork rillettes). It can be rosé or white, and any style of sparkling will work with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Champagne, Crémant, Prosecco, Cava and more! We recommend:

Jose Dhondt NV Blanc de Blancs
(Champagne, France) — Reg $62.99 | Mixed Case $50.39
Domaine Perraud Le Grand Sorbier Crémant de Bourgogne
(Burgundy, France) — Reg $23.99 | INSIDER $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39
Philippe Deval NV Crémant de Loire Rosé
(Loire, Italy) — Reg $23.99 | Mixed Case $19.19
La Farra Prosecco Superiore Brut
(Veneto, Italy) — Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59
Bodegas Maset (nu) Cava Reserva
(Penedès, Spain) — Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Bruno Zanasi Lambrusco
(Emilia Romagna, Italy) — Reg $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59

#2 — Round Whites
This style of white is fuller-bodied with nice fruit (not too dry), some acidity for balance but not highly acidic like a Sauvignon Blanc, and key — little to no oak! Round whites can can also be off-dry, meaning that they have a slight sweetness in the middle, off-set by good acidity. This type of wine pairs well with spicy foods (especially ethnic foods such as Thai or Mexican), foods with some sweetness (it’s Thanksgiving, so I’ll return to sweet potatoes!) and rich food (a richer wine can balance a richer food). Examples of varietals that fit into this group are: Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sémillon, Kerner, Viogner, Chardonnay (stainless steel aged or with less oak), and many more! We recommend:

Maximin Gruenhaeuser Riesling
(Mosel, Germany) — Reg $24.99 | Mixed Case $19.99
Lobo Hills PGR
(Columbia Valley, Washington) — Reg $18.99 | Mixed Case $15.19
Weingut Castelfeder Kerner
(Alto Adige, Italy) — $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39
Domaine Claude Nouveau 2011 Santenay Le Chainey
(Burgundy, France) — $42.99 | INSIDER $29.99 | Mixed Case $23.99
Beauregard Vouvray
(Loire Valley, France) — Reg $20.99 | Mixed Case $16.79

#3 — Rosé
Rosé has never meet a food it doesn’t like. FULL STOP. We recommend:

La Colline aux Princes Sancerre Rosé
(Loire Valley, France) — $27.99 | Mixed Case $22.39
Domaine de Frégate Bandol Rosé
(Provence, France) — $29.99 | Mixed Case $23.99
Château du Grand Caumont Cuvée Tradition Rosé
(Languedoc, France) — Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99

And although this wine is not technically a rosé (which is made from red grapes), it sure acts like one! Made from Pinot Grigio which has been left to ferment for a longer-period with its grey skins:

Santa Clerissa 2016 Pinot Grigio Ramato
(Veneto, Italy) — $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39

#4 — Juicy Reds 
Reds are where this meal can be especially tricky because tannic wines go sour with a sweet food and reds that are too big overpower the bird. Juicy reds can be described as lighter or medium in style with good fruit, good acidity, but NOT too tannic! Varietals that fit the bill are: Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sangiovese, Vernatsch, Zweitgelt & more. We recommend:

Elk Cove Pinot Noir
(Willamette Valley, Oregon) $31.99 | Mixed Case $25.59
Weingut Castelfeder Vernatsch
(Alto Adige, Italy) — Reg $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39
Weingut Prechtl Zweigelt
(Weinviertel, Austria) — $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39
La Togata Barengo Toscana Rosso
(Tuscany, Italy) $23.99 | Mixed Case $19.19

Don’t want to think about it this much? Stop in & we’ll get you set up!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Julie + Jens
Portalis_Julie&Jens

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World Wide Syrah

Syrah_greatnorthwestwinecom
Washington State Syrah

The bold, luscious red varietal- Syrah- is grown world wide.  Originally from the southeastern part of France, the grape has migrated to several regions with great success!  Tales have been told of it originating from Iran, Sicily and other Mediterranean delights; however, DNA analysis concludes that it is a cross of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche (both of French origin).

So, where in the world do we find Syrah?

