Alright, here's the deal:
If you've read anything from me, or even just my bio, you know that I came by my love of wine through a different route than is typical it seems. I didn't grow up in a family of wine drinkers, or even really have any exposure to it. Although thinking back on it, my grandfather always loved a good glass of Cabernet and would often randomly break into a slurred version of 'John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt' at the table...Hmm...Perhaps they were connected...Anyways, when I started my job at a small local wine and spirits shop in a suburb south of Nashville, I had no idea what I was doing. As I like to say, "I was pretty sure a Cab was red, but I wasn't 100% sure..."
Fast forward a few years and here I am uncovering a passion I never knew existed inside of me. Somewhere along the way I fell in love with learning about wine, teaching others about wine, and of course, drinking wine. In fact, the whole reason I started this thing was because I wanted a platform to teach people that you don't need a fancy upbringing, or tons of money and twelve course, white glove meals in order to love, appreciate, and be knowledgeable about wine! It's like the old saying goes, 'In Vino Veritas,' or in amERican, 'In wine there is truth,' and really, isn't truth for everyone, not just the social elite? Ok, I get it, I'm definitely stretching the meaning of that, but you get what I'm saying.
Ok, enough blithering about my rags to riches story, or really my story of rags to wine soaked rags, because let's be honest, there ain't no riches here! Today I want to tell you about one of my very favorite companies that has cropped up in the last year or so, a company called Love & Exile Wines
Love & Exile is an East Nashville based company started by Tyler Alkins, and a few other silent partners. I first met Tyler and heard his story when he walked into the shop that I work at to taste us on his wines and see if we wanted to start carrying them. His story is amazing and I'm sure I'm going to butcher it, so I'm just going to give you the abbreviated version and tell you to go in and talk to him yourself for the full story, but here are the essential bits of how this company came to be:
Tyler hails from Vancouver, BC but has lived in the states for several years. At a certain point the US said, (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Hey, time's up, get the hell out." Tyler, not wanting to get the hell out, figured out that he could stay if he started a business. (Insert montage of sleepless nights and Rocky esque jogs while Tyler thought this over.) Finally he had it. He loved wine, and was due to be exiled. A few calls, and some story boarding later, and boom, Love & Exile was born. Ok, cool story bro, but what is it? Good question, and here's where I really fell in love with the brand.
Love & Exile strives to bring wine to the people, and to take the stigma out of it. While they are based in Nashville, and do make a very small amount of wine themselves, their main focus is with partnering with various wine growers around the world, who produce the wine, and then ship it to Tyler and his team, who then bottle it and partner with local Nashville artists to do the labels! They currently work with growers in France, Chile, California, and Italy.
The whole company has an almost guerrilla feel to it. In a similar way to how Banksy took street art and elevated it, Tyler and his team are taking graffiti, concrete, and all things industrial and gritty, and infusing it with the prestige of world class fine wines.
From their labels, which are adorned with literal graffiti art, and images of women with tousled hair smoking cigarettes, to the very artwork on the walls of Nashville Urban Winery; their brick and mortar restaurant and bar that accompanies the retail side of the business.
As if Urban Wineries and Graffiti labels weren't enough, Love & Exile are also breaking into a trend that has started to sweep the nation. In addition to the standard glass bottles we've all grown to love and appreciate, they are also making the wine available in cans! Now you've heard me talk about drinking wine out of plastic cups, or coffee mugs, or doing whatever necessary to 'wine as you are,' and what better way to enjoy wine at a music festival, or the beach, or the pool, or while walking the dog, than out of a can!
So to sum it up, Love & Exile is exploding onto the scene with world class wines, and a 'no shits given' attitude to start the process of tearing down the walls of hoity-toity mentalities and holier than thou demeanors that have permeated the wine world for decades, AND I AM LOVING IT!
So head into your local wine shops and ask for any of Love & Exile's numerous products, or push to have your local shop bring them into your market. Help Tyler and his team grow by following them on Instagram and Facebook, and by telling the world about this company. If you happen to be a part of the lucky few to call yourselves Nashville locals, then head on into Nashville Urban Winery for a brick oven pizza, and a glass of kick ass wine. As always, wine as you are, and drink on!
Warm weather was made for adventures!
Whether you're talking about a precocious six year old and his tiger best friend, or a scrubby tom boy from Maycomb, Alabama, for a kid, there are no truer words than those that the late American Novelist Harper Lee put down to paper in her 1960 classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. In that one sentence she was able to capture the spirit of adventure and excitement that every child longed for at the end of the school year.
As a child, summer time meant riding bikes from dawn 'til dusk; it meant sticky hands from juicy slices of watermelon; it meant the intoxicating aroma of charcoal grills and sizzling hot dogs. Summertime was made for sleepovers, and pool parties; it was made for romping through the woods and rope swings into rivers. It was made for adventures.
There was the summer when one of the older neighbor boys and his friends decided to make a full scale catapult, and upon it's completion there were endless water balloon battles for at least a week.
