WoW 1 Aug 2016 1


Wayne On Wine

Unique grape varietals

By Wayne Crawford


In my ongoing effort to encourage readers to enjoy novel wines, this article highlights several unique varietals. Some are clearly matchless grapes not available at your corner wine store, and others are blending varietals that are relatively well known, but rarely in a 100-percent format.


An example is the grape known to the French in both Provence and Roussillon as mourvedre and, in its native Spain, as monastrell. This particular grape was grown in California and was exceptionally well presented by the Cypher Winery; see ‘Wines drinking well’ below. Normally, it is enjoyed in a blend from the Rhone, but it is equally delightful when presented in a 100-percent varietal format.


One person’s unique wine is another’s everyday grape grown and enjoyed locally. Jancis Roberinson and team compiled “Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide,” which highlights 1,368 grape varietals. This is the wine writer/educator’s go-to bible on grape varietals, including their backstories, viticulutural characteristics and tasting notes. While I am not suggesting purchasing this book, there are at least 1,300 grapes available for your drinking delight: Enjoy!  


We are growing more than 64 varietals in Georgia, among our 53-plus wineries, so there is an increased opportunity to taste new wine grapes locally. Additionally, the online wine retail services are making it more convenient and affordable to buy less distributed and unique wines at reasonable discounts, often with free shipping costs when you buy as little as four bottles; ship when the weather is cool.


The Big Canoe Wine Group enjoyed some unique and lesser-known wines for this article, including Pinotage from South Africa, Ondarrabi Zuri from Spain, Raffiat De Moncade from Bearn in Southwest France and Nero d’Avola from Sicily. If you enjoy wine, take time to find new, unique grapes to brighten your wine experience.


WoW 3

Pascal Lapeyre of Bearn, France, explains his wines.

‘Wines drinking well now’

Cypher Winery, 2013 Mourvedre, "El Pelon," Paso Robles, $55. This is a dark-red wine with black cherry, raspberry, cranberry and spice aromas and flavors. Full-bodied and balanced with noticeable tannins, it offers a round, lush mouthfeel and a long aftertaste. This exceptional wine is 100 percent mourvedre/monastrell, native to Spain and an essential grape in the Rhone Valley, Provence, Languedoc-Rousillon and, also, grown in the United States, Australia and Greece. It is a blending grape, along with grenache and syrah in the southern Rhone and in California with the Rhone Rangers. Experiencing this grape as a pure varietal reveals its high quality and excellent structure. The Big Canoe Wine Group selected this as the best wine of the night. Pair with grilled or stewed meat, vegetables, sausage and Manchego cheese. Highly Recommended.


Dewaal CT de Waal, 2009 Pinotage, $12. This is a black wine with aromas and flavors of cherries and damson plum, rough tannins but with a round mouthfeel. Pinotage was developed as a hybrid grape in South Africa in 1925, by Abraham Izak Perold who crossed pinot noir and cinsault (originally called hermitage). The name is a contraction of his parents’ names. The grape has a reputation for being either excellent or overly vinous. The grape, native to South Africa but grown in California, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and Washington state, is worth tasting. This wine was purchased in South Africa. Pair with barbecued ribs, hamburgers, stew and cheddar cheese.


Txakoli Maddy 2014 Ondarrabi Zuri or Hondarrabi Zuri (linked to the American hybrid Noah), Spain, $22. Maddy is the mythological goddess from the Basque country, and this is a traditional Basque white wine, with light-gold color and medium saturation. It offers aromas of pear, apple and citrus and a smooth mouthfeel with crisp, fresh fruit with apple, hints of lemon and a bright acidity. This is an interesting grape to research, given its DNA. This wine will pair well with seafood and fresh salads with shrimp. Highly Recommended.


Domaine Guilhemas 2013, 100-percent Raffiat De Moncade, produced by Pascal Lapeyre, Bearn, France, in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, $20. This wine was bought in France from Pascal in 2014. There are only 22 acres of this native grape planted in the Bearn AOP of southwest France. Its color is light gold and it offers aromas of pear and apple with a crisp, fresh, good acidity. Pascal writes in his tasting notes: “Pale gold with light green reflections. Nose of juicy pear, apple and floral notes. Mouth live in the beautiful texture and roundness charmeuse.” If you are in southwest France and near Bearn, this rare wine is worth a side trip.


Colosi 2014 Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGP, Agrigento vineyard, Sicily, $10. Native to the region, this 100-percent Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red wine grape in Sicily. Small plantings of this grape are in Australia, California, Turkey and Malta. It is a dark ruby-red, full-bodied wine with aromas of plum, dark cherry, spice and chocolate. On the palate, it offers luscious plum and cherry fruit with soft tannins, black pepper and adequate acidity. This is a well-crafted, dry red wine with a lingering plum and cherry aftertaste. It is a young wine ready to drink now but has sufficient tannins to hold until 2019. Pair with Italian, tomato-based pasta dishes with red meat and meatballs, roasted lamb and liver. Best Buy.

‘Drink what you like’

In my next article, the focus will be on viogner, northern Rhone’s famous, full-bodied, floral, white grape grown around the world.


Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the Society of Wine Educators, American Wine Society and Wine Scholar Guild.



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