Northern Rhone_Cote Rotie vineyards
Côte Rotie vineyards, Northern Rhône

France
Classically Rhône- Syrah is found in both the Northern & Southern Rhône, and they are very different. In the Nothern Rhône, it is 100% Syrah with only a touch of Viognier (a white varietal) allowed per AOC laws.  Expect dark, hedonistic, inky fruits mingling with earth, mushrooms and pencil lead.  Southern Rhône is allowed to blend– and they do!  With the availability of several different varietals, Châteauneuf-du-Pape takes the lead as King of Blending.  In addition to Syrah, CNP can use:  Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul Noir, Syrah, Terret Noir and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté). Since it is primarily Grenache based, expect bright summer cherries with expressive spice, depth and higher acidity. Killer.

Nalys_vineyards with tree
Domaine de Nalys vineyards, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône

We recommend:
Vignerones Propriétés Associés- Crozes-Hermitage
Northern Rhône, France — Reg $23.99 | INSIDER $22.99
Domaine de Nalys 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Reserve
Southern Rhône, France– Reg $65.99

Spain
Not quite the cousin to France, as Spain always has to add a bit of umphf and vigor to their reds.  Found in Catalonia and Jumilla primarily, the heat explodes the juices and spice- plump fruit with baking spices of cinnamon and cardamom. Lower acid, higher alcohol.

Mollydooker_shiraz vineyard
Mollydooker Syrah vineyards, McLaren Vale, Australia

Australia
Renamed Shiraz when it migrated, Australian Shiraz is Syrah, just spicier.  Not too dissimilar to Spain where the heat creates an extracted fruit bomb with amazing black peppercorn delights- Australians are very methodical and exacting.  Expect a balanced fruit explosion.

D’Arenberg 2010 The Dead Arm Shiraz
McLaren Vale — Reg $69.99

Syrah_lodiwinecomSyrah vineyards, Lodi, California

North America
The States have several growing regions, but for the acclaim: California and Washington get the ticket.  California is hotter with a maritime influence, whereas Washington is a desert climate- hot with a cold evening.  California provides a fruit bomb experience.  Washington, expect a diverse experience from ripe fruits to stones, granite, olives, and peppercorn spice!

K Vintners 2013 Rock Garden Syrah
Walla Walla Valley, WA — Reg $65.99

South America
Argentina – Known for Malbec, yes… Argentina makes a rock star Syrah.  Extracted yet the mountains cool down and allow for great acidity for food pairing (spicy dishes!!). Chile is similar to Argentina yet cooler.  Experience softer fruit with higher acidity and refinement.

Elqui 2013 Syrah
Elqui Valley, Argentina — Reg $27.99

South Africa
If you haven’t had anything from South Africa, this is where you should start (though there are great several contenders).  Bodacious ripe and often cooked fruits with subtle hints to BBQ smoke and brine. An amazing Syrah for meats and bold flavors (curries and spice). Get it!

Stark-Conde 2013 Syrah
Stellenbosch, South Africa — Reg $22.99

Tuscany, Italy
Not native to Italy… but when times change the Italians embrace it.  Super Tuscans came about in the late 1890’s when Phylloxera hit France.  French winemakers, trying to save their stock, asked to grow in Italy (as well as all over the world).  The end result was a bit of a controversy.  The wines, of course brought Phylloxera , but also introduced non- traditional wines to Italy.  High end producers couldn’t sell the wines, per government regulations. But they were amazing. So- guess what they did? Sold it anyways.  They are Italians! Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the heavy hitters to the most renown Super Tuscans.

La Togata Azzummeta Toscana Rosso — Reg $45.99

Mannucci-Droandi (Tuscany)

Hungary, Switzerland, and Eastern Europe

I have personally never tasted these wines, but I have no doubt that the reason they are not imported is because…  they are consumed!

