Saturday, October 22, 2011

Welcome to the Wine Islands

Since his first taste of the Pedralonga '07, a wine that's made it onto the MFWC's faves list as sure as a catchy song from Glee is downloaded onto iPods everywhere, the Coffee Connoisseur has been searching for a Spanish red that he likes as much. The man is a walking geography lesson. We've tried Galicia, Cigales, even the region near Madrid, and nothing has captured CC's palate. This week, the Spanish guru at Chamber St. recommended a red from La Palma in the Canary Islands, the Vid Sur 2009 Tinto. The Canaries are a string of islands off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic, and the grape is Tinto Negramoll, one of the primary varietals used for Madeira wine, which is made on the eponymous islands 250 miles north of the Canaries.

Madeira was the preferred source of wines in colonial America, since it was a convenient layover point on the shipping routes from Europe to America and the wine produced there improved on the journey. That's an exceptionally unusual trait, since excessive heat (temperatures in shipholds could reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which would cook most wine to oblivion) and motion tend to harm wine, but those influences were so beneficial to Maderia that American customers often demanded that the wine be shipped to India and back to improve its flavor. Those with a taste for history can macerate themselves in David Hancock's 2009 tome Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Taste, an excellent case study of the interaction among merchants, producers and consumers of wine and its commercial aspects.

The product of CC's Vid Sur recalls the production of those legendary beverages in at least one way: Juan Mattias Torrez Perez, the producer, imposes no temperature control on his wines during their fermentation. La Palma is also known for its sweet wines made from Malvasia, another one of the primary grapes grown in Madeira.

While CC has been wandering all over Spanish wine country, the Boss is staying focused on the Loire reds with the 2009 Baudry Chinon from the plot Les Grezeaux, "a unique parcel of gravel over a bed of clay, sand and limestone at the base of the Coteaux du Sonnay, just west of Cravant." This is reputedly one of the best wines to come from the Loire in this vintage, and it's easily under $30. That right there should lure some of you to the Loire. Thirty bucks won't get you a lot in Bordeaux, Burgundy, or even the hillier part of the Rhone (long story short, hills are good for grapes, the steeper the better), but it gets you a great bottle from a place where for centuries they've been growing grapes in a serious way for seriously rich people like the ones who built all those castles to which tourists flock. Try one of the Olga Raffault Cabernet francs if you're a skeptic while we wait to hear back from the boss on the Baudry Grezeaux.

The rest of the club was fairly tame this week. I fulfilled a request for a Pinit Grigio with a Falaghina, an Italian white grape grown on the coast of Campania north of Naples since Roman times, and after buying more bottles of Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon than I can count, for variety's sake I shifted to the Ex Libris Cab, which is made from grapes grown in a variety of Washington state vineyards. 

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