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Anatomy of a wine dinner: part 3

Posted by fromagebob on April 5, 2011

Peter Figge

On April 12th, Società Dante Alighieri of Miami  will present what should be a stellar evening of wine and food pairing at Por Fin Restaurant in Coral Gables. Stellar, because unlike many wine dinners, Steve Stein, the wine director of the Dante, along with several willing volunteers (including this writer) gathered at Por Fin to taste the wines with the planned menu. It was a worthy exercise that resulted in a number of excellent combinations.

The wine chosen for the evening is made by Peter Figge, of Figge Cellars, in Monterey, California. Figge makes five wines: two Chardonnay, two Pinot Noir, and one Syrah. The Chardonnay is closer is style to Burgundy than California, while the other two varietals are more true to their terroir.

In my favorite pairing guide, What to Eat with What You Drink, the following are suggested pairings for these wines:

For Chardonnay, the suggestions cover a rather broad range – as do Chardonnays. Some of the suggestions include chicken in any form (baked, grilled, etc.), crab, white fish, lobster, salmon, scallops, shrimp, veal, and vegetables. Rich dishes, such as those with cream sauce, or buttery sauces, fare better with typical oaky California chards. Dishes that are more flavorful, especially grilled foods like salmon, scallops, and chicken, do better with a Burgundian style.

Pinot Noir is more appropriate for protein-based dishes, such as cheeses, beef, chicken, duck, mushroom dishes, pork, salmon, lamb, and tuna.

Syrah (one of my favorite wines) is a robust wine, and needs robust dishes, like barbecue, aged cheeses, grilled meats, mushrooms, sausages, and so on.

For the wine dinner menu, Chef Quant suggested the following:

  • An appetizer course of Fried Quail Eggs with Serrano ham and Truffle Oil, to be paired with a Prosecco Valdiviano, and passed to diners as they arrive.
  • A second course of Grilled Octopus atop Squid ink, Arborio rice, sautéed squid, sofrito, and green pea puree, paired with a Chardonnay
  • The third course of Irish organic salmon, potato crisps, tomato confit, Kalamata olive drizzle and crispy leeks, paired with a Pinot Noir.
  • A fourth course of Braised Short Ribs with Mahon Cheese Crust and Red Wine Sauce, paired with the Syrah.
  • A dessert course of a simple tropical fruit sorbet.

We started by trying the wines. Figge’s Chardonnays come from two vineyards: one from the Peilo vineyard, the other from the La Reina vineyard. The Pelio shows pineapple, light mineral, a hint of petrol, some mango, and tropical fruits on the nose, and was citrusy, flinty, and bright on the palate. It had a medium-long finish that was juicy and pleasant. The La Reina had a nose of light talc, vanilla, flint, pineapple, with a light floral note; on the tongue, we found orange peel, grapefruit, flint, white peaches and pears in a medium-long finish. Both wines had a good balance with nice acidity. Of the two Chardonnays, our favorite was the Pelio. More and more, wines are being regarded for their “cocktail” potential as much as for their food pairing potential, and quite often, the decision as to which wine to use with food comes from the cocktail, not the pairing, perspective.

Then came our first course: the grilled octopus. We started with the Pelio; it did not work well with the octopus. The food took on a bitter, slightly metallic flavor that was not pleasant at all. It turned out that the La Reina didn’t work well, either, but it paired nicely with the rice/sofrito/pea puree. In fact, the green pea puree was very good on it’s own with the La Reina; with the dish, it acted as a catalyst, pulling the ingredients together and creating a great compliment for the wine. A suggestion was made to substitute a grilled scallop for the octopus. The chef complied, and a pairing was made. The result was that our favorite of the two wines – the Pelio – was great on its own, but did not work in the pairing. La Reina became our choice.

We next tried the two pinots, one from Paraiso vineyard, the other from the Pelio vineyard. The Paraiso  showed cherry, smoke, a little earth, and some cardamom. On the palate, it gave cherries, tobacco, menthol, dark fruits, and some dried cherries. It had a medium finish, good acidity, and mild tannins. The Pelio was more towards the earthy side: smoke, forest floor, chocolate, and faintly herbal on the nose, with dried cherries, pepper, strawberries, and a hint of licorice in a medium-long finish.