Cheers!  Jaci

New World Wine | Argentinian Varietals- Not Just Malbec

Argentina_Kaiken_Mendoza_v13_Caiquen bird
Bodega Kaiken, Mendoza

On the spectrum of New World wine country (i.e., Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa & the United States), it is not necessarily a time punch card as it is so much a style of wine. Argentina has the classic fruit driven, higher alcohol wines with mild outlining characteristics of New World wine. As the fifth LARGEST producer of wine in the world, what defines Argentinian wine varietal history? Layers of migration and the cultures that brought varietals to Argentina, as well as the investment in South American wines over the last thirty years.

A story of wine is not without cultures immigrating with vines. Truly, no different than that of Grenache vs Garnatxa from France to Spain and then back and forth again as the Moors battled. Yet Argentina is overseas, continents and mountains, and it is a saga in which varietals that lasted tell a story for each New World wine region. Argentina… the immediate thought is Malbec.

Familia Barberis_La Rioja, Argentina_Malbec_cropped
Familia Barberis, Malbec vineyards

That resurrected varietal from the famous six used for Bordeaux red blends made a 1990’s debut and killed it. Bordeaux, France, may produce wines with a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. Malbec is otherwise known in Cahors, France; however it is unctuous, inky, tannic… like a 1800’s sailor fresh from the sea but not ‘refreshed’ yet. (Still amazing in my opinion…) Malbec in Argentina is anything but that- it is plush with ripe plums, macerated cherries, black raspberries then layered with cocoa nibs, herbs, sometimes a hint of crushed green peppercorn. Not a surprise that the masses would devour that?! But that is not the only varietal that Argentina is successful with. These other varietals are perhaps not internationally renowned out of Argentina but definitely worth seeking out.

Argentina_La Puerta_Torontes_B
Val de La Puerta, Torrontés vineyards, La Rioja

Argentina’s immigrants thrived with varietals from Old World varietals including the unique Torrontés (pictured above). Originally claimed to be Torrontés from Spain, Argentinian Torrontés is DNA proven to be a cross between native Crillo and Muscat Alexandria (hence the amazing aromatics). Torrontés is grown throughout Argentina with three different variations- Riojano, Sanjuanino and Mendocino. It is intensely aromatic with notes of lily of the valley, rose petals, honeysuckle as well as citronelle and lemon grass. Fruits of key lime, pear, kiwi (and its seeds) yet is is surprisingly refreshing with brightness and a clean acidity. Definitely worth the adventure to find and enjoy– especially with summer seafood and fresh cuisine.

Wine Folly_Argentina

Back on track to other killer varietals, the history shows that the Spanish missionaries in the late 1500’s first brought vines (Tempranillo and once thought Torrontés) to the region. Then, in the 1900’s, a new wave of varietals from Europe arrived. From Italy came Bonarda (actually Doux Noir), Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Lambrusco & more. From France, the following influx arrived: from Burgundy, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, from the Rhône, Syrah and Viognier as well as from the Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc. Escaping the phylloxera epidemic that decimated their homeland vineyards, immigrants brought not only their vines but their background in winemaking. The 1900’s were not easy times. It was not until well after the Great Depression, political conflicts, inflation (1960-70), and finally the 1990’s resurgence with investment from foreign countries in the wine regions of Argentina did the small pockets of Argentinian winemaking expand into such large production.

Val de La Puerta vineyards, La Rioja

The rise of Malbec as the glory child may be on the forefront of what people imagine Argentina to represent; however, there are many more varietals produce there that deserve your attention — classic Old World varietals and the beautiful Torrontés. Adventure to try:

  • La Puerta 2012 Alta Malbec La Rioja — Reg $16.99
  • La Puerta 2013 Malbec La Rioja — Reg $14.99
  • La Yunta Torrontés La Rioja — Reg $10.99
  • Antigal 2013 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $24.99
  • Durigutti 2013 Cabernet Franc Mendoza — Reg $16.99
  • Durigutti 2015 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $16.99
  • Martino 2014 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $21.99
  • Salentein 2016 Portillo Malbec — Reg $16.99
  • Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec — $25.99
  • Salentein 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — $25.99

SPECIAL GUEST TASTING
Thursday, July 13th, 2017 5pm to 7pm | Carlos Bosso

  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza– Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Chardonnay Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Pinot Noir Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Cab/Malbec Blend Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Malbec Mendoza — Reg $12.99

Cheers!  Jaci

 

Franchetto: Sustainability, Harmony & the Family Business

Sustainability is not a new concept for families in Old World countries (i.e. Italy, France and Spain).  Here in the States, we have many laws and regulations for labeling sustainable, bio-dynamic, and organic; however, the Old World has lived for centuries practicing sustainability.  Besides few consistent regulating laws (as of yet) and the costly procedure to become certified, it can be hard for these wineries to justify certification for the sole purpose of sales in foreign markets (such as the US).

