Our Duty to YOU. . .
2012 CHATEAU HAUT-MONPLAISIR ‘Prestige’ Malbec – Cahors, France
Choosing the wines for your club presents a bit of a challenge, like the dilemma of which hat to wear. One of our “hats” is the mandate to bring you authentic examples of international wines. The other is our wish to indulge your preference: Over the years we have seen the general palate of your group more attracted to darker color, riper fruit, and heavier, richer textures. Sometimes these two hats are conveniently the same; authenticity and generosity can coincide, as with last month’s provision of Deóbriga Rioja. Many of you validated this by coming back for more!
But now we approach Cahors, a wine region historically known for more taciturn Malbecs which vaguely mumble about dark fruit but more loudly grumble with dry earthiness. The wines of Cahors are “true” in that they are faithful to place and local preference, but do they indulge the palate of a wine club member half a world away? Our hope is that you, we, and the wine itself can concede a little.
YOU must be true to your wine love, open-mindedly declaring, “Show me the whole world regardless of my personal preferences!” Every comprehensive wine book mentions the Southern French place Cahors. Are you curious enough to consider its virtues, and give it the time of day with the proper setting?
WE take it upon ourselves to advise you on that setting and tell you what to expect, and – primarily - to find you a good example of the type. Our contribution:
“Cahors” is the place. “Malbec” is the grape. Historically you’d only see the place name – not the grape - on the front label and you’d be consulting your wine encyclopedia for elaboration. Cahors is a wine region culturally influenced by its proximity to Bordeaux. It is also the home of foie gras and cassoulet, the hearty stew of meat and beans, both of which require a bolder, more chunky red for an accomplice.
You may wonder, “This sounds like a winter wine. Why are you showing it in the middle of a June heat wave?”
Good point. The reds of Cahors are more suited for cold, rainy nights, Edgar Allen Poe stories, and the corresponding, sturdy fare. – But we had to be opportunistic; this wine was just presented to us and will sell out before the leaves begin to fall and storm clouds gather. So we suggest an alternative use. Consider this wine’s stylistic kinship with the sturdy reds of Greece. Steal a page from that country’s cookbook: Grill up lamb sausages and find some Halloumi (a grill-friendly Greek cheese we don’t yet carry) to keep it company on the grate. Once plated, involve some olives, perhaps a mix of types. How’s that for a Mediterranean-style summer food solution?
Finally, I suggested that the wine itself must also make a concession, and this Chateau Haut-Monplaisir does just that by transcending the less attractive tendencies of traditional Cahors. If we’d shown this fifteen years ago it would have been a very different wine experience, one that probably shouldn’t have been allowed out of its homeland. Until recently most of the wineries in this less-advanced part of France repeatedly used bacteria-ridden casks, lacked temperature control, and omitted other modern winemaking practices which assure a more stable and well-preserved product. Once a wine only a Cahors grandmother could love, this place has finally conceded with a bit of modernization. Authenticity remains intact, but the funk is gone. Honestly-structured fruit can shine.
If you spent the time to read all of this I’d call you a true wine student, deserving to be stretched by an honest, place-representative wine like this Cahors. Hats off to you! - Jim D
Friendliness from Northern Italy
2013 ZENATO ‘Alanera’ – Rosso Veronese, Italy
Certainly you have heard of the great wine Amarone. Based on the Corvina grape grown near Verona, it is unique in its winemaking with the fruit, once picked, foregoing crushing and pressing until the clusters have dried for about 120 days. Not until January or February does this semi-dehydrated crop head for the fermentation vat. The result: A very dark, concentrated drink which costs a pretty penny due to the labor intensive process and evaporation of potential wine.
“Alanera” is made by an Amarone producer and utilizes a similar grape recipe: 55% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Corvinone, 5% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It costs significantly less than Amarone because 50% of the fruit is treated conventionally (i.e. quickly and efficiently) by being crushed and fermented right after harvest. And what becomes of the OTHER 50%? It is allowed to dry - just like the Amarone-bound fruit but for about halfthe time. The result is what we often call “Baby Amarone,” a red exhibiting some of the enrichment of the far more expensive wine.
A deep ruby color invites you to indulge in a big sniff, rewarded with intense cherries, sottobosco, and sweet dark earth. The palate feel is generous and juicy with lively acidity. Fully ripe fruit and even a sense of chocolate happen in the mouth.
If the evening is hot, serve this at a cool cellar temperature and savor it with grilled pork. In the winter it’s a great mate for roasted meats. Enjoy!