February 2011

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This week is full of grapes that won’t register in my brain if they were listed together on a sheet of paper. Macabeo is one grape that’s instrumental in every teenager’s life at the discovery of Cava but still manages to stay under the radar since it’s almost never on the label. “Cava” shows up quite a bit on the label (or the cork in this case), even though this wine isn’t a true Cava. It’s a vino de aguja aka a petullant aka a frizzante aka a fizzy wine. Not really a fully bubbly but a half bubbly, this wine has bubbles that hang around together at the surface of the wine but don’t follow the beads of bubbles that a fully fizzy wine like Champagne or a true Cava has. This one has bubbles that randomly swagger to the surface instead of following ant-like the trail of their effervescent cousins.


Enough about fizzy wine though, this Blanc Pescador wine actually has 3 grapes. The only one with 50% power is the Macabeo since the other two place around in that 25% range and won’t be mentioned. The smell on this wine isn’t the typical acidic nose of a seafood wine, which is curious with a name like “White Fisherman” (the translation of Blanc Pescador). This wine smells a lot more like peaches and full bodied fruit, even though it’s taste is that fresh and constant taste you’d want in a wine that stacks up to shellfish (PEI mussels in my case). How they managed to stuff nectarines and yuzu into this wine and keep it looking clean as a light yellow gemstone I have no idea. Nevertheless, they succeeded with this wine and even after an hour of pouring a glass there are a few bubbles undulating up to the surface. Weird.


There’s really nothing I’ve said about the grape other than it’s part of Cava but there is a fair amount about Macabeo. Like it’s name isn’t Macabeo outside of Spain – it’s Viura (scallop in Spanish, which is perhaps why they called it something else, despite it pairing well with scallops). They grow it along the southern un-trendy part of France in Languedoc-Roussillon, in the Rioja region and south of Barcelona where the Cava fields bubble happily in the sun (at least that’s how I imagine it).

Detail Up!
Blanc Pescador by Castillo Perelada

Google Randoms
* The hottest lady in wine crushes on this “cinderella wine” in her spare time.
* This is the white wine they mostly plant in northern Spain so if you’ve ever had a White Rioja, chances are you’ve had this
* This Blanc Pescador wine made the Top 16 list of Best Vinos de Aguja. No idea who decided Top 16 was better than Top 10 or Top 20. Top 16 Wines – catchy.

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Palomino is one of the three grapes used to make Sherry, a dessert wine from southern Spain that’s known for being nutty. Not a poor pun, it actually tastes like nuts. Palomino is the grape that the Spaniards use when they’re making the less sweet styles of Sherry. Otherwise they go with Ximenez or Moscatel grapes, which produce really sweet dessert wines.

Palo Cortado

Interestingly enough, the sherry that I happened upon has its own frothy, freudian history. “Palo cortado” shown above on that rather blah label means its a wine that started off its aging process as a dry wine but then loses its flor veil (seriously, click that link) and keeps aging as a sweeter style of wine (“From Fino to Oloroso” – Palo Cortado’s memoirs). The result is a wine with the best of both the sweet and the dry. I prefer to think of it as one outstanding gender-bending Spanish citizen. And with the translation of “Palo Cortado” literally meaning “cut stick,” you’d think Freud would have come up with the term “Palo Cortado.” You’d be wrong – it’s an even better story.


Sherry’s never really been my thing. It’s always been on the more bitter side and nuts are fine and all but give me candied fruit, dried fruit or some kind of big whiff nose, and I’m much happier than if you shove a bowl of peanuts my way. This wine though is causing me to take a second look at Sherry. Why? Cheese, namely Old Amsterdam Gouda, the best thing that Holland has produced since it exported my great-grandparents (modestia a parte). Really, if you have to have one cheese after dinner, this is the cheese you want. Maybe it was the fish for dinner that didn’t fill the gullet. Maybe it was the liquor cabinet bursting with too many random bottles. Maybe it was fate.

This gender-bending Sherry and that udderly divine dutch gouda just destroyed my previous best pairing (pizza and Modern Family) by 5,280 feet. They even did a little dutch spanish dance in my mouth, wooden shoes and bullfighter jabs included. The Gouda provided all kinds of salt and crunchy deposits with a mouth-filling creamy taste. The Sherry added in its own hook-nosed bitterness and cartloads of almonds. So thank you Palo Cortado and Gouda – you just reopened the world of Sherry to one who thought it beyond surprises. Palo Cortado, you rock.