Supporting Articles on Sustainability >> 1 2 3

Many Old World winemakers, land-owners and enologists are trained in sustainability.  It is a part of the culture and lifestyle.  When asked about certification and regulation, it is an awkward shuffle to define European standards- yet many of them follow standards, dabble in the designation programs as well as attempt certification (though it is a moving target).  The biggest question is- why do they grow their grapes sustainability without caring about formal certification? It is their way of life! Woman winemaker and  sustainability-trained enologist Giulia Franchetto explains in her own words…

We are a family run winery, located in Terrossa di Roncà, a little village situated between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza – in the Veneto region. Our company has peasant origins from 8th Century but it is in 1982 that we have taken up the road of winemaking. Antonio Franchetto, my father, founder and owner, understood the fortune to have vineyards in this great land and decided to start his big adventure: transform his own grapes into wine. In the year 2000 we created the brand Franchetto and we started to bottle our wine. It’s been a quite long road to arrive to the wine that Antonio had in his mind. Today, by our philosophy, the wine has to tell about the terroir that it comes from, without contamination; it is for this reason that our main vines are Garganega and Durella: two indigenous vines with strong roots in this beloved area.

From 2016, I, Antonio’s oldest daughter, Giulia, have run the winery with the support of my parents. I graduated in enology in 2015 and have worked in the family’s winery since 2012. Today, at 27, I am like-minded with my parents – aware of the importance of her vineyards and soils.  My younger sister Anna shares chores of bottling and supports, however it is not her passion.  (We will talk more of this later!)

Franchetto_vineyards
We strongly believe that the wines are born in the vineyards. There we have the possibility to grow healthy and clean grapes that will be able to give life to amazing wines, free to express 100% the soil and grapes that they come from. From this comes our greatest respect for nature and our surrounding environment. With this philosophy in mind, we farm our vineyards according to the guidelines of modern-day agriculture. We analyze our soils about every 3 years in order to understand how they are. The major part of our soils are quite rich but where and when it is needed, we use organic fertilizer. To control the growth of weeds we don’t use herbicides (or chemicals) but a mechanical machine that moves the soil between every vine: in this way we take away the bad grasses and give some oxygen to our vines’ roots.  We mainly treat the vines with products allowed in organic agriculture; only in the event of particularly serious circumstances, do we make use of other types of sanitary protection, while strictly adhering to the advice and doses recommended by qualified agronomists. We work in this way first of all for our health as we are every day in the vineyards and then because we want to contribute to safeguarding and protecting our Mother Earth.

We have always cultivated the environment around us with love and respect, conscious that a healthy ecosystem is the base to obtain wines that can give emotions to the people that taste them. That’s the reason why we decided to follow some techniques that allow us to reduce to the minimum the impact of our work on the soil, in order to leave our vineyards in good condition for us and for the next generations of winemakers.”

Franchetto_grapes_v2

In addition to sustainable farming, the Franchetto family has invested in a photo voltaic system which covers all the energetic needs of the company. More from Giulia: “The photo voltaic plant, installed on the roof of the winery, produces 45.000 kWh per year and, beyond the economic saving for the company, it contributes to the protection of the environment because it reduces the usage of fossil fuel and the emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere.”  Reducing their carbon footprint with investment in farming and winery sustainability, the Franchetto family has also taken care to plot their vineyards from the beginning to utilize their resources wisely.  With two vineyards in two locations, focusing on very different varietals (traditional Garganega and Durella), the vineyards are selected for their ideal soil, elevation, but also the steepness of the slope.  “The Capellina vineyards are located at 250 m.a.s.l. on a very steep slope; this contributes in a very decisive way to the flow of water and prevents stagnation and excessive irrigation problems.”  The Vestenanova vineyard produces a rare local varietal, Durella, which Giulia’s parents planted 25 years ago. The family uses this grape to produce a one of a kind Spumante (sparkling wine) known as Lessini Durello.