Of the two we liked the Pelio best, and it turned out to pair best with the Salmon. The Paraiso went very well with the Potato Crisps, but the winner of the pairing was the Pelio. We expected there to be some clash with the olive drizzle, but that addition turned out to add a very nice note to the flavor profile of the pairing. Grilled salmon is a classic Pinot Noir pairing, and it certainly lived up to that billing in this combination.

Our final dish was the short ribs. Our task was slightly easier, given that there was only one Syrah, but we forged ahead: The Syrah is from the Sycamore Flat vineyard, and showed chocolate, dark berries, a hint of tobacco, and some slight herbal notes on the nose, with black raspberries, cherries, and plums on the palate. The body was light, with a good mouthfeel. Syrahs can have a fairly wide flavor profile, and an equally varied body. I felt that this body of this wine was on the lighter side.

The short ribs were delicious, but the initial presentation of a manchego cheese crust did not really compliment the wine; the suggestion was made to try a Cabrales blue cheese sauce, but that turned out to be a bit strong. The final combination that won us over was when the chef altered the sauce a bit, combining honey with the Cabrales; that toned down the sharpness of the cheese, and brought the dish into harmony with the wine.

It turned out that the fact that the Syrah had a ligher body fit in well with the fattiness of the short ribs, and the richness of the sauce. Blue cheese is one of the recommended pairings for Syrahs, and the combination of the honey and the cabrales (which tends to be a fairly strong blue) worked quite well.

The final menu became:

  • Tataki de Atun: Seared tuna, charred scallion, romesco sauce, paired with a Prosecco Valdiviano
  • Arroz Negro con Vieras: Squid ink, Arborio rice, sautéed squid, sofrito, and green pea puree served with a seared scallop, paired with 2009 La Reina Chardonnay
  • Salmon con patatas, tomate y kalamata: Irish organic salmon, potato crisps, tomato confit, Kalamata olive drizzle and crispy leeks, paired with 2009 Pelio Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • Costillas De Res: Por Fin’s famous short ribs served with carrot puree, sweet potato crisps, honey cabrales and red wine sauces, paired with 2006 Sycamore Flat Syrah
  • Sorbet de Coco con Espuma de Maracuya: Coconut sorbet served with passion fruit foam and mint granita

The next step will be the dinner! On April 12th, at Por Fin in Coral Gables. If you’re in town and you’d like to render your own opinion about our pairing prowess, please contact the restaurant at 305.441.0107, and join us! Otherwise, check back here later that week for what our diners thought of our efforts.

Read part 1…..

Read part 2…

Posted in California Wines, Wine, Wine and food pairing, Wine dinners | 1 Comment »

Anatomy of a wine dinner, part 2

Posted by fromagebob on March 28, 2011

Wine dinners are usually focused on a particular winery or winemaker’s wines. The idea is to showcase the food of a chef or restaurant in conjunction with the wine in a series of pairings that join a course with a wine. As with any pairing endeavor, the goal is to bring these two elements together, and create an experience that either transcends the original, or takes one of the components to new heights.

The basis for the pairings of wine and food often grow from a conceptual foundation; there are “rules” of pairings that guide the decision as to the foods to prepare, that – when combined with the specifics of a particular wine – present a probable dish that can be created to achieve the desired results.

In many wine dinners, though, the chef doesn’t have access to the wine itself, but only to the winemaker or the winemaker’s notes, or (at the very least) the pairings that are usual for the wine. The logistics and costs involved in supplying wines are often difficult to overcome, and the chefs often lack the time (or inclination) to go through the exercise of deciding how to modify their dish to match the wine. Ultimately, it’s the dish that has to give in, and that’s not always an achievable result.

In the case of the Figge wine dinner, it was possible to sit with several tasters, try the proposed pairings, and make suggestions back to the kitchen as to what adjustments might “adjust” the food to the wine, without sacrificing the quality of the food or compromising the chef’s vision. We also had the option of several different iterations of the wines; same vintage, but different vineyards, to further tune the experience.

The proof, as they say, will be in the “pudding…”

Read the previous entry…

Read the next entry…

Click over to our wine dinner page to check out the menu, or (better yet) to make reservations to join us!

