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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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Fleur du Rhone 2010 13.5%, Valais petite arvine

Swiss Wine Region #1
Switzerland’s largest wine region is the Valais, basically producing 50% of all Swiss wine. Truth be known, that’s not a lot of wine volume compared to all of Switzerland’s neighbors but in relative terms, Valais is clearly the wino-spot of the Swiss slopes.

Swiss Grapes Aplenty
Which grape then would you try if you were into trying grapes? There are a few you could locate in Switzerland without too much trouble – your Chasselas (never heard of it), your Pinot Noir (thanks Sideways for making it unaffordable), Gamay, Petite Arvine, Syrah, Cornalin (also a new one), Humagne Rouge and quite a few more. But Petite Arvine appears to the favorite of the Swiss press, people of Valais and even the wine experts.

Wine Gurus on Petite Arvine
Wine gurus really ignore Switzerland for the most part and one can see why when you’re looking at dozens of regions and hundreds of grapes – it’s just a lot to put into a book. Take Karen MacNeil, for example. She wrote 901 page book called “The Wine Bible” that you’ll see fairly often in wine bars and it has a great introduction to the wine regions of the world. There is exactly 1 page dedicated to Switzerland, and Petite Arvine receives accolades such as – “intensely floral, exotically fruity” – and is even noted as “far more interesting” than certain other Swiss varieties. Pretty decent phrase when you’re considering that all of Switzerland fits on one page, and in fact, it’s the highest praise for a Swiss grape in the book.

Proud of the Petite
Jancis Robinson (my personal favorite and secret crush – pun now intended) barely notes the grape in her encyclopedic “Vines, Grapes and Wines,” including it on a list with other Swiss grapes, and Oz Clarke of much fame heaps praise on the grape (“high quality”, elegance, finesse, “unusual minerality” are some of the words he chooses) and noting that he has a bottle of 1969 Petite Arvine in his cellar. Perhaps a bit of showing of his cellar of course, but clearly he’s proud of this bottle and this grape.

Taste
Tastes like green. Green apples, some green lime and NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Tastes a little rounder with slight pear, peach and quince. Not much of a finish – some green apple but finish ends quickly.

Detail Up!
Fleur du Rhone 2010 Petite Arvine with 13.5% alcohol from Valais, Switzerland – never before reviewed on the internets

Random Googles:
* Petite Arvine received its name because there used to be a grape called Gross Arvine. Marketing people can tell you which grape has survived… even though Gross Arvine is still in grape stock libraries, just not in bottles. Nowadays, Petite Arvine is being positioned as just Arvine by the (surprisingly in-existence) Swiss Wine pushers.
* Petite Arvine might be the most frequently grown grape of the Valais but Chasselas is king when it comes to acreage planted in Switzerland. Being a sucker for pie charts (and pie!), have a look at the dominant 8.36% position that Chasselas has compared to the puny #4 position position that Petite Arvine has at 6.46% – it sets one’s heart aflutter. If only that pesky 56.65% of “Other Wines” could be eliminated from the pie chart, this would truly be an impressive display.
* The other place in the world where Petite Arvine grows is Valle d’Aosta in Italy, which is basically where you land when you step across the border from Valais in Switzerland. No doubt there is a Hemingway novel about this very trek.

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carlos vii pedro ximenez alvear

Mermaids
This blog rarely discusses mermaids, but that is changing right now. Somehow, as a native English speaker, I think of mermaids and sirens as two different sea creatures. Mermaids being the really hot, friendly companions of sailors too-long at sea that likely originated from manatees. Sirens are the mythological Greek creatures with beautiful, intoxicating voices but hideous phases that caused Odysseus to lash himself to the mast rather than being sucked into crashing his boat on the two rocks that acropophiles will probably know the names of.

Las Sirenas
In Spanish, there’s one word for mermaids and sirens – las sirenas – and apparently the connotation is more of the ancient Greek connotation, but with some kind of latter-day comely sea maiden overlay. Basically, it’s a lot of overlapping meanings, histories, sounds and sights layered onto a single word. Pretty fascinating how some words have that depth of meaning where they encompass 1+ words of another language.

Eureka!
Anyway, listening to an ambulance shriek by recently, it struck me that this ambulance “siren” probably comes from the original Greek “siren” of the mermaid/sirena type. Never really thought about how those words overlap but it’s one of those connections that seems so obvious in retrospect that it’s incredible it’s taken 30+ years to make that connection.

The same thing happened with this wine. Pedro Ximenez is a hugely undervalued wine that I think makes consistently great (and crazy sweet!) dessert wines from all over the world. I’ve seen them in Spain, Peru, the Canary Islands, Australia and California and looks like Argentina and Chile grow it too.

Selenhos with their Sherry Fetish
It’s no secret among the cohort of friends that sherry is a style the Selenhos adore and the rest of us are unsold on (most of the group) or generally regard with suspicion (me). Fascinating story on the solera and pretty awesome how palo cortado is made, and there is tons of history layered up on sherry, but it’s still a big gamble when ordering it. And, unless I’m with a connoisseur like Selenho, it’s unlikely a bottle will be ordered for my table. Fortunately, for this story, the Selenhos insisted and we ordered the bottle you see above. Sidebar – pretty amazing typewriter ring in the photo courtesy of Selenhos.


