Out of the hundreds of wines I taste a week, sometimes it seems it’s like a never-ending parade of the same thing, over and over again. Wow, another Napa Cab, one more Washington Syrah, hey, an Italian Pinot Grigio. Yawn. It’s not that I don’t enjoy these wines, but there is so much of them out there that for one to get my attention it really has to stand out. Thankfully every now and then, something comes across the tasting table that is unusual and exciting enough to make me forget about the unremarkable monotony that preceded it. One recent example is the 2009 Nigl Gelber Muskateller from Austria.
Gelber Muskateller? Huh? Even I had to look this up. It’s a type of muscat (wow, Sherlock Holmes) that is not only one of the most ancient, but one of the most ancient grapes, period. The first thing that struck me about the Nigl was the gorgeous aromatics: very floral, loads of peaches and pears reminicent of an Italian Moscato d’Asti. But that’s where the similarities end as this is a dry, steely white. I love the contrast of the aromas that make you think you might be getting a sweet wine but it finishes dry; just another delightful aspect of the Nigl. It would make a killer pre-dinner or lazy afternoon bottle. And as we get into November, I can’t help but think it would be nice on the Thanksgiving table. (Since I’m already seeing commercials for Christmas on TV, I feel comfortable talking about Turkey Day.)
Possibly the only thing nicer than having this wine on your holiday table would to be at the winery, drinking a well-chilled bottle. You’ve got to check this place out! Not only is the winery building itself full of charm, but it also houses a restaurant and hotel. (Yes, I will have another glass. I’m a guest at the hotel.) What’s not to love about being in a rural setting, surrounded by vineyards, and looking up at a striking castle ruin? Peruse the Nigl website and dream. The second best way to capture the magic of the wine and the region is to read the Austrian catalog put together by the man who discovers and champions these wines: Terry Theise. To call it a catalog is like calling the Sistine Chapel a room with a painted ceiling. It’s required reading for any wine geek; full of passion, humor, wit, contention, and a bit of stridency. And when you’ve finished the Austrian catalog, move on to Theise’s Champagne and Germany tomes. Theise will convert you to love the wines that are close to his heart; if he doesn’t, it certainly won’t be for a lack of effort nor prose!
So what are some of the more unusual wines you have tasted recently?
I have to be honest and admit I’m not a huge fan of aged white wines. Even with top-flight Burgundy or Chablis, I like to drink them fairly young. Though I do appreciate a few years of bottle-age for the oak and other elements to integrate, I usually prefer the fresh fruit and lively acidity of younger wines, regardless of their price. But when you talk about Huet, from France’s Loire Valley, it’s a whole different story entirely.
The region of Vouvray produces a wide range of wines from the Chenin Blanc grape: sparkling, dry, off-dry, and sweet. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Huet isn’t the best producer in Vouvray. Huet makes some of the most sublime white wines in the world, period. And they can age better than most reds. The sweetness of the wine and natural acidity are the one-two punch that make Huet’s moelleux wines so ageworthy. They are not quite at dessert-level sweetness but it’s certainly present.
The wines pictured about are from two different vineyards and were remarkably distinct. The Le Mont bottling was very honeyed in color and texture; very unctuous and golden. The Clos du Borg, however, drank like a wine in its relative infancy than one at the quarter-century mark. Very mineral-driven, racy, and lively, with subtle sweetness. If poured blind, I never would have pegged this wine at being more than ten years old.
It was a real thrill to get to taste two 25-year-old wines from a legendary producer. Discovering new things and being constantly surprised is what makes working in the wine business so great. And, uh, getting to try wines like these!
We’re getting tiny amounts of each bottling; let me know if you are interested.
So what is your take on aging white wines?
I can’t make it through my farmers market these days without getting broccoli, cauliflower, or some exotic variant like Romanesco. (Especially the latter, because it looks so cool. And it’s a fractal.) Though we all probably have recurring nightmares of steam-table vegetables at school, all mushy, bland, and lifeless, I encourage you to (re)discover Romanesco broccoli via roasting. All you need are three ingredients: Romanesco broccoli, salt, and olive oil. Here’s the technique. (Don’t sweat it.)
- Preheat your over to 400 degrees.
- Slice the broccoli lengthwise into fairly thin slices. You’ll have florets (and bits of florets) everywhere as well as slices of stem; that’s OK. (Don’t discard the stem; it’s tasty.)
- Toss in olive oil to coat, put in a single layer on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt. Put the baking sheet on a lower rack in the oven.
- Check often; you’ll want to toss the pieces around to make sure they cook evenly. The florets and pieces of floret get nice and crispy and, when the root pieces are tender and slightly browned, you’re done!
Now while you are eating this straight from the oven (the sheet pan is your plate), what wine should you pour into your glass? Excellent question. I love Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, or even a good-quality, dry sparkling wine. I would say this goes for all salad greens and green vegetables; even asparagus. I’m still mystified that the old saw about asparagus being difficult (as if it were a petulant child) to pair with wine. It’s good with all the above whites, and I’d add a dry, unoaked Chenin Blanc to the mix.
Some of my favorites we have on hand:
- 2008 Gerard Bouley Sancerre $24.99
- 2008 Hiedler Grunder Veltliner Loss $15.99
- 2009 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc $13.99
- NV Adami Prosecco $14.99
And two more esoteric picks that are my all-time favorite whites in the $20ish range; both are Italian. The more I drink wine the more I love Italian whites, especially from the North.
- 2008 Abbazzia di Novacella Kerner $21.99
- 2009 Vietti Arneis $22.99
So what are your favorite wines to pair with vegetables? And are there any foods you find difficult to match with the right wine?
Greetings, fellow wine lovers! This is Jameson and I am taking the reins of all things blog-related for Esquin Wine Merchants. Before I get started, let me give you a little background about myself. I moved here from Chicago (where I dabbled in the food and wine industries) almost six years ago to pursue my desire to work in the wine business full-time. And I haven’t looked back since. Here’s what you can expect to find here:
- Passion and enthusiasm about wine
- Lots of food and wine talk, with an emphasis on pairings
- A love of all esoteric and unusual wines from Picpoul to the Puget Sound
- Loads about Washington wine
- Unwavering desire to see more regular sparkling wine and Champagne consumption
- Interviews with local, national, and international wine personalities
- Dispatches from vineyards and wineries near and (fingers crossed) far
- Notes about restaurants from the humble to the fancy
- Beer. Yes, beer. Occasionally. As any winemaker will tell you, it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine.
Here’s what you won’t find here:
- Superior, snobby, elitist attitudes about wine
- The word “seamless” and all other worthless wine descriptors
- Lackadaisical, sporadic updates by robots
Please let me know what you would like to see and read about; I appreciate all praise, kudos, flattery, constructive criticism, and glancing blows. Cheers, everybody!