Welcome back and Happy Halloween! A change in temperature always brings a change in wine selection for me. This month we talk Pinot Gris, fall wines and Rhone Valley. As always, please reach me with any questions and/or cool (wine) experiences. I look forward to hearing from you.
Q: Rick S. from Barnegat asks, What’s the scoop on Rhone? Is there a big difference between North and South?A: The Rhône valley is a wine region located in Southeastern France that is broken up into two distinctly different regions: Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. I like to refer to it as “country wine” given the landscape. For the longest time, this region was overshadowed by Bordeaux and Burgundy, but that all changed in the 1980s. As Quality began to skyrocket, so too did price, and the world took notice. It is often said that the Rhône River, spanning over 500 miles — from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea — may be the only element that these regions have in common.
As for the difference between north and south – like all things wine, we can answer this question with Terroir. (If you’re unfamiliar, please do a quick google search of this word). But, let’s break this down into two main differences:
1. Grape – Syrah is the sole red grape variety permitted in the north, whereas the south is dominated by blends, with the primary grapes being Grenache and Mourvèdre.
2. Climate – The north experiences a continental climate (presenting more drastic seasonal changes and a much shorter growing season), whereas the south enjoys a Mediterranean climate.
Hope that helps Rick. I’ll be sure to include more in future pieces.
Q: Donna S. from Margate asks, I recently heard you speak of “fall wines” – what do you mean by this?A: When we talk about “fall wines,” we think of the weather turning colder and cuisine becoming richer. The way we prepare food shifts from light summery salads and grilled meats to one-pot meals baked in the oven, or long-simmering sauce on the stovetop. Suddenly, the texture of our food changes, so therefore we need our wines to change along with it.
This doesn’t mean we need to ditch white and rose wines in favor of reds! If our fall wines are to have more weight to them, then many red wines will fit the bill. Merlot-based Bordeaux blends and Grenache-based Rhone blends are an easy place to start. Spanish reds based on Garnacha or Monastrell are great options, too. Each of those grape varieties has a softness to them, where they each have a high level of potential alcohol (therefore, more body) and light or no tannins so the texture is plush.
White wines that are lower in acid or have some oak treatment are great choices, too. Unoaked Viognier, barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Italian wines like Soave Classico all have muted acidity while emphasizing a satisfying creaminess on the palate. And don’t forget about roses! Find a Garnacha rose from Spain or Malbec rose from Argentina: These give you beautifully ripe flavors with plenty of body to complement hearty soups and stews.
Q: Jeff B. from Linwood asks, I was pleasantly surprised with a Pinot Gris I had recently. I typically don’t like Pinot Grigio. Can you offer a recommendation?A: Better known by its Italian expression, Pinot Gris is a noble grape variety that has picked up a lot of steam in all forms. The light, refreshing crowd pleaser (Pinot Grigio) has its place with light appetizers and seafood (or simply for enjoying by itself on a warm summer day). However, when the same grape is grown in other parts of the world like Alsace or Oregon, you will find the expression to show more texture and aromatic character with tropical and/or stone fruit flavors complemented by a fresh, floral scent.
Oregon Pinot Gris works beautifully with spicy pan-Asian, while Alsatian versions pair nicely with pork dishes. When sampling this wine, see if it gravitates toward the peach/apricot/nectarine part of the flavor spectrum or the pineapple/mango/exotic fruit side.
My recommendation would be Montinore Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley. Seven distinctive blocks of Pinot Gris can be found on their home vineyard. Each is harvested and fermented separately, then artfully blended to create the best expression of the wine. This Pinot Gris is bountiful, fresh and crisp.
Lastly, as always, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize.
Q: What is the prized white grape variety found in Northern Rhone?a. Chardonnay
c. Grenache Blanc
You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing …Drink Passionately,Michael