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Sherry from Montila-Moriles?
Circling back to the sirena-ambulance connection, this bottle of what I thought was sherry is made from Pedro Ximenez grapes. Thinking sherry, I checked out what Montila-Moriles DO, which turns out to be close to Jerez (land of sherry) but actually separate. Montila-Moriles makes its wines in the same stunning solera system of Jerez (google it – seriously), but the wines from Montila-Moriles are not fortified, unlike their names from the south.

Amontillado Wine
The wine itself is Alvear “Carlos VII” Amontillado Montilla Moriles DO NV, a name hard to remember even for those used to weird-sounding names from Spain. The key bit of that long name though is Amontillado. Amontillado is a style of sherry in the middle – darker than the lighest style (Fino) and not as dark as Oloroso (the dark, sweet style I prefer). It starts life as a Fino but somehow the yeast protector that usually allows Finos to deliver dies (or is killed off) and the winemaker generally fortifies the wine up in alcohol to keep it from turning too bitter (oxidizing too quickly in wine-speak). That’s the sherry style of Amontillado in a nutshell.

Amontillado, that aha! moment
Cue the ambulance and have a good look at the word “Amontillado.” Looks pretty similar to Montilla-Moriles DO, right? Bingo – apparently, that’s where this style of sherry originated. So even though I was dead wrong about this Amontillado bottle being a sherry now that we know it’s from Cordoba a bit north of Jerez, there’s a pretty strong linkage between these two regions and styles. And the next time I pull out Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy short story on Amontillado and basement terror, it will be thinking of mermaids, ambulances and Montilla-Moriles.

Taste
I don’t recall exactly as it was quite a long time ago but The Wine Advocate description struck me as the most accurate of the 3 descriptions on this website dedicated to this particular wine (copying the description below). I remember sharp smells and earthy taste, really good with the more biting or pungent food and only ok with the blander foods. Lots of nuts too, especially almonds, which again threw me onto the sherry trail.

“From a 25-year old Solera system, its medium to dark amber color is accompanied by a medium to full-bodied sherry revealing loads of pungent, earthy, nutty notes, a slightly oxidized character, and a long, persistent finish.”

Detail Up!
Alvear “Carlos VII” Amontillado in a 25 year solera from Montilla Moriles DO NV in Cordoba, Spain

Random Googles:
* Five main grape varieties are grown in the Montilla Moriles DO: Pedro Ximenez (the most common by far), Moscatel, Airen, Baladi-Verdejo (aka Cayetana and mostly grown in Southern Spain) and Montepila (almost nothing online about this grape)
* Pedro Ximenez (the grape) meet Pedro Ximenez (the wine). Apparently the wine is a dessert wine made from raisins, a fairly labor-intensive process from the sound of it. Sounds kind of similar to how dessert wines are made in Italy (Vin Santo) and Cyprus (Commandaria) with laying out the grapes in the sun so they shrivel up before being pressed.
* Citrus flavors are common in dry Pedro Ximenez styles (kinda surprised by that) and fortified wines are more figs, dates and molasses (which sounds consistent with the ones I’ve tried)

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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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grecanico 2010 sicily di giovannaOde to Motorino
Una pizza napoloteana was an epic pizza place on east 12th street in the east village, until its owner moved cross-country to san francisco and left a whole in the hearts of quite a few pizza-lovers. Rumors abounded about a new pizza place taking over their storefront, and that the new owners might have even bought the oven from the emigrating owners. Years have now passed since that transaction took place and the new store in town is a well-seasoned restaurant with a deserved following. Excellent pies, good wine list and a few subtle surprises make it a go-to restaurant on bustling east 12th.

Anchovy Pizza
The build-it-yourself delivery pizza isn’t exactly a favorite of mine since it involves making your food – exactly the activity you are trying to avoid when ordering delivery… In the case of the white anchovy pizza however, there is an exception to be made.

Cristom vs. Cristom
Earlier that evening was a tasting of some red wine from two different years (2009 and 2002, I believe) that we had bought in Oregon and saved to share with friends who would also geek out about trying the same wine, from the same plot, from two quite distant years. Surprisingly enough, it was pretty easy to tell the difference (even if nobody was really going for a scientific, blind tasting). Fruity and colorful, versus dusty and subdued. Might have been reading too many wine books but it certainly seemed to match what people have said about how wines age.

Clutch Pour by Selenho
Anyway, once the white anchovy pizza arrived, it seemed like some white acidic wines were in the offering, and Selenho happened to have a bottle open and chilling. This is what constitutes a great friend – not the years of knowing each other and shared memories, experiences and folly, or the ability to dig into novels, sports and shared interests – it’s the ability to pull a fantastic, open, chilled bottle of wine from the fridge that matches the impromptu pizza you just purchased. And so it was…

Taste:
Lots of acidity to punch back at the white anchovies draped across the top of the pie and long long finish to keep you remembering how to spell the word “salinity.” Light, crispy, acidic white wine. Not much nose. Lemon and green apple. Surprisingly long finish. Excellent with white anchovies.

Detail Up!
Di Giovanna Grecanico 2010 with 13% alc. from Sicily, Italy

Random Googles:
* Sicilians call it “Grecanico” while the rest of Italy calls it “Garganega”
* Grecanico forms the base of Soave, from the northeast of Italy, in Veneto
* Element 34 is Selenium. Yes, it’s entirely unrelated to the rest of this post.

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