Wine making is not the only passion of this talented family – all of them are musicians performing frequently at local festivals and events.  Giulia explains more here:

We are a musician’s family– I (Giulia) have studied music (French Horn) at Verona’s conservatory while attending high school and I have collaborated with different groups and orchestras. My father (Antonio) is a Trombone player, my sister (Anna, who doesn’t really work with us but is always happy to help during events – bottling and other works) plays Transverse Flute, while my mom is a singer.  We are all involved in the symphonic band of our area.  We enjoy every aspect of play and study with this group (where we are all friends). The best moments are of course the concerts, lots of happiness and satisfaction after months of studies!  

Smiling (because I usually tell this in a funny way) I always like to say that our wines have “something more” because they are made with love and above all because during the harvest time me and my dad often play our instruments inside the winery if we have some free minutes so also the grape juice that is fermenting can enjoy and relax with our music 😉 😉 ;)!”

And what is a winery without its winery dogs (or other “pets” )...  “We have three female dogs: Stella (that we enjoy calling Nerina because she is really black) – Birba and Lilli. The first 2 are owned by my grandfather while Lilli is our sweet and funny puppy. I could say that she is almost as famous as my wines, a lot of people (friends – clients etc) know her :). She is an important piece of our family. <3.  About me (Giullia): with wine and music I have another big passion – horses! I practice horse riding (jumping) and since June 2016, I have owned my first horse: Cerbelo dell’Alma!  I am really in love with him!”

Franchetto_horse

A phrase that truly rings clear for this family is “I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.” Andy Warhol.  Sustainability is the foundation of the Franchetto winery.  They follow techniques that reduce the impact of their work on the soil, allowing the vineyards to flourish now and for the next generations of winemakers.  Furthermore, their lifestyle harmonizes with the earth, family life, culture, and wine making.  Beauty is a balance of intention and art in every day living.

Finalizing this interview/blog, Giulia informed me that BOTH of their Soaves just won awards in DECANTER WORLD WINE AWARDS!!
* Soave DOC “Recorbian” 2015  BRONZE medal
* Soave DOC “La Capelina” 2015 PLATINUM medal for BEST VENETO WHITE!!!!

Salut!  Jaci Kajfas
Manager, Sommelier, Food + Wine writer

Cooperatives and Import Focus: Bodegas Rauda

As many of you know, Portalis owners, Jens Strecker and Julie Howe, expanded their business in 2011 to including importing.  As the liquor laws in Washington State transformed, so did the ability for smaller producers- cooperatives and families- to have a chance at fair representation in Washington.  As Jens watched some of his favorite producers move to the side lines or away from the market all together, it created an impetus to support them.

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What is a cooperative?  In this world of mass production, a cooperative can seem like bulk production plunk like basket Chianti from the 70’s or box wine… but in truth, it is a foundation for small producers to bring their product to the market.  It is not a new concept at all.  Many Old World communities bring their product to market and have it crafted into the local wine or their own label.  It provides an infrastructure that many do not have the means to create.  Cooperatives were an imperative choice for the Spanish when they transitioned out of the Civil War in 1939 and the financial consequences thereof which lasted decades.  If cooperatives were not instituted, most of these small producers would have given up their vines- which today we relish!

rauda_2014-harvest_10
The ability to have facilities and teams of professionals to assist in crafting these wines is a golden opportunity to communities which would not even grace the marks of the the world wide trade markets.  “The cooperative wineries that appeared in the first three decades of the 20th century represented a vast improvement over the cellars they replaced.  Collective investment (plus government subsidies and easy farm credit terms) allowed the purchase of newer and better equipment and facilities overseen by trained professional wine-making staff. Individual winegrowers farming a hectare of two of grapes could never have produced commercial quantities of wine at the standard of the new cooperatives. No doubt about it, in their heyday cooperatives were a step up in wine quality.” (Wine Economist) Many cooperatives have active members of these products- not just growing grapes, but production, marketing and sales.  These are the cooperatives that we support.