Posted in California Wines, Wine and food pairing, Wine dinners | 2 Comments »

Anatomy of a wine dinner: part 1

Posted by fromagebob on March 21, 2011

Figge Cellars

Wine dinners are designed to give a winemaker the opportunity to showcase their wines paired with dishes prepared by a chef who wishes to showcase his or her talents. It’s not always an easy task; in many cases, the chef does not have the opportunity to try the wines in order to “tune” the dishes, relying instead on the particular style of the wine, the wine’s profile, and feedback from the winemaker as to the intended dishes.

The results are almost always interesting, sometimes with good results … and sometimes not.

The Societá Dante Alighieri of Miami, in conjunction with Por Fin restaurant and winemaker Peter Figge, are hosting a wine dinner at Por Fin restaurant on April 12th, 2011. I have had the unique opportunity to be one of the tasters, working with the wines and the chef to create pairings that really highlight the wine and the food. I’d like to share that experience with you!

Peter Figge is what I call an “accidental winemaker.” Trained as a viticulturist, Figge’s life was centered around helping growers in the Central Coast region of California grow great grapes. As with many sourcing vineyards, the families that Figge worked with had high hopes. But one of the difficulties of becoming a source for grapes is that without a track record, it’s hard to command attention, much less premium prices.

One of the vineyards asked Figge to make wines from their grapes, in order to “put them on the map” of premium vineyards. His first reaction was caution; his métier was growing the best grapes for others to use, but after some pressure from the family, he decided to give it a shot, and in 2004, using begged, borrowed, and rented equipment, started making wines. He’s still a grower at hard, but as you will see when you taste his wines, his artistry has encompassed a whole new dimension!

Read the 2nd part…

Click over to our wine dinner page to check out the menu, or (better yet) to make reservations to join us!

 

Métier

Posted in California Wines, Wine, Wine and food pairing, Wine dinners | 2 Comments »

South Beach Wine & Food Rave

Posted by fromagebob on February 27, 2011

Crowd at the 2011 SoBe Wine & Food Fest

I went to my first South Beach Wine and Food Festival event (ever) this past Friday. It was the “trade tasting” event that is ostensibly a venue for wine makers to present their wares to the wine trade and media. Since one of the major sponsors of the event is Southern Wine, most of those in attendance have some presence in the local market; there’s nothing worse than finding a great wine, only to find it’s not available. Unfortunately, the crowds at the event precluded even a modicum of research. If I had to pick one word to describe the event, it might be “zoo,” but that doesn’t adequately describe the chaos. Rave, maybe? Wine mosh pit?

Speaking with some of the wine makers who attended, most expressed disappointment with the event, as there was no possible way that any kind of conversation about the wines could take place. The crowd was a mix of every age group, from those barely over drinking age, to a number of rather elderly participants. In addition to the wine tables, there were tables dispensing everything from food to liquor to mixed drinks to books. I managed to visit about 10 tables, far below what the norm would be in a real trade tasting.

Violet Grgich

I understand that blogging probably falls on the fringe of “wine media” but I like to think that I make a contribution (albeit a small one). That’s my justification for getting in to the trade/media portions of the events. The public portions often become something akin to an open bar, with only a passing resemblance to a wine tasting. That was illustrated most aptly when, during a conversation with Violet Grgich, I was shoved aside by a fellow who thrust his arm out – with two wine glasses clutched in his hand – and demanded “two cabs” (sans ‘please…’). Ms. Grgich accommodated with a pained smile.

Even getting in was a bear. We stood in a huge line for over 1 hour. We got into the event at about 2pm, with an even larger line behind us. As we approached the main entry to the glass tent, there was a steady stream of line-cutters barging in with no control. The tent dispensing the glass and sample bags was understaffed and not equipped to handle the people passing through. And, once in the village, it became a wine rave. Not to mention far too many people wandering outside scalping tickets (to a free event). That really bothered me; the only way to get the tickets was to be in the trade – a wine shop or restaurant. That meant that some rather unscrupulous players got the tickets representing that they would attend, then turned around and tried to profit. Sleazy. I was hoping for the undercover squad to get them.