There was the phase, right around 1992 when the movie Last Of The Mohicans, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, came out where our groups were rarely seen wearing shirts, were always covered in mud and could usually be found by following our attempts at war cries as we trekked through the forrest "tracking wild animals," or "preparing an ambush" for the make believe armies that were making their way through our lands.
The early to mid 1990's were a great time to be a kid. The internet hadn't really infiltrated homes yet, so people still knew how to use their imagination, and being bored was just a part of the adventure. The influx of helicopter parents wasn't quite in full swing yet either, so not seeing your children for hours at a time was accepted. I remember my family had a big brass bell that hung on our porch that you could hear almost anywhere in the neighborhood, and when it was time to come home my mom would ring it and we'd have to come running. Those were simpler times, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.
OK, OK, we get that childhood was great, now get to the wine!
I call it, the wine walk. I'm sure if you have kids, or if you're simply like me and don't need an "appropriate time" for wine then you are familiar with this. It's pretty simple really, and it can be done alone, with your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, or with a group of your favorite people! All you need is a delicious bottle of wine, a beautiful evening (or afternoon if you're feeling particularly feisty) and your favorite incognito cup! It sounds too easy right?! There's something about a warm evening, with fireflies floating around, and the smell of distant charcoal flames that will ignite your soul again, and the danger of walking through the neighborhood with alcohol in your cup should spark up that little bit of danger you've been missing.
You'll wave to the crazy neighbor lady who is still pulling weeds well after dark and smile to yourself because you know whats in your cup. And as street lights begin to flip on you'll feel a sort of kinship to them, because you too are slightly buzzing at that point.
So she threw a bottle of white wine in the fridge to be nicely chilled by the time I arrived, and we filled up our cups and walked. It was so rejuvenating to just be with her, sipping wine and laughing as we meandered through the neighborhoods hand in hand. It was our own little adult adventure, and it was just what we needed. So do yourself a favor, carve a few minutes out of your busy lives, grab the hand of the person you love, and go for a walk with your favorite wine, you can thank me later! As always, drink on!
P.S. I know I didn't actually tell you about a wine in this one, it was just a reminder that wine doesn't always have to be in a fancy glass around a four course meal! I'll do another post very soon covering the wine we had on our walk though, I promise!
Before I get into anything, can we all just take a second to look at that picture from Wine Folly?! This picture is looking over some vineyards in the Rioja (Ree-Oh-Ha) region in northern Spain. The red coloration is actually the color of the leaves on the vines in the fall. Yep...My world here in Nashville pales in comparison to that!
Ok, let's get into the good stuff here!
Incase you haven't picked it up yet, I'm mildly obsessed with Spanish, and Italian wines first and foremost. I will rarely turn down any wine, but those are my go-to wines. If you were to ask me what my true loves are in the wine world I would tell you this: "I love earthy, old world Spanish and Italian reds that stick with you and kind of make your teeth feel fuzzy." I love the idea of not just tasting the fruit in the wine, but the earth and soil that brought it into being. I love smelling a wine for the first time and being perplexed by new scents that help me travel to places I've never been to, if only in my mind.
One of the first wines I had that really made me stop and wonder "What is this succulent nectar of the gods?!" (Because, you know...I talk like that and stuff.) was a Spanish wine called Rio Madre.
Rio Madre is a really cool expression of a grape that we get hints of fairly often, but rarely in it's full glory like this. The grape is called Graciano (Grah-See-Ah-No) and, much like the Concejon that we saw in Pi, Graciano is a grape that produces very low yields and is typically just used as a blending grape. You will often times find small amounts of this grape blended with grapes like Tempranillo to add body, structure, perfume, and better aging potential. Because of it's slightly fickle nature, and generally low yields, this grape is susceptible to disease and rot, and so finding a wine like Rio Madre that is all Graciano is really a treat!
So, if it's so unstable, why is it around?
Well, that's simple, because it's delicious, and it's a true connection to the old world styles that we try to keep alive. But it doesn't exist without a lot of hard work. These grapes are hand harvested, and put into small baskets. They are then brought to small tables called "triage tables" where more people sort through the bunches, again, by hand, looking for any bruising or imperfections that could potentially taint the wine. Only the healthiest, ripest fruit makes the cut. From there Ana Escudero, the female winemaker whose family has been making wines in Rioja for generations, works her magic and turns those beautiful grapes into something you and I can get at our local wine store for around $10-15!
If it weren't for amazing winemakers like Ana, this grape may slip back into the annals of history. But thanks to Ana and a few others, Graciano is making a comeback, and I for one love it!
Ok, ok, but what's it like??
I want you to picture walking down a dusty road in the Spanish countryside. If you need to pull up google for some inspiration feel free. On either side of you there are fields that stretch on for miles. It seems like the only thing containing these seas of grass and vineyards is the mountains in the distance, but even those are struggling to contain it. A breeze blows in and it smells ancient. Like that same wind has been circling the globe for centuries, and every now and then it brings you the scent of those who have passed a long time ago.