ribera-del-duero_harvest-1
Our featured winery/cooperative, Bodegas Rauda,  is located in the town of Roa, at the heart of the Ribera del Duero. Ribera del Duero is located on to the plateaus of the Iberian Peninsula. Nestled together and surrounded by Cantabrian mountains to the north, Zamora mountains to the south, and Sistma Iberico mountains to the south east, the Meseta plateau is at a higher elevation providing hotter days and cool evenings.  The Duoro River begins and travels east through Portugal to the Atlantic Ocean.  A high desert area, the summers are HOT and the winters blanketed with snow.  It is not surprising that Tempranillo reigns king as a varietal here.  And similarly, it is one of the DO’s of Spain over looked for its high quality and focus on aging laws similar to Rioja.

ribera-del-duero_winter-1
In 1956, a group of growers in the area founded Bodegas Rauda, one of the first associations of wine in Ribera del Duero.  The Vinos de Rauda team is made up of young professionals who lend innovative and creative ideas to the art of enology with the purpose of bringing the passionate world of wine closer to the consumer.  98% of their production is Tempranillo.  At Bodegas Rauda, harvest is a manual process (by hand).  The vines average at 40 years, creating intense flavors and nuances extracted from the highly sandy clay layered soils laced with limestone and marl. The production of these wines combines the latest technology with tradition. Innovative and modern stainless steel tanks stand side by side with traditional cement vats which continue to preserve the best qualities necessary for fermentation. The aging cellar holds over 475 French, American and central European oak barrels of various toasting levels. In both cases, strict temperature control is observed. Overall production volume is nearly two million liters.

Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Tinto Roble — Reg.$15.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $12.79 — “Roble” 4 months in oak-
Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Tinto Roa Crianza — Reg. $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39 — “Crianza” 12 months in oak, 24 in bottle
Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Tinto Roa Reserva — Reg. $36.99 | INSIDER $35.99 | Mixed Case $29.59 — “Reserva” 12 months in oak, 36 in bottle
Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Musai de Tinto Roa — Reg. $43.99 | INSIDER $41.99 | Mixed Case $35.19 — French and American oak, 15 + months

Interested in exploring Ribera del Duero or other cooperatives?  Stop in! We would love to teach you more!

Cheers– Jaci, Jens and Julie

Uncharted Territories Expanding- South Africa

map_south-africa_wine-folly

To truly grasp South African wines, one has to understand why wine would be in South Africa. It’s not only a hot, intense climate, but it’s also an area of vast trade and fluctuation in populace and politics. The first vines were planted in the 1650’s in what is now South Africa. Why? Trade and government- of course!  The Dutch East India Company (DEIC) used the Southern Cape (Cape of Good Hope) as a port in between its journeys for years.  Finally, one of the captains decided that it was ridiculous not to have fresh foods and drink, so they made a “refreshment station” and farm in Constantia.  New territory, yet, as with trade, government and agriculture, it likened to awkward teen years for quite a while.

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Photo: Ansara vineyards (Stellenbosch)

South Africa is broken into five large geographical areas: Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, and Limpopo.  Of the wine producing areas of South Africa, the majority of production is in the Western Cape. The Western Cape is a small area in the southwestern corner of the country.  The Mediterranean climate is warm, with sunny growing seasons that are thankfully cooled by the Benguela Current (aka the Cape Doctor) which flows north from Antarctica. The Cape Doctor does more than cool the coast, it also inhibits fungal disease and eases the heat off of the vines in these intensely hot areas.