Despite all of the sweaty bodies, there were some real gems. I followed a strategy of looking for producer names I did not recognize and tables with no drinkers. Using that technique, I was able to try wines from the Biltmore Estate, in North Carolina. They produce a passable Chardonnay in North Carolina, along with wines from California bottled under their direction and label.

Brazin Lodi Zinfandel

Here are some of the other wines I found that are definitely worth a second look:

  • Muscadet Sèvre st Maine 2008, a Loire wine bottled by Remy Pannier
  • A 2009 Vouvray from Moreau & Fils, in Chablis
  • A Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé from Langlois
  • An interesting 2008 Chinon, from Marc Brédif
  • A red Sancerre of Pinot Noir, from Château de Sancerre
  • From Bernardus Winery, in Carmel California, a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2008 Chardonnay, and a 2008 Pinot Noir, all from Monterrey County, and their Marinum red blend, from Carmel Valley
  • Brazin Wines, from Lodi, offered to nice Zinfandels: a 2008 Lodi Old Vines, and a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Old Vines.
  • Summerland Winery, from Santa Barbara, showed a 2009 Santa Barbara Chardonnay, a 2008 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, a 2008 Monterrey County Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2005 Santa Ynez Syrah.

In addition, I had the opportunity to try several delicious wines from Grgich Hills, including their Stellar 2008 Fumé Blanc, their 2007 Chardonnay, their 2007 Zinfandel, their 2006 Merlot, and their 2006 Cab (which made me almost want to stop drinking for the rest of the day, just to see how the wine evolved). I managed to spend a few minutes with Brian Loring (who I was able to speak at length with at Sunset Corner’s Pinot party the next day – more on that later).

All in all, it was a beautiful day on South Beach, great showcase for the city, moderately so for the winemakers. But it looked like the attendees had fun.

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Value wine tasting at Sunset Corners

Posted by fromagebob on January 16, 2010

Saturday is my day to visit Sunset Corners for their weekly wine and cheese tasting. This week, they featured a selection of Spanish wines, all priced below $25.00, and all nice drinking wines. Part of the reason I enjoy visiting this shop is because they do not charge for their tastings, they get “newbie” wine drinkers in the shop, and it is always a pleasure to share their fresh experiences.

The first wine was a 2008 Bodegas Santa Quiteria Higueruela, from Almansa, Spain. This is 100% garnacha, unoaked, from old vines. The aroma was alcohol, sweet cherries, and a hint of floral notes. The taste was a little sweet, and slightly candy-like, with cooked dark fruits, and a touch of spice. The finish was short, and a little earthy. This wine retails for $11.99

Next was a 2007 Bodegas Silvano Garcia Vina Honda, from Jumilla (one of my favorite wine regions). This wine is 100% Monastrell, fermented in stainless steel vats. The aroma was smoky, with dark cherries, blueberries, and a hint of leather. The taste was tobacco, dark fruits, some slight vegetal notes. It has a medium finish that was nice – slightly bitter, but spicy. I thought the leather and tobacco notes were unusual in the wine, since it was not oaked, but they were the first thing that hit my nose. This wine retails for $14.99.

Third up was a wine I’ve had before – Vivir, Vivir. This particular vintage was 2008. This 100% unoaked Tempranillo. On the nose, a little spicy, with some vegetal notes, and dark berries. The flavor was cooked dark fruit, some tannins that softened out pretty quickly, and a medium, slightly bitter finish. This wine retails for $9.99. I found that this is a wine that you open and drink – it does not hold well. It would be a very nice party wine.

Next was the 2008 Bodegas Abanico Las Colinas del Ebro Terra Alta. This is a blend of Syrah (60%) and Garnacha (40%). The two varietals are fermented separately, then blended. They undergo a short period in French Oak barrels. On the nose, I found cherry, licorice, dark berries, and light floral notes. In the mouth, Light tannins, dark cherries, a little vanilla, and a slight vegetal note. The finish was medium, and slightly sweet. This wine retails for $12.99

Tomorrow, I’ll fill in the rest! Have a glass of wine with dinner – you’ll be glad you did! If you’re interested in finding out about their upcoming wine tastings, send an e-mail to Michael Bittell.