As you kick up the dust on the road I want you to picture how many legions of Spanish, or Roman soldiers have kicked up that same dust. Maybe you hear sheep or cattle in the distance. You keep walking down that road, with the sun blazing hot on your back, an ocean of blue sky above you, and the rich coffee colored dust starting to coat your shoes. You approach a small castle (because Europe is awesome and just has those things scattered around.) Outside the walls of this castle is a rustic, old wooden table with two chairs, and on it sits a bottle of wine with two glasses. You and your companion sit down and rest your feet and start to uncork the bottle. As you pour it into your partner's glass you take in the rich, dark color of this wine. The complex aromas of spice, cedar, and black current swirl into your nostrils, carried by that same ancient wind.
You pour your own glass and breath it in. As the wine spills across your tongue, you taste the beauty and history you just walked through to get there.
Now I realize that's a pretty picture, and it sounds all well and good but what does it really mean to taste "ancient winds, and the dust of centuries?" Like I said before, this wine is deep and rich. It's color is a heavy, dark crimson. It's a medium-full bodied wine, but still very drinkable on it's own, or at least I think so, but that's not saying much. I'll drink pretty much anything on it's own! When I say that this wine is "earthy" I truly mean that. Not that it just tastes like dirt, but there is a distinct "dirtiness" that is inherent to most old world wines. It's hard to describe, so I recommend you going out and just trying it for yourself. It's flavor is bursting with dark plum, and current. Red cherries, and a woody spice flow nicely through it, and it finishes with a nice, peppery, woody spice and strong tannins that (like I love so much) kind of leave your teeth feeling just a little bit fuzzy.
Now, I've never been to Spain, but I still feel like I get a taste of it every time I pop a bottle of this! So head to your local wine shop and pick up a bottle of Rio Madre, and I'll see you in Spain! Drink on!
(You know I had to throw some movie reference in here somewhere right?!)
Ok, I want you to think back to your childhood for a minute...
You walk into the lunch room, brown paper bag in hand. You scan the room, looking for the perfect seat, find it, and settle in. Everyone is busy dumping out the contents of their bags on the table. You overhear someone mockingly reading the note someone else's mom had packed in with their lunch that said something like, "Go get em' tiger, mommy loves you!" Across the way you hear a girl scream because some boy (who probably had a crush on her) was pretending he had a scrambled brain sandwich with extra oozy bits, when in actuality it was probably egg salad or something. Someone else gets hit in the back of the head with a pretzel that was hurled across the room, it's culinary chaos of the best kind.
Then you dump out your own brown bag to find the same thing you get everyday: a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, crust still on because your mom isn't into wasting food, a little ziplock bag with some half stale potato chips, mostly crumbs because it was the end of the bag, a miniature bottled water, and the last item, the one you were hoping for, a single pack of dinosaur shaped fruit snacks!
Now, you're not particularly in love with fruit snacks, but it's what every kid needs in a lunch bag, if only for one very important reason, the trade.
You scan the table looking for something else you'd rather have than your boring bag of blah sitting in front of you. Then you see it. Gleaming...Shimmering under the flickering glow of fluorescent bulbs. That shiny silver packaging, the bright yellow straw...The Capri Sun. The perfect thing to wash down your oh-so-boring lunch. So you work up the nerve and catch it's owner's eye and utter those magic words, "You wanna trade?"
Ok, come back to me now...
That was fun right? A nice little trip down memory lane? So what's the point? I'm glad you asked! What would you say is the adult equivalent of the lunchroom story I just told? Well, probably a lot of things, but let's focus on the always loved cookout. It's a mingling of friends, coworkers, random neighbors you've never met, and poorly trained pets stealing food off the table. Someone brings some generic brand hot dogs to throw on the grill, someone else maybe brought a six pack of assorted beers they didn't want to drink that's been sitting in their fridge for way too long, but you...You brought Electric Rosé Wine Pouches!
These things are an active, social wine drinker's dream. Going to the pool and can't have glass? No problem, they're literally a juice box! Floating down the river in a kayak and don't want to fumble around with glassware? No problem, again, they're literally a juice box! Getting all dressed up for a fancy night out and don't want to spill on your nice clothes, or risk staining your teeth? No problem because it has a straw, and OMG IT'S LITERALLY A JUICE BOX!
So, what are these things? Well, incase for some odd reason you haven't figured it out yet, they are juice boxes...Filled with wine! Ok, ok we get it. But what does it taste like? I'll be honest, my expectation for juice box wine wasn't very high. I mean, come on, can anything that comes in a pouch (besides baby kangaroos) really be that good? In a word: Yes.
While I don't know the exact grapes that are in there, I can tell you that it is a dry rosé, done in a very traditional style, meaning it's not a sugary fruit bomb. This is a true, honest to god, dry rosé from a pouch.
In addition to just making a cool, delicious product, Electric Rosé is committed to helping better our world. They do this first by, again, making a freaking adult juice box, c'mon now! Secondly, they do this by partnering with an charity called water2wines.org where a portion of all sales go to helping provide clean, sustainable water to people all around the world.