South Africa’s geology is rich with history and environmental diversity as well as majestic in beauty.  The coast is protected by the plutons, dome-like intrusions of igneous magma into the earth’s crust with a coarse crystalline texture, which have eroded into hills (Paarl, Perdeberg Mountains, Darling Hills, Table Mountain and Simonsberg Mountain) that are flat and covered with sandstone. The layers of each region have individual meso-climates allowing for a vast array of varietals and growing environments.  This diversity matched with the exposure to wind and ventilation create patches of subtleties such as vineyards “hugging valley floors, clambering over hills, climbing steep mountain slopes, or tucked beneath high peaks”.

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Photo: view from Stark-Condé estate (Stellenbosch)

Of the varietals grown in South Africa, we find 26 red varietals (most popular being Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Mourvedré) and 23 white varietals (most popular are Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc (Steen) and Sauvignon Blanc) with a history of a killer dessert wine- the liquid gold of Klein Constainia. Reds are big and bold, with subtle bacon or brine notes.  Many have heard of Pinotage- the red varietal that was created from Cinsault (then called Hermitage) and Pinot Noir in the Stellenbosch University Vicultural Center in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold.  It is a flagship as well as the somewhat bastard child of South Africa.  Whites are full with bright fruits, medium to low acid and spicy qualities.  Chardonnay is rich, full and likens to a balance between California Sonoma and Côte Nuit when oaked.  Unoaked, it’s very similar to Macon, with a bit more acidity.  As South Africa has invested in growth and modern technology, we find excellent examples of Pinotage and award wining wines across the board.

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Photo: De Toren estate (Stellenbosch)

For wines that are exported around the world, we find that the Western Cape, specifically the Coastal region with districts of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek, Swartland and Darling are prevalent.  Though Stellenbosch and the Western Cape rule the current market, don’t hesitate to adventure into the other four wine region of origins!  For more details, check out this great resource.

Happy New Year!  Here is to new adventures!  Jaci

Other resources and regions detailed

Holiday Picks 2016

The Ballard Wine Elves are counting down the days.  Here are Jens’ and Jaci’s favorites for gifting.  At my house Santa always brings me a bottle for my stocking! Hint, hint- don’t forget to buy something fun for yourself too!.
Here is our gift suggestions that wouldn’t be a disappoint in the stocking!

— Jens and Jaci

elves_dec-2015_jaci-jens_email

  • Chateau Guadet Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé (Bordeaux, France) — Reg. $97.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $78.39 — Worth Every Penny
  • Josephine de Boyd Margaux (Bordeaux, France) — Reg. $61.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $49.59 — Love of your Life
  • Château Lafargue Pessac-Léognan Blanc (Bordeaux, France) — Reg. $38.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $31.19 — Elegance
  • Coutier Ambonnay | Montagne de Reims (Champagne, France) — Reg. $52.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $42.39 — Dream
  • Philippe Deval Crémant de Loire Rosé (Loire Valley, France) — Reg. $23.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $19.19 — Dazzle
  • Zuazo Gaston Finca Costanillas (Rioja, Spain) — Reg. $35.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $28.79 — Seductive
  • Nottola Anterivo Super Tuscan (Tuscany, Italy) — Reg. $45.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $36.79 — Entertainer
  • Pelassa Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) — Reg. $61.99 | INSIDER $59.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $47.99 —The Ultimate
  • Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley, Washington) — Reg. $59.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $47.99 — A Whistler
  • Corliss Red Blend (Walla Walla Valley, Washington) — Reg. $86.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $65.99 — Bodacious
  • Ken Wright Freedom Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon) — Reg. $69.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $55.99 — Sock Knocker Off’r
  • Domaine de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réserve (Southern Rhône, France) — Reg. $65.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $52.79 — Till the Last Drop
  • Paul Reitz Volnay (Burgundy, France) — Reg. $57.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $46.39 — Who’s Got the Funk?
  • Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California) — Reg. $46.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $39.19 — Cigar Aficionado
  • Jackson Triggs Winery Vidal Ice Wine (Niagara Peninsula | Ontario, Canada) — Reg. $39.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $31.99 — Sweet Complexity
  • Taylor Fladgate 20 year Tawny (Douro Valley, Portugal) — Reg. $61.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $49.59 — Liquid Kisses