Posted in Spanish Wines, Value Wines | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Protos Ribera Duero Roble 2007

Posted by fromagebob on November 1, 2009

According to the label, this wine is made from 100% Tinto del País, which is another name for Tempranillo. According to the label, this vintage was aged for 4 months in new American oak; their website says six months. Either way, it’s not oaky at all, with just a hit of the wood’s contributions.

The nose shows red fruit, distinct alcohol, currants, slight cigar-box, some white pepper, a touch of licorice, and some spiciness. Left sitting, the alcohol dissipates but the other notes remain.

The initial taste is smoky cherries, dark plums, some tannins – soft but noticeable. A bit of pepper, slightly vegetal , with a little chocolate and licorice. The finish is medium. The tannins initially produce a sense of dryness, but the wine sweetens and softens a bit, they lies there and gradually fades away.

I wouldn’t say this is a terribly complex wine, but it’s tasty and nice. I received this as a gift, but a search of the web shows a retail of under $40.00; certainly keeping a few bottles around.

I tried this wine with several cheeses. The first was a delicious triple crème, Cathedrale de Meaux. This is an industrial brie-type cheese made in the artisanal fashion. The mold is mixed into the milk, instead of being sprayed on at the end. The nose of the cheese is buttery, soft, with a hint of the pasture. On the tongue, pure bliss! Buttery, with a slight sour note that makes it pleasant. Hints of pasture, straw, and rich cream. It is addicting. This cheese is widely available at grocers with decent cheese counters. Try it.

With the wine, the flavor of the cheese was much subdued; the tannins in the wine cut the fattiness of the cheese. The cheese became a back-note to the wine, which became more fruity – the red fruits came out quite a bit. The finish changed completely; no tannins, but a pleasant buttered-fruit combo that was pretty nice.

The next cheese was the Beaufort, a delicious French cheese that I’ve written about in my blog. This is a great pairing. Initially the wine takes on a spicy taste, but then elevates the beefy character of the cheese. Again, the fat content of the cheese tones down the tannins in the wine, making a great combination. As it lies in the mouth, the tannins are very, very soft, and the taste evolves into something reminiscent of a rich beef stew. Yum. I’ve found Beaufort locally from time to time, but it does not hold a bougie to the real French version!

The last cheese is Manchester Consider Bardwell, a delicious goat cheese from Vermont. This is a washed-rind cheese with a really funky looking rind that’s actually quite tasty. The aroma is slightly funky, with a hint of barnyard, hay, nuts and butter. The flavor reminds me of chewing contentedly on a piece of straw; it’s a little spicy, vegetal, with a strong sense of nuts and grain. With the wine, it’s neutral. Neither is elevated, neither is hurt. The wine almost disappears, the cheese takes on a very, very slightly more intense flavor. Verdict – I’d serve these at a party, but nothing to write home about. A friend brought this back from Murray’s Cheese in NY – you can order it online at their website.

Finally, the winery’s website has a lot of other possible food matches you can check for yourself.

Posted in Spanish Wines, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Frontier Red California Red Wine

Posted by fromagebob on September 4, 2009

I picked this up at Sunset Corners a couple of weeks ago. A customer was asking one of the guys in the store for an inexpensive red wine, and this is what he recommended. Sounded interesting, and the price seemed right, so I got a bottle, too. I think it was around $12.00. Can’t beat that for a casual red wine! It’s a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignane. Bottle doesn’t have the percentages on it, but you can really taste the notes of the Grenache and Petite Sirah.

It’s got a nice nose. Cherries, some tobacco and leather, a little spice, touch of alcohol. The taste is a little thin, but there’s cherries, pepper, vanilla and oak. The finish isn’t bad – medium, but the flavor stays. Doesn’t get candy-ish. If anything, it gets a little spicy, then drifts away. I like it, will definitely keep a couple bottles around.

This is bottled by the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Maria, CA.

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Clos Pegase Petite Sirah Port

Posted by fromagebob on August 30, 2009

A very good friend brought a bottle of this lovely wine to a recent cheese tasting I had at my home. We tried it with a few cheeses, which I’ll write about later, but the wine (or the port, if you will) was quite delicious. Port, as most know, is a wine from Portugal that has been fortified with brandy (Aguardente) to stop the fermentation of the wine, and to boost the residual alcohol content. Wikipedia has a good article on Port that you can see for more information.