So do yourself, and really the world, a favor by bringing Electric Rosé to your next pool party, day at the lake, or cookout. Stab that little straw into the pouch and just wait, because pretty soon I guarantee you'll be hearing those magic words, "Wanna trade?" (Don't worry, they come six to a pack, so you can keep drinking yours and have enough to go around!)
So before I delve into who this awesome guy is, let me first tell you that we've actually talked about one of his other wines before. If you all remember a few posts ago I talked about a wine called Pi, (you can read it here if not) that was his baby as well! So we already have a good taste in our mouths for this guy!
I'm going to talk briefly about another one of my favorites from him called Siendra, but first I want to give you a little backstory on this guy, because, like you've heard me say before, wine is liquid story telling, and sometimes it's nice to get a little history on the story teller.
So Who Is This Guy?
Christophe Chapillon was born and raised in Tours, which sits in the Loire Valley in Central France. Anyone who has even scratched the surface of french wine will recognize this name as a prime place for wine. So he's essentially got it in his blood from the get go. When Christophe was 16 years old he moved to the region of Spain called Aragon, where he still lives. In 2006 he started making the world a little better by bringing us delicious wines. They are primarily classic Spanish wines, with a very French influence, which is really cool to see, and especially to drink! For a list of his wines you can check him out here, and start to go hunt them down! They tend to be relatively inexpensive, but drink like a much more pricey bottle!
Ok, so there's your ten thousand foot view: a Frenchman, living in Spain, making delicious wines for the world to guzzle.
Now On To The Wine!
I started my research (after having had many bottles over the past two or so years of course) by trying to do some research on what the name Siendra meant, and here's the first thing that popped up, "A very spiritual person who often relies on intuition for decision making...Your mind is rich and deep...You sometimes need seclusion to gain clarity...This however does not make you a person that is hard to get along with. On the contrary you have many talents and can always tell what others are feeling.." (www.meaningslike.com) Now I know what you're thinking, "Who the heck are you quoting?" and "that is talking about a person not a wine, " blah, blah, blah...I know, I get it and agree. However, I'm going to use it because it actually has a lot of parallels with how I view this wine. Plus, you never know, maybe Chapillon uses that website for all this wines...Though I highly doubt it.
But c'mon, look at that label alone. If that doesn't scream rich and deep, and somewhat brooding and aloof, then I don't know what does.
And when it comes to drinking this wine it does not disappoint. There's something for everyone in this bottle.
Siendra (See-En-Drah) is a blend of several grapes, most of which we've either covered before, or should be pretty familiar to you. It's primarily Garnacha (Gar-Nah-Cha) (which is the same as Grenache) with a little bit of Cab, Merlot, and Syrah in there as well!
Ok, so we know it's dark and brooding, and has a few different grapes in it, but so what? What does that mean when the rubber hits the road, or the wine hits the glass, or whatever you wanna say.
Now, I don't want to pigeon hole you into anything here because this wine is always good, any time of the year (and I drink it as such), but to me, it screams fall. Let me liken it to something we can all relate to: Let's take the movie Die Hard, the first one. Everyone knows it's a Christmas movie, probably the best Christmas movie in fact. (If you don't believe me, just ask Entertainment Weekly ) Anyways, that movie is great anytime of the year, but it screams Christmas! In the same way, Siendra can be enjoyed year round, but it is just begging to be drank out of a mug, while huddled around a bonfire. The temperature isn't quite cold, but you might be shivering a little if you didn't have a hoodie, and some wine to warm you up. There's the smell of smoke in the air, the stars are bright above you, and the leaves crunch in such a satisfying way as you walk back to the fire after refilling your mug. Maybe there are others there who aren't drinking wine, but you're ok with it because you smell the beautiful aromas of apples, cinnamon, and clove coming from the cider in their mugs.
This. This is Siendra. It's all of fall in a sip.
Tilt your mug towards the flickering firelight and you'll see the rich black cherry color faintly glimmering back at you. Raise it to your lips and you'll experience a thousand sensations of dark cherry, black current, subtle hints of dark chocolate and maybe even some deep espresso notes, in addition to the lingering spice that the Garnacha and Syrah bring to the table. The smoldering logs on the fire in front of you will draw you deeper into the oak that this wine is aged in, giving it a full body, and a slightly woody finish that is highlighted with smoke and spices peeking through.
Now, I don't know if Chapillon had camp fires, Die Hard, or autumnal foliage in mind when he was crafting this masterpiece, but isn't that the beauty of art, that it can evoke a different urge, or feeling in everyone?
I'm going to wrap this up with a quote from author Ray Bradbury from 1996. Ray says, "The good writers touch life often, the mediocre ones run a quick hand over her, the bad ones rape her and leave her to the flies."
I think it's safe to say that if we translate this from writing to the art of winemaking, it's clear that Christophe Chapillon is touching life again and again in a beautiful way, a way we can all experience, enjoy, and appreciate.
Yippe Ki Yay mother...I mean...Drink On!
Yeah, you read that right, a wine for all times!
