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aphors loureiro 2011 lima vinho verde

As much as Loureiro and Vinho Verde are both worth a full description (probably way more than a blogpost in fact), I just read Harpo Speaks! And standing on one’s head is precisely the type of activity that Harpo advocated in word and in action, both for himself in Monaco casinos and for his children in his house rules. So, today there is no description of wine. Or Loureiro.

Today there is only mayhem related to topics other than wine. To families gathering and figuring out the best for ourselves as individuals and trying to find the best for ourselves as relatives together. To Fringe Wine – for writing 282 posts and bringing estoerica to the topics of the google search pages while fighting for what is far more important. To surrealists in whatever form, in whatever age. To nights on rooftops with clouds and rain. To books unread and un-reread. To nights and days and vespers best. To wandering and forests black, but most of all to sunflowers at dawn. To hostas and rose on the North Fork. To homemade chicken, rice and you. To what remains and what’s the same – an M. Wells dish and night of bliss. To family and friends remiss, to what we have at finger tips and what lies just beyond, where dreams insist.

Detail Up!
Loureiro, 2011 Aphros 12.0% abv, Vinho Verde from Lima River area in Galicia, Portugal

Taste
Acidic and crisp. Similar to Sauvignon Blanc but less of a finish. Little bit of lime but you have to look for it. Lemon is more present but still fairly subtle. Pairs really well with fish esp with lemon on top

Random Googles:
* Lima, one of my favorite words in any language, happens to be the river that flows through Galicia, the very northwestern areas of Portugal that produces Vinho Verde thanks to the many Celt ancestors that settled in this area… along with Ireland, Scotland and other crazy-beautiful parts of earth.
* Loueriro is a kissing cousin to Albarinho, the Portunhol grape that is loved and forgotten by many a good Spaniard
* Loureiro means “laurel” or “bay”, which is apparently based on the smell of the wine. I did not notice that but probably couldn’t identify either spice… unless the smell of Old Bay french fries is somehow related

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airenNoche con Zapatos
The Zapatos family texted with a last-minute invitation to dinner yesterday, and when you get an invitation from the Zapatos, you go! Always good food, provoking conversations and the memorable evenings that stick with you. But yes, first wine out of the fridge was this bottle above. Nobody paid much attention to the bottle as we were mostly talking about the week and eyeing the meatballs simmering on the stove, at least at first.

Unknown label
Once the table was set and the wine was in hand (and mouth) though, curiosity overcame social protocol, and we all had a quick look at the bottle. Airen? What IS that? Nope, had never heard of it but seemed to be a Spanish white and flipping to the back the bottle noted its location in La Mancha.

Classic Quixote
Now, La Mancha has a soft spot in my heart going back to college when Mr. Higuita and I collectively owned one CD, the original Broadway production of Man of La Mancha. Don Quixote is, no surprise to anyone familiar with college students, a favorite of idealists and latinophiles. That was me and still is in a lot of ways. Anyway, there may have been a short rendition of Man of La Mancha in the kitchen with the Zapatos when we learned about the heritage of this bottle.


View Castile-La Mancha, Spain in a larger map

Popular, in an unknown kind of way
And it turns out that this particular grape, Airen, is unbelievably popular. As in, more acreage is dedicated to Airen than to any other white grape… more popular than Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, or any other white grape anywhere in the world (and almost every red grape too).

Sancho’s Flask Unveiled
This, despite being planted really only in Spain and predominantly in La Mancha. So you better believe that when Sancho Panza was haplessly following around Don Quixote in the bleak La Mancha landscapes, what he was secretly swigging from that flask behind Rocinante’s skinny tail was copious quantities of Airen.

Taste
Quite a bit of fruit on the nose (even with an already-opened bottle!) but the really attractive part was the mild acidic bite and the crisp, really clean taste. Refreshing and a pleasant discovery.

