Ground Control to Major Tom: “Fire up the Airbus A320 because we got a long way to go and a short time to get there!”
Part III of 2020’s glorious wine journey is indeed covering some serious ground — pretty much everywhere south of the equator is in play as we expand our palates.
Although parts of southwest France and all of Uruguay would have you believe they are the go-to spots for the Tannat grape, historically Tunisia has been the source of Tannat that has made the most impact.
Although parts of southwest France and all of Uruguay would have you believe they are the go-to spots for the Tannat grape, historically the African nation of Tunisia has been the source of Tannat that has made the most impact. You see, years ago the Grand Cru and other quality regions of Bordeaux had a challenging weather year; their main red grapes were either thin and weedy or rotted or both. Well, what’s a vigneron to do? What if our nation had outposts in a region that was adept at growing a grape that could absolve our wine sins and allow us to make at least acceptable Bordeaux? As we know this would not be ethical or legal, but what if some tanks were accidently passing by and some of the juice inside said tanks somehow got into our tanks? Couldn’t we just accept that as divine intervention?
Well, that may have happened, and it may be why I bring up Tunisia when I mention Tannat. To be fair, both southwest France and Uruguay make some lovely Tannat wines; the South American versions are the ones you will most likely find to sample. Just be ready for a tall, dark and bold stranger in the bottle.
That same descriptor can be applied to Carménère wines. This “exiled grape of Bordeaux” finds a real home in Chile; Argentina makes some nice versions, as well.
Let’s stay in Argentina to consider a wine friend I have recommended previously, namely Torrontes. The reason we are re-visiting this aromatic, floral and spicy white is that it just can’t seem to get any real buzz. Let’s look at that as an opportunity because it has decent availability and even stellar versions rarely break the $20 mark. The CRIOS by Susana Balbo Wines delivers complexity and yumminess for about half that. Salads, seafood and herby, white-meat dishes know that like a good PR person, Torrontes makes them look really great all the time.
Our last Southern Hemisphere hero is an Australian Viognier. Ironically, in a country known for overdoing its wines, especially at lower price points, Aussie Viogniers such as Yalumba Y at around $12 are lither, more refreshing and just more interesting in the typical American version. Another reliable option is Torbreck Woodcutter’s version for a few dollars more. Both are widely available both in stores and restaurants.
Go forth and enjoy.