Wine Picks, July 2010

Posted on July 1, 2010 – 7:56 AM | by OldManFoster
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Domaine Nebout, “Les Tressallier des Gravières”
Saint-Pourçain 2008
Corti Brothers $19.99

Smack dab in the middle of France is Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, a small village that won’t likely ring bells for contemporary wine lovers.  But it was well known once: Eight hundred years ago, it was as celebrated as the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Like many wine regions, Saint-Pourçain did not recover after the Phylloxera plague which devastated the nation’s vineyards in the mid-19th century and it never regained its former glory.  In the meantime, a small handful of winemakers continued to make wine from the local grape, Tressallier. Due west from the Mâcon, the region’s soils share Burgundy’s chalk and indeed Burgundian grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay are grown there. But for Tressallier, growers reserve the sites with gravelly granite and sand, where it has always done particularly well. Saint-Pourçain’s fortune’s may be reversing yet again — in 2009 the appellation was elevated to AOC status.  For now, the packaging is charmingly provincial in the way that wine labels look when they are marketed only to French people and not the international market. The 1999 edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine calls Saint-Pourçain a “cool-climate curiosity”- an alliterative phrase that makes my mouth water – but Nebout’s Tressallier is so delicious that I won’t be surprised to see bottles from this small village become more common. It has some of the floral and nutty aromas found in Chardonnay from Burgundy, but with much more acidity and minerality. It is generous and even a bit oily on the palate, making it an interesting match for early summer produce like new potatoes, mushrooms, and pheasant eggs.

Quinta dos Grilos
Dão Branco 2008
Corti Brothers $12.99

Some wines are undeniably delicious, and many of them are from Portugal. The combination of truly refreshing acidity and appetizing aromas puts the Quinta dos Grilos Dão Branco firmly into this category. It is made from Encruzado and Cerceal grapes native to Portugal and commonly used in the Dão wine region for white, or branco, wines. The Dão is an inland region, surrounded by heavily forested mountains. Wine tourism in Portugal can be frustrating because there are usually no signs to lead you towards a winery. This is especially so in the Dão where the vineyards are often invisible from the road, planted here and there in clearings of pine. Since Portugal joined the European Union a lot of money has spent on restructuring the industry; there is a move away from co-operative production toward estate-grown wine.  In the past, small farmers who grew grapes as just one of many crops would take a few buckets to the local co-op where they’d get mixed in with grapes from all the other small farmers. Now individual estates are focusing on making quality wine entirely from their own grapes. Dão vineyards are at high altitudes which tempers the inland heat and helps the grape retain its natural acidity. Although the grapes are grown a distance from the coast, the Grilos seems an obvious match with grilled seafood. Pick out a live black bass from Passmore Ranch at the Sunday Farmer’s Market. Clean it, scale it, salt and pepper it; squeeze a lemon over it and throw it on the grill.  Serve with grilled zucchini and mint.

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