This week we’re looking at red wines again, with a family of blends so versatile that they can pair well with both chicken and hearty fall stews.
I have a special announcement. As the electronic version of E Wine of the Week subscriber list has grown to more than 1,300, I’ve noticed that the wine dinners have been selling out very quickly. Perhaps it’s because of this that I get many requests to announce other events. So, I will. Now there’s a new page on my web site, www.brucecochran.com, called the Community Bulletin Board. It’s a place to announce your upcoming events and other news of interest to Arkansans who love wine, food and travel. I’m particularly interested in helping fundraisers for non-profit organizations, but all are welcome. So send in your announcements—via email please—to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mark your calendars for the fourth annual American Heart Association Festival of Wine, October 4 at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock–more than 600 wines plus food from a dozen restaurants. The event sold out last year so buy your tickets in advance. Advance tickets are $50. The festival’s executive director will have tickets available at the next eWine Sampling at Cajun’s Wharf in Little Rock on Wednesday, September 5.
Try a new wine this week!
In the world of wine, many new things are actually old things rediscovered. One example is a family of grapes known as “Mediterranean blends” or “Rhone blends.” There are both white and red versions, but the reds are by far the most popular.
Partly due to the popularity of the “Mediterranean diet” and partly due to Australian shiraz, these “Mediterranean blends” or “Rhone blends” are now being made all over the world. Their original home is in the south of France, near the Mediterranean Sea. The best known, Chateauneuf du Pape from Avignon on the Rhone River, can include up to 13 grape varieties, the most important being grenache. Syrah (shiraz), another Rhone variety, is also used.
From Spain to Italy, and around the Pacific Rim from Chile to California to Washington to Australia, syrah, grenache and their friends are finding new homes.
In Australia these blends are sometimes called G-S-M, and include a third Rhone variety called mourvedre. The best known is probably by Rosemount (around $10-$12). Turkey Flat also has their own excellent versions.
These varieties are also popular in South Africa, one of the world’s top wine producing countries, though most have not gained a following in the U.S. An exception is Fairview’s Goats du Roam (around $15), which is very successful in this country. If it sounds like “Cotes du Rhone”, a French Rhone blend, it’s supposed to.
New World versions are gaining a larger following in this country than are the French originals, partly because of the rich, deep, fruit-centered style, without the earthy flavors that many Americans find a little distracting, but which in large part define French Rhones. Lighter styled reds for summertime are becoming increasingly popular, as are dry rosés from the same blends.
In California, places like Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley are emerging as new homes for these newly popular grape varieties. People who make these blends are called “Rhone Rangers.” There’s even an association they can join.
Washington winemaker Ron Bunnell makes a popular blend of syrah and mourvedre.called “vif” ($30-$35). Chateau Ste. Michelle, where he served as head winemaker for eight years, still produces excellent syrah.