Technically, if you add spirits to a wine, it is made in the port style. I dug around on Clos Pegase website to find out what was added to this particular wine, but there was no information. I’ve e-mailed them to find out (just for the heck of it). On the bottle, it does note that the wine is from grapes from their Palisades estate vineyards. The alcohol content is 18%. The tasting notes on the bottle indicate sweet blackberry fruit, but I found this to be much richer and less sweet than it may have been. I found more dark cherries and very pleasant smoky notes, with licorice, dark fruits, and a mild sweetness. It had a richness as you might expect in a port, but not the richness of a port (maybe because the grape was different? Hmmmm).

All in all, great to have a friend like this! Thanks, Mike!

Posted in California Wines, Ports & Sherry | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Symphonie: A Galliac Wine

Posted by fromagebob on June 12, 2009

The day before we left Galliac, we stopped at a wine shop to try some wine. It had been recommended by Patricia, our hostess at La Bastide de Servidou. I like Galliac wines; they’re rustic but tasty, and very pleasant. Not expensive, and a great everyday wine. They’re impossible to find in the US, although I am trying, and – to my great distress – being in the region during a holiday, and getting Napolean’s Revenge on the only day we might have tasted just bummed me out.

However, all was not lost, as we drove into Galliac on our way back from Cordes sur Ciel. The shop is owned by a winemaker, and the tastings were of his wines. They were actually quite good, but quite tannic, which is a characteristic of Galliac wines. Myriam did not like them, but I thought they had possibilities. We bought a bottle of a more mellow wine to have with dinner, and a white that Myriam liked, and started to leave, when I remembered that Patricia had given us a coupon for a free bottle of wine.

Back I ran, and was handed a bottle of Symphonie, a white wine by Alain Gayrel. We opened in the other day with some food Myriam picked up from Daily Bread, the middle-eastern restaurant we like. I knew that Riesling was a good pairing, but figured – given the whites we had tried in France – that my Symphonie might prove up to the challenge. I was right.

The wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Mauzac, 50-50. It had a bright yellow-gold color, and a vibrant flavor. If I had to pick something close it would be a tangy Pinot Gris. The wine had the influence of the Sauvignon Blanc, but was a little fruiter and sweet, but not too sweet. There was a hint of grapefruit and citrus, but also a fleshy fruit – perhaps under-ripe peaches. I was hard pressed to pinpoint. The finish was nice, and it really went well with the food. We had spinach pie, kibbeh, labneh, hummus, and baba ganoush, with pita bread.

Gayrel’s Domaines are Les Meritz and Vigné-Laurec. He also makes Galliac reds, blending Braucol, Merlot, Syrah, and Durus. Didn’t try those, but I wouldn’t mind!

Mauzac: According to Jancis Robinsons Oxford Companion to Wine, the Mauzac grape is grown in Galliac and Limoux. It is a traditional grape of both areas, and is usually blended with Len de l’lel in Galliac, and with Chenin and Chardonnay in Limoux. Mauzac ripens latem and was traditionally picked late in the season, but is now picked earlier, giving it fewer flavors and more acidity. The grape is especially suited for sparkling wines. The grape is perhaps best known as one of the components of Blanquette de Limoux sparkling wine, which has been produced since about 1530.

Posted in French Wine, Galliac Region, Wine | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Galliac Region

Posted by fromagebob on May 16, 2009

I’m giving up on the day by day tracking, mostly because I keep forgetting what we did when (or when we did what…). Figure it’ll be easier on my brane if I random post – not much sense in order anyway! So: I don’t remember when I heard about the Galliac region of France; it was a few years ago. I hadn’t tried any of their wines until about three years ago, when we walked to a small wine shop/bistro near Paulo’s apartment. Its name is Au Noveau Nez

The proprietor is great. She speaks English, and is very knowledgeable about her wines; she specializes in what I like to call “off-track” wines from around France – like Galliac and Vaunage (a small wine region near Nages) . When we visited the first time, I think she had a bottle of Galliac open for us to try, and I liked it, so I bought a bottle or two to take home. It was quite nice. More rustic than the refined brands, and a little more tannic, but I liked it. I tried to find in Miami, but the response to the question “do you have any wines from Galliac?” was “from where?” So I had to wait until the next trip to buy. I still have one bottle in the cooler and added two more from this trip. I learned a lesson – ask about local holidays occurring around the time you are travelling to a remote area!