Detail Up!
Lustau Palo Cortado Peninsula Sherry

Random Googles
* Palomino’s really only used for dessert wines – Spain mostly, but South Africa and California too.
* Sherry comes from the Spanish region Xeres (pronounced “hair-ess”) near that Gibralter tip
* As much as I slander sherry, that solera process deserves its cool points.

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This wine bottle from Austria confuses me. I don’t speak Austrian so that doesn’t help. And even in Austria they don’t speak Austrian, so we’re really at a loss. Anyway, this wine has two grapes (50/50), so there’s no way to know to distinguish one grape from another. Both are getting mentioned in this post.

The wine’s labeled as a Zweigelt Cuvee, and cuvee is French for “we have no idea what’s in the bottle.” Zweigelt though is a grape, which the Austrians shorten to “Blauer Zweigelt.” It’s easier to pronounce that way. In fact, there was a Mr. Zweigelt who developed the grape and then blogged about it in autobiographical book form (anyone know the title?). He lived to the ripe old age of 76 and developed other grapes in his secret wine lair. Clearly though, Zweigelt is his most famous concotion.


Zweigelt is Austria’s red pride and joy, similar to American Zinfandels and the Chinese flag. More acres of Zweigelt are under production in Austria than any other grape, and this particular bottle came from Niederosterreich (Austrian for “our biggest wine region”).


The other grape doesn’t have the fame of Dr. Zweigelt to back it up so even at 50% it’s getting the short end of the vine. Still, it’s all kinds of interesting in its own obscure way. Blaufrankisch means “blue” the same way that Eiffel 65 meant blue in the early 2000s. East Europe loves blue, not just for the techno hit (which it does) but for this grape. Czechs, Slovaks and Slovenes adore this wine so keep that in mind for your next Slovene dinner date. You can call it Lemberger if that’s easier to pronounce but remember it’s not a cheese. It’s Eastern Europe’s techno grape.


As for how the wine tasted, it was pretty fruity and light. Red and fruity with some darker flavor elements but in a really light on the mouth way. Kinda like a chocolate covered cherry without any calories but all the taste where the cherry keeps the other flavors in check. Also of note is the fact that the bottle comes in 1L only. Better than your mother’s 750ml and 25% more buxom. Yes, buxom.

Detail Up!
Artner Zweigelt Cuvee Landwein trocken Osterreich Abfuller (not really sure what all those words mean) – thanks for the photo Greene Grape guys

Random Googles
* “Bull’s Blood” is an actual name of a famous Hungarian wine. Kinda awesome. Also, it has Blaufrankisch in it.
* Zweigelt is popular in titles among wine bloggers. Something about that A-Z where Zweigelt is the kid that always got called last by his teacher.
* Dr. Vino thinks that Blaufrankisch is the best red you’ve never heard of. Little does he know that you know.

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Lagrein is a grape that I wasn’t even sure was a grape. It was only through a process of elimination that I determined Lagrein was the grape in this bottle. First, Tobin James – biggest font on the bottle, meaning winemaker (probably). Next, Paso Robles – heard of it and know it’s in California so not the grape. Year, alcohol content and “silver reserve” – nothing sounding like a grape. Lagrein it is.

Anyway, Tobin James doesn’t list this grape on their website so they might not even make it anymore. Having never heard of it before or seen it anywhere in a wine store, it seems pretty rare here in the US. In really northern Italy, knocked up next to Austria in Trentino-Alto Adige, this Lagrein is at home. Outside of its home, wikipedia calls it “rare to the point of obscurity.” Needless to say, it’s pretty cool that a friend brought it to the mac&cheese&wine party the other night.

The wine tasted a lot like a dusty shiraz, kinda more stringent and earthy without all that fruit. It looked about the same color as a Shiraz and had the same body (and high alcohol-content) but lacked all the fruit that Aussies love to export and Americans love to import. Blackberry shouted down all the other flavors in the wine but really the wine was about the structure. Not sure if they blend this in with others (yup, see below), but it’s got the body for blending and a pretty unique dirty smokey quality going for it. Less like a fine cigar, more like a country road, it’s a pretty unique wine. Not amazing but not lackluster either, certainly happy to have tried it.

Detail Up!
Tobin James 2008 Lagrein from Paso Robles – cellartracker’s pic above too

Random Googles
* Lagrein – related to Syrah, Pinot Noir and (really obscure) Dureza
* Australia’s playing around with Lagrein in trial patches to blend it with Shiraz
* Highly tannic grape that winemakers age for 18+ months

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