A Thrilling, Endangered Grape from the Stunning Mountains of Northern Greece

Vertical village in the Zagori, nestled on a hillside. Image courtesy www.geozagori.gr
Vertical village (lower left) in the Zagori, nestled on a hillside. Image courtesy www.geozagori.gr

THE ZAGORI region of Greece has only very recently become a hot “alternative” tourist destination — in part since it became a UNESCO protected geopark in 2010.

The Zagori highlands, located within the Pindus mountain range in the larger Greek region of Epirus, are for the most part abandoned, shockingly steep, infertile lands.  As is the case with most of Greece, the Zagori’s beauty stems from its karst landscape; that is to say, a limestone landscape which has been eroded by groundwater.

Natural pools near Papingo, Vikos–Aoös Natural Park.
Natural pools near Papingo, Vikos–Aoös Natural Park.

These karstic landscapes sculpt some of the most beautiful places on earth. (Click to Read more)

Guess What’s In Your Bourgogne Rouge …

La grappe de raisin, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1868.
La grappe de raisin, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1868.

I’ll say it again: I firmly believe any true Burgundy lover will regularly drink entry-level Bourgogne from carefully chosen producers.

Granted, the keywords here are carefully chosen. Some producers’ Bourgogne rouge will be a mind-boggling value, a terroirdriven portal to their house style.  Others will range from serviceable to saddening.

As I’m skeptical of négociants’ ability to produce quality, inexpensive wine at such a massive scale across vintages (30,000 bottles in 2011, according to this source), I’d wanted to taste the 2013 Bouchard Père et Fils Bourgogne rouge before committing to a first 5 cases for the wine shop. I sold a pallet of the 2012 Bourgogne rouge, and was proud to offer a pleasant red Burgundy to customers insisting on Pinot Noir under $20. It was a value workhorse of sorts, one that I could actually envisage drinking at home.

I ended up bringing the 2013 in; it does the trick at $20. But while tasting the 2013 Bouchard Bourgogne rouge, I stumbled upon a question for which I had no answer.

The 2013 Bouchard Bourgogne rouge was decidedly more stern than the 2012; it immediately fetched a sense memory of Irancy reds.

You’ll probably never see an Irancy; in part because there aren’t many, and in part because Irancy are strangely earthy, alien reds, to which few wine buyers will commit resources. Irancy are always red, and are Pinot Noir with bits of César — a wildly tannic, rare grape allowed only in the Yonne region — growing in Chablis-like Kimmeridgian limestone marls. César can constitute up to 10% of Irancy reds. (Click to Read more)

How to Drive Your Cabernet Franc Crazy at the Dinner Table

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Homemade côte de boeuf and sauce Choron.

Given this blog’s obvious indebtedness to François Rabelais, it’s long overdue that I sing praises of Loire Cabernet Franc — particularly Chinon.

Last Thursday, thanks in large part to Thierry Germain, I discovered the most perfect food pairing in the universe for Loire Cabernet Franc.

With a friend, we threw together an impromptu dinner contrasting two Loire Cabernet Francs from the same vintage: a 2002 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny “La Marginale”, and a 2002 Olga Raffault Chinon “Les Picasses”.

These are two benchmark Cab Francs from an excellent, sun-drenched, warm vintage. Thierry Germain’s Domaine des Roches Neuves “La Marginale” is his tête de cuvée wine, only made in the best vintages. A portion of the vines for La Marginale reside in the fabled lieu-dit “Poyeux” (of Clos Rougeard fame) in Varrains, and the other comes from other vines around Chacé; Olga Raffault’s Picasses is sourced from its own revered vineyard in the northwest of Chinon. Here are maps of Saumur and Chinon.

Saumur
Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. 
Chinon and Bourgueil.
Chinon and Bourgueil.

Thierry Germain is clearly a bon vivant, and meticulous in all he does; he is one of the only winemakers whose technical sheets offer not one, but twelve different food pairings.

Côte de boeuf sauce Choron was Thierry Germain’s pairing suggestion for La Marginale that stole our hearts. We’d already decided steak was in order, so all that was left was figuring out what the hell a sauce Choron is. (Click to Read more)