Anyway… our trip to Toulouse came from a suggestion from Uncle Paulo, who was originally planning to come with us, but weaseled out at some point. We decided to make the trek anyway. His recommendation was to stay in Toulouse, but when we visited the Loire a couple years ago, we had such a nice time at a bed-and-breakfast in a Chateau, we decided to take that route. By process of elimination, we ended up in the middle of the Galliac region, smack in the middle of the vineyards (see my posting on Servidou). When I realized where we were going to end up, I figured on tasting my butt off in the area, but didn’t figure on two factors: the Ascension and a touch of Napolean’s Revenge. Ended up not being able to taste much at all, other than the wines we had at dinner.

The vines were just sprouting their spring leaves. The vineyard next to the chateau looked kind of strange – the rootstock looked rather old, but there was only one level of trellis above the vine. I wasn’t sure if they had grafted new growth or if there was some strange Galliac custom, so I asked the proprietor of the Chateau. Turns out that the vineyard next door did machine harvesting, so they trained the grapes to grow on one level so that the machine could “pick” the grapes. Other vineyards had the traditional trellis or the free-growth standard that I was familiar with.

I decided to do a little checking; Patricia (the proprietor) told us that this was an ancient wine region, one of the first in France. According to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion, the region does have historic importance, and dates back to ancient Gaul, when the Romans planted the Languedoc and Galliac regions (the weren’t called that back then, obviously). Apparently, there’s some legitimate historical debate as to which region is older, and Galliac has some strong evidence that it is the older of the two. They have established that wine production in the area was well established around 1 AD, but historically, it may be that wine production in the area pre-dates Roman conquest. According to Robinson, Galliac was probably producing wines before Bordeaux; war and other factors curbed production until the 10th century (not sure when it was curbed…). She says that the wines were highly prized locally and in Northern Europe, especially in England. The tax man got involved (Bordeaux) which killed off their export trade.

Trade picked up again until the Albigensian (Cathar) Crusades in the 12th century, but the wines were popular again in England in the 16th century. Apparently there were considered more “robust” than the wimpy Bordeaux plonk <g>. Galliac wines were primarily used for blending through the 19th century when phylloxera wiped out most of the vines. According to Patricia, quality and quirkiness also played a part in the 20th century to keep the wines down. They were considered inferior in quality, and they were bottled in non-standard bottles which caused problems with packing and shipping, so Paris wine merchants wouldn’t buy them. No second source on that, but it sounds reasonable!

Today, the region has undergone a transformation, in that the producers are paying more attention to quality (and using normal bottles). I’ve tried quite a few of their wines, and found almost all to be quite decent. They are more robust than their more refined cousins, and definitely more tannic, but the rustic quality and local flavor make them quite enjoyable.

The white wine grapes in the region (again quoting Robinson) include Mauzac, which gives wines with a strong apple peel aroma, Len De L’El, a grape that produces low acid wine and is often blended with locally grown Sauvignon, and Ondenc, used in sweet wines. Ondenc is also one of the permitted Bordeaux varietals, although it is not widely grown. They also grow Semillon and Muscadelle.

The red grapes include Duras, and Fer Servadou. More recently, Gamay, Merlot, and Cabernets have been grown. Red Galliac wines require that Durus and Fer comprise 40% of a Galliac red.

The region also makes a sparkling wine using the Mauzac, by methode gaillacoise.

One of the cooperatives in the area is Cave de Labastide, which was the label on one of the better wines we tried. Unfortunately the bottle got tossed out before I could copy down the actual name; we wanted to try to find that specific wine because it was so good. We tracked down the shop where the coop sold their wines on our way out of the region, but they were closed on Monday. Ah, fate! There are more than 100 vineyards in the area. Here’s some links to a few:

Chateau Clement Termes

Chateau de Mayragues

Domaine de Pialentou

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