LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO BEAUJOLAIS BLANC
Chardonnay is a world-class celebrity wine/ grape and no doubt has entertained the palates of billions. There is not one wine-producing region in the world that hasn’t planted her vines. To understand the magnitude of the wines made from her over the centuries is eternal. Chardonnay needs no synonyms, as she’s so famous, for good or bad, that the grape has managed to become her own brand name ambassador; “Just call me Chard”. Her birthright is the heart of Burgundy, France. It is the holy grail of Chardonnay where wines made here are the kinds of wines all producers around the globe would wish to aspire to.
LETTING THE GUARDS DOWN
Austria has been one of the world’s countries of the greatest triumph in modern decades. A guarded country in terms of quality and quantity measures, along with recovering its reputation from a scandalous event (more on that later). Today it has succeeded to take back its prominence and become a major player on the international market. It is most recognized for outstanding white wines made notably from Gruner Veltliner, given the nickname “Gru-Ve” ( we impatient Americans like to make acronyms out of anything). Also, it holds court for creating one of the most successful hybrid red grapes, Zweigelt, that has been widely praised for quality wine production. Remarkably, ⅓ of its output is made with indigenous red grapes such as Blaufränkisch and this wine from Zweigelt.
MOVE OVER CHARDONNAY
Champagne is the benchmark region in the world that focuses solely on the production of sparkly wines using the classic two-step ferments. What is referred to as “Traditional Method”, most sparkling wine producers can only hope to mirror their fizzes after their role model. The standard grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and the belle of the ball Chardonnay are the grapes that make up the wines of Champagne as well as other sparkling wines. Chardonnay has always been the go-to grape for these wines, because she’s easy, like the first date that wants to go home with you. I even attribute Chardonnay to be like the tofu of grapes, it will absorb any treatment you throw at it.
Don’t get it twisted, I love me a glass of Champagne Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay base). On the other hand, with all the fun effervescence that dances around in my mouth, I like to find bubbles of unknown varieties that flirt with the palate. Why spend money on bottles that are going to taste the same as the next one. Such a shame. When I came across Zero Infinito recommended to me by Hi-Time Wine Cellars, I was told It was 100% Solaris! My curiosity was immediately bubbling over.
THE ORPHAN GRAPE MALAGOUZIA
Accomplished work should never go unrewarded or for that matter publicly unrecognized. The class of 2020 was certainly short-changed from the traditional ceremonial gathering of family and friends. The ones emotionally most affected were parents who painstakingly raised junior over the years so as one day proudly witness him receiving his diploma. Those years are never without a doubt if Junior will bloom into a functional servant in society, for raising children is a gamble. What parent hasn’t thought of abandoning a kid or two?
The ancient white grape Malagouzia did suffer the fate of abandonment for its rambunctious genes. However in the 1970s, thanks to Professor of Oenology Vassilis Logothetis at the University of Thessalonica, it was rescued from near extinction. By the 1980s, every winemaker worldwide wanted to adopt the challenging grape into their vineyards.
THE GRAPE THAT BROKE THE DONKEY’S BACK
A red grape of tribal Greek antiquity, Susumaniello was sour and primal around the edges and is on the hunt today to shave off its rough edges by aspiring wine producers. As in the case of most Italian grapes, the name given to Susumaniello has a colorful meaning with no merit. The name comes from “Somarello” meaning donkey and derives presumably from when they were once used to transport loads of grapes; or the fact that the vine was like weeds, generating a shit load full of grapes. Whichever meaning romances you, presently it is Susumaniello that has caused a spike of interest of native Italian varieties. Wines are being made with cultured sophistication and are now a hot commodity in the global wine marketplace.
YOU DON’T KNOW ME
Try not to be surprised, but Mexico is not a culture built on tacos, tequila, barefooted men with giant sombreros, or an economic infrastructure reminiscent of your soiled underwear. Rather it’s a country rich in history, an influential culture, and innovation. Don’t turn a blind eye, for what country in the world doesn’t have its share of slums. The fact is, Mexico stands proudly as the first country to make wine in the Americas. Today, Baja Mexico is exploding on the wine scene with over 100 plus wineries. Most people associate Ensenada with tequila drunken tourists herding off of cruise ships. I urge you to skip the trinket tour and discover the Napa Valley of Mexico, The Valle De Guadalupe.
This Masseria loosely translated as a working farm where everything begins and ends, today has been reinvented by the resourceful Rossi-Chauvenet family. They crafted this wine fittingly in devotion to this eccentric farmer named Zacinto, who was the sole steward of the rural estate in the 19th century. I envision Zacinto, as the Quasimoto of Masseria Cutri silently voicing his declaration to make wine out of his favorite grape Negroamaro Even though the region of Puglia is planted most extensively to Primitivo, Zacinto instead would secretly make special batches of intoxicating wine from the powerful Negroamaro. He would then hide the barrels for himself, seemingly to paralyze the daily backbreaking labor.
THE ORIGINAL JURASSIC PARK
Long gone are the mammoth Dinosaurs that stampeded mysteriously throughout Jura, the smallest wine region in France. Named after the Jurassic period, you won’t find any fossilized wines aged 56 million years ago. Instead, Jura is captivating for its production of unique fine wines from indigenous grapes that were first planted here in the Middle Ages.
Jura is a tiny, secluded region at the far eastern edge of France, wedged between Burgundy and the Swiss Alps. The Limestone strata leftover from the Jurassic period makes Jura one of the most mystifying wine regions in the world. The array of wine styles produced here are as lavish as it’s legacy.
MONASTERY TVRDOS VRANAC 2016 TREBINJE HERZEGOVINA
The King Vranac grape has staked a claim on several regions throughout ancient Macedonia from the Balkans to the Adriatic Sea. After discovering the hidden wonders in Croatia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia, this grape settled in Herzegovina, Bosnia by partners in crime, the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Middle Ages.
Perhaps this revered grape was blessed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Known as the Dormition of Mother God, a feast is held annually in honor of the death of the Greeks version of the Virgin Mary. It’s possible from history, Vranac was crowned at the sacred Monastery Tvrdos where the feast is hosted and where this wine is made.
Trollinger is a vagabond grape carrying two passports, Italian and German, along with over three dozen identities. In its birthplace Alto Adige, Italy, it goes by the name Schiava, meaning slave grape. Perhaps overworked, it wandered over the border to Germany’s Wurttemberg state where it was given its present name and permanent residence. New to the area, I don’t think it was making much of a splash since the residents profiled it as a table grape, and gave it the name Black Hamburg. It doesn’t appear it was adjusting too badly when they associated it with the hamburger’s place of origin.