So we're just going to dive into this one because it's delicious and worth just diving straight in!
The wine I'm talking about is called a Montepulciano (Mahn-Tay-Pull-Chee-Ah-No) and it's phenomenal for the summer months (and the winter, spring, and fall months as well!)
Today I am going to focus on this beauty, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, Gru (The Crane). So let's refer back to our post on Barbera and how when we see "D' " on an Italia wine, it will tell us where it's from, so here we know this wine is the grape Montepulciano from the region of Abruzzo! See? It's easy once you get the hang of it!
The grape in this case is Montepulciano, and it is grown pretty widely over most of central and southern Italy. It is the second most widely produced grape there, falling behind our good ol' friend Sangeovese.
Montepulciano can be heavy, deep and rich, but can also be, like this one here, a sunny afternoon relaxing in the Italian countryside, but in liquid form.
This particular wine is light, fresh, and refreshing. It pours a bright, crimson red. To give you an idea for the body of it, think of it as similar to a Pinot Noir; on the lighter side but not super thin. Getting to the title of this post, this is a wine that Italians will drink morning, noon, or night. I'll cover the second two before I delve into the fun you can have with breakfast wine, because, yes, you really can have breakfast wine!
Because of it's lighter quality, and slight fruitiness up front, this wine is perfect for picnics with little triangle sandwiches, or fresh fruit, or cheese, or whatever you bring on a picnic. Who knows, maybe you're someone who prefers rice and stew on your picnics, I don't judge. Either way. My two second summation of people looking at this wine at the shop I work at is "It is light and softly fruity up front, with low acidity, an ever so slight herbal undertone, and a super smooth finish." For an average of around $11 it's a great bottle!
Now onto dinner: The cool thing about this wine is that despite it's low tannins and fruit forward qualities, it has enough body and structure that it can still just as easily hold up to things like pork, veal, and even various cuts of beef.
Ok now the part we've been waiting for, breakfast wine! I want to preface this by saying I learned about this from one of the wine makers, and representatives for this company, so if an Italian man told me this is has to be true right?!
This wine is perfect for doing late morning spritzers! He was telling me how even construction workers will often take a break around 10am and do a 50/50 mix of this particular wine, and sprite, or some other lemon-lime soda. We tried it together and oh my word it is amazing! I won't go into this in depth right now but the reason this particular wine is good for this (because you CAN'T do this with many wines and have it be delicious) is because of the particular way in which the wine is made called Carbonic Maceration. I know, that's a big, scary, fancy word, bear with me. Carbonic Maceration is just a fancy way to say they don't crush the grapes right away. They are harvested, and then put whole into a large vat and left to sit for a while. Some of the grapes on the bottom will be slightly crushed as gravity plays it's part, but for the most part the grapes just sit there. What happens is that the juice inside will start to ferment inside the skins. The finished product has very low tannins, decent acidity, but needs to be drank soon because it doesn't have the fortitude to age for very long.
However, despite it's lack of aging ability, the low amount of tannins and bitterness, mixed with the bright acidity make it perfect for morning cocktails!
So go out to your local wine shop and look for Gru for all your summer drinking!
Drink on my friends!
Falanghina, il mio amore...
This is a fun one! This is one of the first white wines I fell in love with way back when I was still trying to figure out if Cabernet was red or white. As you can probably tell by now if you've been following this blog, I like versatility in wines. I love wines that can be drunk on their own, or with food, or out of a plastic cup on the beach! I love stocking my wine rack at home with crowd pleasers.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get at work is for a "good recommendation for a wine, but I don't know what they like..." If it's red, my go to is usually Flaco, which I've talked about before on here, for a white, it's this one: Falanghina, from Gran Passione.
Ok, I know I just threw some crazy words at you, so let's dig into them! First off, the company, or brand of wine is Gran Passione, they put out some phenomenal Italian wines at really good prices, look for them at your local wine shop. Now for the funky word, the grape, Falanghina (Fal-In-Gee-Nuh).
This is what's considered an "Ancient Grape" and has it's roots in some of the earliest Roman wines. Originally brought over from Greece, grape is almost exclusively now grown in southern Italy on the coast of Campania, just north of Naples. If you were picturing Italy in your mind, it would be the lower "shin" of the boot.
This wine, because of it's high acidity and strong minerality on the finish, goes great with seafood, which is kind of ironic for me to love it, because I dislike pretty much all seafood. I know, I know, you can all be mad at me now...
So What's It Like?
The way I describe this wine to anyone is that if a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio, and an Unoaked Chardonnay had a baby, it would be this grape. It has intense floral and bitter citrus notes on the nose. Think orange blossom and some peach and grapefruit. The color is a beautiful straw yellow, with ever so slight hints of grassy greens peaking through.
