Wines worth seeking out for rich rewards
World Malbec Day has come and gone. You probably missed it too. (It was on April 17.) Well, they didn’t make a huge noise about it. Actually, it’s officially called Malbec World Day and not surprisingly it launched in Argentina, home to many if not most of the world’s leading Malbecs.
Malbec is a French grape grown in Bordeaux (where it is often called Côt), the Loire, and Cahors. It's frequently used for blending. It’s one of the eight that are allowed to be used in the production of Meritage. But it’s really Argentina where it has come into its own. Consider the fact that there are 50-some Argentine Malbecs listed in B.C. by the LDB, a couple from Chile, one each from Australia and California, and one or two others, priced from $10 to $165.
In Cahors it’s sometimes called Auxerrois, to everyone’s confusion. That’s where we stop today. Among the inky-dark, big and bold reds of the Dordogne it distinguishes itself, creating a bigger, bolder, redder red than most of the “regular” Cahors. Case in point: a newcomer called Le Gouleyant Malbec 2010, currently a speculative/restricted listing (currently not available in the government stores), priced very well at $14.49. If people like it and start clamouring for it, it may end up as a specialty listing, putting it into select LDB stores. For the time being, you have to check the indies to find it. Phone ahead.
It’s purple and bold, spicy and rich, almost raisin-y, but stylish and refined for all that—certainly more satisfying than most of the Argentine models. It is definitely a meat wine—for Debrecziner sausage with a good potato salad and mustard, steak (or cold salmon) with chimichurri sauce, something en croute, or cassoulet. It’s also good with cheese—Port Salut, aged Manchego, and Monterey Jack with jalapeño.
It’s well worth the quest. The enterprising agency Authentic Wine & Spirits is handling it and they may well have a handle on where to find it, so check with them and bring it to the table soon. I’ll give you more notice about next year’s Malbec Day so you can get some and we can compare notes.
Quails’ Gate Chasselas/Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris 2011 ($18.99 at the winery and selected VQA stores) This Okanagan winery stubbornly holds on to producing this lovely white blend, and I for one love it. There must be others out there because, come the end of summer, there’s usually none to be found anywhere. It’s gently grassy off the nose, herby, fresh and crisp—the only wine I know that can stand up to cilantro, a nasty herb that tends to overpower everything it comes in contact with. It also works for Beer Nuts, pickled eggs, Ukrainian sausage, and Sable & Rosenfeld Cocktail Stirrers—which are, from bottom to top, a gherkin, a pimento-stuffed olive, and a Gibson onion. Works with more elegant fare too.
Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier 2010 ($13.99; another speculative listing, and another one worth seeking out. The agency is called Saverio Schiralli/Lifford Wine Agencies) This is a lovely, fat, rich Viognier, a type we rarely find among our growing list of Okanagan Viogniers. It really rewards rich food and summer salads incorporating meat or fish.
Peter & Peter Zeller Riesling 2010 ($16.99; specialty listing) From the wine village on the Mosel River, home of the famous Zeller Schwarze Katz, comes this feinherb Riesling, a delicious, fruity wine, soft at the front of the palate and big in the finish. FYI: feinherb is a German term used almost exclusively on Riesling labels and similar to halbtrocken (half-dry). Halbtrocken seems to have fallen out of favour with the marketing boffins; feinherb is deemed more stylish. It covers wines with a residual sugar content up to 18 grams per litre.
Le Petit Longue-Dog Grenache-Syrah Pays d’Oc n/v ($4.99 for 250 millilitres, specialty listing) For those who’ve always wanted to try the country quaffer with the elongated wiener dog on the label but haven’t wanted to shell out for a full bottle, here’s a single-serving sampler. It should be in many LDB stores; the agency is the same as the one for the Viognier, above. It may turn you on to the 750-millilitre, with its hearty, full, food-focused flavour. They’re probably a pain for the stores, but I do like the idea of these little one-up-from-airline-size samplers. Could we have more?
Clos du Soleil Fume Blanc 2010 ($25.95 at the winery) Only a hundred cases of this charmer were produced, and based on one fleeting taste with friends whose palates I trust, it’ll all be gone by next Wednesday. If you know folks in Keremeos, get them to stop in at the winery and secure a supply for you. Or call the winery and see if they’ll ship some bottles; many do. While you’re talking, ask about their part-manifesto regarding this wine: “A further exploration of our Sauvignon Blanc, used in our signature Bordeaux-style white wine, Capella.”
They suggest it to accompany “traditional seafood, Southwest chicken grills, meats and soft cheeses”. It’s quite minerally and even a little hard, which is why it goes so well with so many foods. And if it’s not all that Robert Mondavi–fumé-y (it was Mondavi who “invented” Fumé Blanc—or at least coined the name), it’s still one of the nicest whites to come out of the Similkameen Valley to date. Some months ago, we were talking about Fumé Blanc here and how there’s not much to be found in B.C. stores. I may be wrong, but I think this is the only one made locally and sold under that name. Well worth the effort to find some.