Detail Up!
Fuente del Ritmo Airén 2012 with 11.5% alc. from La Mancha, Spain

Random Googles
* 14 entrepreneurs came together in La Mancha to create the Allozo winery that makes this wine and quite a few others (and a cognac) – yes, they are interested in elevating La Mancha’s status and yes, they seem certain to do that… even if because the baseline is so low
* 30% of all grapes grown in Spain are Airen – crazy to think about how much wine never leaves Spain
* Read about Airen’s dark past to becoming so profligate and what Franco and Francia had to do with it becoming the most planted grape of any grape anywhere in the world for quite a long time

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Piquepoul from Languedoc – not famous or spell-able
Piquepoul is the grape, but Picpoul de Pinet is the wine made from the grape if made exclusively from Piquepoul grapes. At least, that’s the rule in the really southern and untrendy part of France known as Languedoc. But then again, Piquepoul has a long history in the region, dating back to before there were monks and chateaus.

Minor Napoleon Love
Napoleon III loved this wine, but that was way back in the 19th century, and nobody is quite sure what Napoleon III did other than inherit a name. P.S. Was there even a Napoleon II? Ok, thanks wikiworld – there was a Napoleon II, who died of tuberculous at the legal age of 21 after calling his mother “kind but weak” so he doesn’t feature in the Piquepoul tale. Sorry little dude.


Taste:
Round full body – long clean finish. Some acidity but supporting cast. Fennel smell says bartender. Perfect for barbeques says the well-known importer Kermith Lynch.

Detail Up!
Picpoul de Pinet 2010, imported by Kermit Lynch from Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue in Langedouc, France

Random Googles:
* Picardan, a historical sweet wine from the 17th and 18th centuries, was from Languedoc and Piquepoul was one of the grapes used to blend that sweet, extinct wine.
* Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the expensive wine from the Rhone, has Piquepoul on the list of 13 permitted blending wines. The last time anyone counted, in 2004, about 0.15% of the region planted Piquepoul.
* “Lip-stinger” is the original translation of the grape, referring to the high acidity of the grape in the Mediterranean.

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Grape 68: Arneis

Biodiversity Beginnings
There’s something of a biodiversity movement starting, which might just be the most lasting legacy of foodies the world over. Interest in food, where it comes from, its historical and cultural narrative, is increasingly center stage in mainstream media, even as mainstream media has come to encompass far more than it meant even a decade ago and people spend more time discussing their food values, a concept that simply didn’t exist until recently (exception: Margaret Visser). Along with the food focus comes the desire for exploration, a very human trait that’s easy to identify in such code phrases as the Bering Strait, Magellan and Dr. Livingston I presume. Where once “a tomato” was enough to answer the question of “what’s that vegetable?”, it’s no longer such a simple task of identification. Vocabulary for food has proliferated into a thousand different directions and taken on a fractal life of its own.

Vocab Expansion
Free-range, organic, natural, pesticide-free all show up on the increasingly-lengthy fruit and veggie identification cards at supermarkets. Restaurants that want to signal their upscale classiness sport proper names and link their products to specific geographic sources (Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese from Greensboro, Vermont anyone?), and adjectives – actual adjectives! – now appear before the names of fruits and vegetables. Cherry tomato, beefsteak, cherokee purple, green zebra, black pear, oxacan jewel, purple russian and dozens of others, and that’s just for the tomato.

Smart Biologist Wilson
Really, it seems like a tiny drop in the struggle to preserve biodiversity as economic forces and globalization push to open new markets, exploit new resources and convert the global population into a very interlocked consumer/producer system. E.O. Wilson, a biologist who I had never heard of before last week, has all kinds of great quotes about the importance of biodiversity but the one that stuck with me is this:

The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

Problem with Eons
Not sure exactly how you tackle that problem in one bite but I think he’s right that it’s not a problem that should be talked about in terms of generations, centuries or even tens of thousands of years. Millions of years is the right time frame to be thinking about the problem. And a group of foodies advocating greater choices in their diets won’t be the answer to solving a problem of that magnitude. But the values they advocate can be part of the solution or, probably better said, those values can be part of the turn away from the cause of the problem. More diversity of plants and more acknowledgement of and discussion about the food we eat will hopefully turn more people to find names like Margaret Visser and E.O. Wilson. Worked at least with one blogger.

Detail Up!
2009 Damilano Langhe from Piedmont, Italy

Taste
Full body bit of oil smell, little acidity, round, medium body, peach.