The reason I describe it as a combination of those three grapes is because it starts off on the palate very similarly to a New Zealand Sauv Blanc. It has a strong acidic tartness, that almost pricks that point in the back of your jaw. From there you'll notice it's not too heavy at all, but definitely not thin. (you can refer back to my description of mouth feel in my post here) The mouth feel reminds me of a Pinot Grigio. Then the finish...You have to finish strong, and Falanghina does...It is the perfect balance of crisp, tart, acidic, and refreshing, with that characteristic minerality you find in most wines grown in very rocky, volcanic soil. The finish to me is reminiscent of the cleanness of an Unoaked Chardonnay.
So there you have it, a little something for everyone. If people like a fruitier wine, this wine has enough fruity, floral notes to satisfy. If someone likes something with a lot of complexity and character, this wine definitely has it. If someone likes something on the dryer, crisper side, yep, still got it here!
So the next time you need a great white wine for sitting by the pool, or for snacking on some ousters (gross) or that goes well with a nice pasta with cream sauce, or heck, even pizza, grab a bottle of Falanghina, you won't be disappointed.
The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the wine flows freely for teachers and parents alike! This is the time of year that we as decent human beings look forward to exploration. For kids this looks like tree forts and sand castles; for adults, a time to try some new wines while the kids are busy building tree forts and sand castles...
As I write this I am sitting on the back patio looking out over the yard. Banjo (my dog) is laying in the sun sprawled out and panting with a big stupid grin on his face. The sweet smells, of charcoal and sizzling meats waft into my nose from somewhere down the street. I am debating on sparking up the grill myself to throw something on, it just seems like the right thing to do.
Van Morrison's Astral Weeks plays softly through my computer speakers as I refill my glass. With what you ask? Ah...My friends, well that brings us to the point of this whole thing. Today we sip on one of my favorite Italian treasures, a wine that has risen through the ranks over the years. Hailing from the upper portion of Italy called Piedmont, I'm talking about a liquid gem referred to as Barbera D' Asti.
Let's Talk About It!
Barbera (Bar-Bare-Uh) is a grape that is planted all over the northern region of Italy. The "D'Asti" portion tells us exactly where it comes from. As a general rule, whenever you see D' on an Italian bottle, you are about to find out where the heck it is from. So let's take our bottle here and break it down: Barbera D'Asti is telling us that the grape is a Barbera, and it is from (or of) the Asti region.
Now, you will find Barbera from all over Piedmont, but the cream of the crop so to speak, general come from one of three different places, the three A's if you will: Asti, Alba, or Alessandria, all located in the southern half of the Piedmont region.
Barbera is a very pleasant wine, not only to drink, but to look at, I mean come on, look at that color! If it were a crayon it would be called something like "Cherry bomb," or "hooker lips" or "Firetruck explosion," something like that! (Side note: please excuse all the smudges and fingerprints on my glass, but hey, #wineasyouare right?!)
Ok, so now that I've successfully worked the phrase "hooker lips" into my wine blog, I feel like we can move on...Let's talk about what this baby is like!
On The Nose:
I get a burst of fresh spiced cherries, and a little bit of earthiness, like moss or something. If moss came in cherry flavor, it would be this smell. However, this wine is aged solely in stainless steel tanks, so all the earthiness comes from the soil it's grown in, which is cool. You are literally smelling Italy from wherever you are sitting.
On The Tongue:
Oof...I wish you were drinking this with me right now...When you go out and buy a bottle (which you really should) come back and read this part again so it'll be like we're drinking together!
This is an initial explosion of bright red fruits like cherries, raspberries, and cranberries. Let it sit in your mouth and kind of roll it around and you will get subtle hints of clove, and anise as you work it across your tongue.
It finishes very sharp and acidic; picture taking a sip of cranberry juice, where you get that slight little tingle, and it hits you in the back of the jaw. Not sour per say, but that faint little tingle at the very edge of your jaw. This is partly due to the fact that Barbera is a grape very high in acidity, and partly due to those steel tanks I mentioned earlier. Think about it this way: if you took a spoon and tapped the outside of a big wooden barrel what would happen? You'd get a heavy, dull thud right? Now take that same spoon and tap a beer keg. You'd get a loud, metallic twang that would echo and reverberate for a little bit. Well that's basically what's happening in your mouth. When you age a wine in an oak barrel you get a heavy, deep, solemn flavor profile. However, when you age in stainless steel, you age the wine for a much shorter period of time, and you are left with a bright, rich, light and fresh 'twang' of a finish! Pretty cool huh? I think so.
Do to the medium-light body, high acidity, and stainless aging, this wine is a great summer wine that can go with everything from fresh fruit, to brats, to pizza, to cheese, and so on and so on. You can even put a little chill on this and enjoy it while you're writing on a sunny day on the patio and your dog basks in the sun!
Anyways, that's my two cents. Go buy some Barbera and wine as you are my friends, wine as you are! As always, drink on!
I like puns and stupid jokes, so get used to that.
If I can make you roll your eyes with a blog title then I feel I've accomplished everything I wanted to.
We're jumping back into great wines that seem intimidating because they have unfamiliar words with little squiggles over letters and such, but I assure you, they're not all as daunting as they seem.
