Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Clink Different With Unexpected Wine Varieties From Bordeaux And Germany

Germany equals Riesling and Bordeaux means Cabernet and Merlot, right? Not necessarily…

Variety In Varieties

In a world that is increasingly learning to celebrate diversity, it’s surprising how easily we can pigeonhole certain wines or wine regions. It’s not all bad. In many cases, it happens because of skyrocketing success.

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Germany is a good example. It’s northerly climate, sloping vineyards, rivers, and slate-filled soil combine to create perfect conditions for the production of Riesling. In Bordeaux, some of the world’s most sublime red wines are produced in chateaus using Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

To focus solely on these grapes, though, is to overlook a bounty of other varieties that thrive in these two regions. Bordeaux and Germany are both cooler climate regions with high quality standards and for the last three years have partnered on a joint marketing effort to showcase their wines. In a recent virtual tasting, four unsung grapes from the two regions were spotlighted.

Weingut Strub 2019 Silvaner Trocken

This wine hails from Germany’s Rheinhessen region, known as the “land of a thousand hills.” It is Germany’s largest wine-growing region in terms of size. Rheinhessen also is home to the world’s largest area devoted to the Silvaner grape, which at one point was the most important grape in Germany.

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The straw-colored wine opens with aromas of apple, pear, and hay. It provides a surprise on the palate. Far from the shy wine I expected, the wine is rich and a medium-plus in body. The acidity is mild to medium so it didn’t detract from the many layers that emerged, first a green apple flavor emerged followed by vegetal notes wrapped in notes of salinity. There is a waft of sweetness, even though this is a dry wine, but it blends effortlessly into a balanced wine.

We judge this to be an amazing food wine that pairs with grilled or raw fish, salads or stir fry. SRP is $19.

Dourthe 2019 La Grande Cuvée Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc

While the Bordeaux reds capture most of the world’s attention, don’t sleep on Bordeaux’s white wine. In fact, if teeth-jarring acidity isn’t your thing, you might find the Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc style more to your liking. Bordeaux, after all, is where this ancient grape originated. The Dourthe Cuvée is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, something that isn’t always a given in a region known for blending.

On the nose, there are fresh notes of citrus. The palate provides a tantalizing sensory experience. The wine is finished in stainless steel and undergoes six months of battonage (stirring on the lees). I always love Chardonnay that is aged in oak and has battonage, but this is the first Sauvignon Blanc we’ve tasted that uses the process. The payoff is huge – rich aromatics, savory flavors, and overall elegance.

The wine is lively with lemon and grapefruit notes mingled with some bread/yeast flavor surrounded by a nice minerality courtesy of the limestone soils. The wine is fresh and has a touch of honey on the finish. This one is perfect for cream-based pasta, fatty fish, steamed clams or goat cheese. Priced at $14.

Schnaitmann 2017 Steinwiege Lemberger

We’ve been on the Lemberger bandwagon for a while now. This grape, also known as Blaufränkisch (and about 50 other names), does really well in cooler regions that we like (such as Germany, Canada, and the Finger Lakes). In Germany, plantings of Lemberger have more than quadrupled since the 1980s. It is grown almost exclusively in Württemberg.

In the glass, the wine has a light purple hue. The aromas hint at what’s to come, with notes of smoke and spice. The tannins are smooth and refined. There are notes of juicy cherries, both sweet and sour. Tobacco and white pepper accents contrast with the fruits. The acidity is medium and the experience is wrapped together with silky mouthfeel and herbal flavors.

Pair this with grilled lamb, chicken shawarma, or tomato-based pasta. Retail is $37.

Château Belle-Vue 2018 Petit Verdot

Our final bottle is a rarity – a 100% old vine Petit Verdot from Bordeaux, where the grape is usually used in blends. The vines range from 62 to 81 years old. Château Belle-Vue was granted the prestigious Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel status in 2018.

The beauty of this inky grape shines thanks to the use of clay amphora and large (new and used Austrian) oak barrels. The body is silky and almost creamy. In the mouth, it’s all about the blue fruit, with a carousel of violet, blackberry, and floral notes. The finish goes on almost forever.

While this grape is also known as “the little helper" and is often used just to deepen the color of wine, that is changing. Acreage of Petit Verdot has tripled in recent years. The price is $25.

To strike gold, you have to dig below the surface. To discover amazing new wines, you need to think – and clink – differently. These four wines offer an excellent starting point for your next wine exploration.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

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