Dining & Drink

‘Hermitaging’ Cabernet?

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Wine of The Week:
Charles & Charles Red

Hello Everyone,
Even in the heat of summertime, many of us like red wines. This week we’ll look at a popular modern twist on a classic techinique.
Try a new wine this week!
Bruce

In some parts of the world, wines are made exclusively from a single grape variety. In others, they think that blending two or more together is better.  One historic example of improving one wine by adding another began in Bordeaux, France, home to some of the world’s greatest wines.

Why would the world’s greatest wines need improving?  Well, these days they probably don’t, but long ago, when an especially cool or wet season resulted in cabernets and merlots of Bordeaux that were too light in color, body and flavor, syrah from southeastern France was added.  Syrah is typically deep, dark and richly textured, just what a wimpy red needs.  This addition of syrah to cabernet sauvignon was called “Hermitaging”.

The name came from one of the Rhone River Valley’s greatest wines, Hermitage.  Hermitage is a deeply colored, full-bodied syrah from the northern stretches of southern France’s Rhone River Valley, where warm, sunny days yield grapes that are deep in color and rich in fruit.  Today they’re expensive, but before they gained their current fame they weren’t.  Adding it to cabernet made sense, though it was usually done in secret to protect the reputation of the more prestigious Bordeaux region.

In recent years Australia really popularized the syrah/cab blend, and their versions were at one time big sellers in the U.S. and around the world.

Today, Washington State has emerged as a prime place to grow both cabernet sauvignon and syrah, so I suppose it’s only natural to see this “Hermitaging” of cabernet happening there.  Charles Smith (K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines), and Charles Bieler (Three Thieves), worked together to make a 51% / 49% Columbia Valley cab/syrah blend called Charles and Charles Red.  It’s a big mouthful of red wine, with layers of black cherry and black raspberry flavors, toast and spice.  It retails for around $12 or $13 a bottle.

The label for Charles and Charles Red is a photograph of a wall of the American Legion Post 35 building near Walla Walla, Washington. Charles Smith bought the building and it is painted as a conceptual art piece. Its intention is to provoke thought of the future while honoring the past.

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