First off, I hope you are used to european wines being named after the region by now, because this one is no different. Côtes du Rhône translates to "Sides of the Rhone," which makes sense because...Well, the vineyards are located on the hills that line the Rhone river. Simple enough right?
Snaking it's way through southern France, the Rhone has seen it's share of History. From the Celts of early Gaul, to the Roman Empire (duh, those guys took over everything) in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, to the France we know and love today.
So it makes sense that the wine too would have a complex and storied past. It's a story that tells of sweeping winds, and sun soaked hills. It tells of popes and Caesars, of blights and thriving harvests alike. And while I wish I could go into all of that, I'm not going to. You can Google it on your own if you're so inclined.
Côtes du Rhônes are blends of anywhere up to about 20 different grape varietals, however the main ones that you'll find are Grenache (Gren-Osh), Syrah (Seer-Ah), and Mourvedre (Move-Ed-Drah) which you will often see abbreviated as a GSM. Cinsault (Sin-So) is another one you will commonly find in Rhone wines.
Depending on where in the Rhone Valley the vineyard is located, you will find a higher concentration of one grape or another. This is simply because the Terroir of the different areas lend themselves better to one grape or another. (For a quick overview of what Terroir is, take a look back at my earlier post on Cahors)
So for example: The northern portion of the Rhone valley does better with Syrah grapes, so wines from there will have a higher concentration of that. However, in the southern portion, grapes like Grenache, and Cinsault do better, so there may be a higher concentration of these in the wine. It's not a hard and fast rule but it's an easy way to impress your friends and make you sound smart. ("Oh, I see this Cotes Du Rhone you brought is 70% Syrah, it must be from the northing region..." People will either think you're super smart...Or just a prick...So use good judgement when pulling out this info in front of people.)
So here's the deal. There are so dang many different wines, that are all their own unique beast when it comes to Rhones. So instead of trying to delve into them all, or to try to make a really broad blanket statement about what they taste like, I'm just going to talk about one, and then challenge you to start going out and trying others to see what you like and don't like. I think this is the first time I'm officially giving you homework!
NOW THE WINE:
I'm going to tell you briefly about one of my favorites for under $15. The wine is Famille Perrin Réserve Cótes Du Rhóne and it's awesome! It's a medium bodied, full flavored, high-five you when you need it kind of wine! The kind of wine that makes you say things like "Yee-Haw!" and "Hot damn!" and all kinds of other exciting southern sounding things! ...Alright I'll level with you, I probably haven't ever said any of those things when I drank this, but I sure felt them. This is a situation where you pour a glass and get ready to smile.
Personally I love this wine with BBQ, but I also live in Nashville, so I probably just like a lot of things with BBQ. It has that rich, deep red that you want to melt into, and sensual dark fruit notes, with a little bit of vanilla and spice...and a hint of earthiness on the finish that makes it pair so well with some smoked pork, or slow cooked brisket, and a tangy sauce with a little kick to it. Truth be told I'm writing this at 9:30pm and kind of skipped dinner, so I'm hungry and not helping myself out right now...
I like this wine because it's so classically French. While it has a fancy name that's hard to say, and complex flavors that bring to mind gondola rides and romantic words whispered into the ear of a lover, it's also inexpensive and totally just a wine you could pick up to have with your baguette while you sit in the park and listen to music or read. It has a spark of elegance with a touch of everyday casualness. It's beautifully mundane, and I love it for that.
This is a great foot in the door if you're looking to get into french wines but have no idea how to get going. They can be hard and honestly pretty intimidating if you don't know where to start. So let me help you. Start here, and then go forth and drink!
As always, boire sur! (Drink on!)
This is a long one, but bare with me,
I'm in a "story telling mood" and this is my outlet.
Let's set the scene: It's August, and our character, let's call him Dan, and let's picture him played by a John Cusack type, so Dan has the day off. He rolls out of bed around 8:30 because sadly that feels like sleeping in these days. Dan has grand plans of nothingness for the day, and even that feels like too much so he pairs it down a bit. Maybe he'll take the dog for a hike, or work on that book he's been meaning to write, or maybe he'll just hang out on the deck with some wine...Yeah...That'll work.
Cue the montage of him bumming around for a bit; feeding the dog, playing some games on his phone, a few shots of the clock slowly ticking away time, back to him watching a couple episodes of New Girl on Netflix, really anything to pass the time until it seems relatively ok to be day drinking wine, let's call it 11:45. He figures out loud to himself that, "Noon is surely ok, but I can spare a few minutes because I'm on vacation! ...Or at least I have the day off, same difference!"
At 11:38 he grabs his sunglasses and straw sun hat that he secretly thinks is awesome but probably would never work up the nerve to go out in public in. (If this seems like I'm just writing about my own life then you're sorely mistaken...I have no qualms about going out in public in my awesome sunhat...Duh) At 11:40 Dan heads towards the wine rack to pick that delicious day drinker, that perfect porch pounder, that gasp-worthy guzzler...Ok I'm out of alliterations.