Generally though, Arneis is known for its pear and apricot flavors. Two other Arneis bottles are described here by noted oenologist Fringe Wine.

Random Googles:
* Arneis nearly went extinct in the 1970s after several hundred years of growing in Italy’s northwest Piedmont region, and only two producers (Vietti and Bruno Giacosa) still made anything with Arneis during that decade. Since then, it’s come back with limited productions in Australia, California and New Zealand. Really though, Piedmont in Italy is where it’s from and where it’s principally grown.
* Arneis means “little rascal” in Piemontese, an actual language from Italy’s Northwest. Why? Well, it’s really hard to grow apparently.
* Traditionally, Arneis was called “Barolo Bianco” (white barolo) since it was blended with red Nebbiolo grapes into that pricery Barolo wine. Once 100% Nebbiolo grapes became the norm, Arneis lost much of its popularity, which contributed to its near-extinction.

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Toulouse Anderson Valley Pinot Gris 2010MC Pinot
Pinot Gris, you won the first round of Hide and Seek. Here I thought you were all original and unknown, like when my brother put on music by MC Lars, and it turned out to be this weird fusion of styles that jumbled up everything recognizable into a new kind of musical scrambled eggs that somehow made it new and better.

Pinot Gris/Grigio
But Pinot Gris isn’t MC Lars. Pinot Gris is just Pinot Grigio, not even MC Pinot Grigio. Yes, it’s Pinot Gris who makes that $5 Italian wine labeled Ecco Domani that lingers on the dusty bottom shelf at your supermarket. Pinot Gris, take off your mask. You won this round.

One Glass, Then Water
So should we flee from pee-no gree (actual pronunciation)? Probably not. Because realistically, Pinot Grigio can be great even though most of it is really terrible and leads to headaches that make people hate white wine – truly, a crime. So drink one glass of Pinot Grigio with dinner but no more. And drink lots of water.

Manorexic Wine
Because Pinot Gris isn’t Pinot Grigio – at least not in how it tastes. Pinot Grigio usually has that high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc but no real body backing it up. Manorexia comes to mind when drinking Pinot Grigio – not so much with Pinot Gris.

The Depths of Pinot
Because Pinot Gris has lots more going on – you can talk to Pinot Gris and not just about male modeling. Luscious, rich, tropical – these are the words you see describing Pinot Gris, which aren’t exactly the same words you hear on the catwalk. On the catwalk.

Shapeshifting Mutants
Out in California, way up in the north part where these giant redwoods grow (see photo – that’s me at 6’2.25″ barely noticeable in the bottom left), there’s a small group of producers playing around with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and probably some other mutant pinots that Professor X has at the mansion. Because apparently Pinot Noir is a grape that keeps mutating (like the annoying shapeshifter from the old Commodore 64 game) and Pinot Gris is just one of those mutations from back in the day.

Goose Fetish
On perhaps the most relaxing vacation of 2011, Cristina and I stopped by northern California for some catching up with friends (thanks Begs and Jess), some redwood hiking and some mutant wine tasting. By far the prettiest of the vineyards we visited in the Anderson Valley near Mendocino was Toulouse, a family run operation with a strange affinity for geese in ridiculous postures. Really engaging winery with premium Pinot Noir and affordable Pinot Gris – you can imagine which bottle made it home.

Sunny Memories
Now, half a year later, it’s cold in November and time to break into those bottles of whites that bring back memories of summer, California and general lusciousness. Hola Pinot Gris – let’s see what your Too Loose bottle has to say.

Taste:
Delicate, slightly tart, some peach, lots of flowers in mouth – light/medium mouthfeel with a lingering but not strong finish. Good acidity and balance – bit too heavy on the alcohol. Sunshine and outdoors warmth definitely recognizable.

Detail Up!
Pinot Gris 2010 from Toulouse Vineyard in Anderson Valley, California

Random Googles:
* Pinot Gris (France) = Pinot Grigio (Italy), except in style. Same grape, different wardrobe.
* Alsace, that French region up near Germany, produces the most famous Pinot Gris styles. Oregon, California and Washington produce pretty significant amounts too.
* Surprisingly, all Top 10 Restaurant wines in the US are white wines. Three are Pinot Grigio.

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