His eyes scan the bottles, drinking in the labels, remembering stories that surround each one. He pulls out his phone to check the time, and see what the temperature outside is like. 11:43, and 87 degrees...Given that information his hand falls on an old standby, that delicious, big, bold Napa Valley Cab.
Here's the point in the film where everything freezes and the main character breaks the fourth wall to give you a little background.
"What?" he says. "I'm a red drinker, and last time I was at the wine shop I just grabbed what I knew. So why not?"
"BECAUSE IT'S 87 DEGREES OUTSIDE AND THAT CAB IS GOING TO SIT LIKE A HEAVY, SLOSHING, LIQUID BRICK, YOU MORON!" You probably scream at the screen.
Let's try this again:
The film then cuts back to a scene you watched a few minutes ago from when Dan walked into his local wine shop. He scans the store, half wanting an associate to ask if he needs help, half hoping he goes unnoticed so he can not seem like an idiot and have to admit he needs it. The first time you watched it he just made a B-line for what he knew, but this is a cut-back sequence to see how things could have gone differently. He breaks the fourth wall again:
"I know this shouldn't be this difficult. I know that I'm overthinking things, so screw it, let's do it." He awkwardly makes eye contact with the guy stocking the racks and gives him one of those upwards nods accompanied by half wave of his hand, the universal, silent way for us awkward people to indicate we need help.
He explains to the wine store guy (who is happy to help and share his knowledge and is way less daunting than Dan expected...Because it's what this guy does for a living and loves it...SO TALK TO YOUR LOCAL WINE STORE PEOPLE!) what he typically drinks, and what he likes and doesn't like, and explains that he is looking for something to drink on a hot day with good music playing and maybe the smell of a grill in the background.
The associate takes all this information in and you can see the wheels turning in his head as a big grin spreads across his face. "I've got something that will put you out of your comfort zone, but I think will be exactly what you're looking for." He walks away to the Italian Whites section and returns with a bottle. it's a wine with a green and gold label. Dan takes it. Gavi, Dry White Wine from La Chiara.
Fourth wall break:
"This is it? My day off rests in the hands of a white wine I don't know if I'm pronouncing correctly that some guy told me to drink?" The skepticism drips from his words.
(Rapid fire montage of cash exchanging hands, wine going into paper bag, bag being thrown in passenger seat, tires squealing, wine being placed in rack, clock hands going around, and then we're back to our initial scene of Dan looking for a wine in his rack.)
Ok, I could go on but I'll just sum it up: Dan has a great day off, and comes to some existential epiphany because of the wine and realizes why he lost the girl. He calls her up, she rejects him, but he's now ok with it because deep down that was the closure he wanted and needed. Armed with his new insight on life he moves to the Virgin Islands and follows his dream of becoming a boat captain. The film ends with him in his trusty sunhat, hawaiian shirt unbuttoned, while he's at the wheel of a small sail boat which he's named Gavi's Wisdom, and he sails off while "I Know What Love Isn't" by Jens Lekman plays and the credits roll. There you go.
So what about the wine!? What was this nectar of the gods that changed our friend Dan's life? It's the perfect white wine for the red wine drinker. The grape is called a "Cortese" (Core-Tay-Zee) and is grown primarily in a small area of the Piedmont (Northern Italy) called Gavi (Gah-Vee.) The vines are planted in a prehistoric salt lake bed that is just bursting with minerals! We've touched before on how that can affect a wine, and this is a perfect example of it.
In general red wines will be much more robust and have a lot more weight to them, this is largely due to the mineral content in the wines, however you don't notice it as much with reds because it is so overshadowed by tannins and the flavor that the oak imparts.
There is a fancy, sciency way of finding the "weight" of a wine where the person puts it in a beaker and heats it so that all the water and alcohol evaporates, and after a while all that's left is the solids. They weigh those solids, giving them the "weight" of the wine. Using this method it was shown that Gavi has the same weight as a medium to full bodied red! What does this mean for you besides just an amazing, full flavored, refreshing wine? Well for one thing, unlike the majority of white wines that really can't be stored for too long before they need to be drunk, this is a wine that can be cellared for ten years or more with no problem! ...Not that it would last that long on my wine rack, let's be honest. But it is a wine that will only get better with time.
Flavor-wise you can expect apple, white stone fruits like peach, and some melon as well. The nose boasts more of a light lime citrus, and soft flowers, maybe a little bit of honey suckle. However, despite the succulent whirlwind of fresh fruits and flowers, this is about as far from a sweet wine as you can get. With it's high acidity and strong minerality on the finish it is the just what you need to get your fix of ultimate refreshment as you lay in the sun and soak in that vitamin D.
In addition to drinkability and storability, because of it's weight and complexity, Gavi makes an amazing wine to pair with food! From Asian, to Thai, to Sea Food, as well as heavier dishes, and of course, being from Italy, anything pasta will be amazing!
So for all you "I'm a big bold red drinker, I don't drink that sissy white wine" people out there, do yourself a favor, suck it up, swallow your pride, and grab a bottle of Gavi from your local wine store. And let me be the first to welcome you to the wonderful world of white wines!
as always, drink on!