Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Chateau Peyros "Magenta" 2010

Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Please forgive my less-than-consistent updates as of late — between the holidays and other commitments, free time has been scarce. Busy is good, I suppose. But I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine, and I have a trip planned to a Virginia winery this weekend as well that I plan to share with you.

Today I’d like to tell you about a fantastic Madiran wine given to me in a wine exchange with my manager at work. I traded her a lovely 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir (natch) and in return received this delicious wine. Madiran AOP is located just 35 miles north of the Pyrenees and 50 miles east of the Atlantic in Southwestern France. The combination of the steep mountainside vineyards and the Mediterranean climate help to ripen the grapes properly.

Madiran wines wines are made from red grapes only and the rules require that at least 40% of the wine blend consist of the region’s primary grape Tannat, though some are actually 100% and this is also permitted, or rather not enforced. It is a very age-worthy wine style because of the concentrated fruit and substantial tannins (hence the origin of the grape’s name) but therefore also can be astringent and rough when younger. The addition of Bordeaux stars Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon or the local varietal known as Fer Servadou soften it and help make it more drinkable, especially in its youth.  After a few years time it becomes incredibly smooth and supple and this wine was showing well already. Newer winery techniques such as micro-oxygenization lend additional aid in the softening process as does oak maturation. The structure and elegance of these wines can easily stand up to their Bordeaux cousins, and some of the most famous fetch similar prices. While this is the original and most famous region for Tannat, it is now finding great success in Uruguay, similar to that of Malbec in Argentina.

This 2010 Chateau Peyros “Magenta” is a 50-50 blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc and on the palate also strikes a perfect balance of structure and fruit — blackberry, plum and cherry primarily. The name is derived from the purplish hue of the blend.  It also has a nice amount of baking spice, hints of smoke and an earthy, almost gamey note as well. A lasting finish included additional hints of spice that lingered on. Typical age before drinking is recommended at 4-8 years, so at five years old, this beauty was ready to drink. It’s also extremely affordable. I don’t know the price paid as it was a gift, but from a quick online search it looks like you can get them from $11-14.

Suggested food pairings are pork and lamb, or a fatty cheese like Roquefort — the fat easily cut through by the firm tannins. So we prepared braised pork chops with a dijon glaze and a spicy pilaf and it was a match made in heaven.

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Bodegas Carrau Tannat 2000, Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Ah, summer. Forgive me, I’ve been all about spending less time in front of digital boxes and more time embracing nature…and wine. Camping, going to the beach, grilling… the other day I purchased 15 bottles of Bordeaux 2009, and while I’m keeping 12 of them for my collection I did open one to enjoy with some filet mignon au poivre that I had just grilled. I even doused the filets with a tad of that nectar of the red-meat-pairing gods to great effect.

Anyway today I am here in front of the digital box and I want to tell you about another great experience I had at Barcelona in South Norwalk, CT and specifically, two amazing wines. Sunday nights are special nights at the restaurant, as they have their “sunday pig roast” and all bottles of wine are half price. The pig, and the seasonal vegetables and salad included were delicious, and we ordered a few tapas as well to pair with the wines. We had the chorizo with sweet & sour figs in a balsamic-sherry glaze, grilled asparagus with truffle vinaigrette (again, since we loved it so at the Fiesta dinner) and the albondingas (meatballs in tomato sauce.) But my favorite part of the experience was the wines we were able to enjoy at half the cost! And as the new resident wine nerd in the group, I was given the task of picking the wines. Normally a Priorat and the Tannat we had from Uruguay were each approaching one hundred dollars in price – though this is restaurant cost, and they would be less in store. The Priorat is about $65 online.

I know Priorat is hot stuff right now, and rightfully so. I tend, as with Italian reds, to prefer extremely concentrated wines more and more. Super Tuscans and Nero D’Avola, to name a few. So naturally something like a Priorat is right up my alley. As I usually can’t splurge on these wines, I have been enjoying old-vine Cariñena lately as a worthy substitute. Priorats are traditionally from my understanding the product of 100-year old Garnacha and Cariñena vines. This particular one was a blend of several varieties, adding Cabernet and Syrah to the Garnacha and Cariñena. The 2008 Font de la Figuera Priorat was deep ruby in color and on the nose had strong aromas of toast and smoke and red and black fruit, and some minerality to it. On the palate, it was full bodied and spicy, deeply concentrated and complex, each of the varietals making a contribution of deep black or red fruit. Some subtle smokey French oak aromas and flavors were present as well as it is aged in both new and older French barrels for 15 months. It was very well-balanced and had a nice finish of more toast and smoke. They are all hand-harvested and selected grapes in Priorat style.

2000 Bodegas Carrau Tannat, Amat

2000 Bodegas Carrau Tannat, Amat

Next up we tried a 2000 Tannat from Bodegas Carrau, Amat. I learned about Tannat being a succes story in Uruguay after being brought from southern France so I was eager to try it. I recall as well  the winemaking process developed with this variety known as micro-oxygenation, which softens the harsh tannins by exposing the must to small amounts of oxygen during fermentation. It was a ruby-garnet color, likely due to age, and another reason why this one especially reminded me of a mature Italian red like Barolo or Barbaresco, dusty and earthy in all its glory. It is also a bit astringent and hence best enjoyed with food. Tannat is usually used to add some kick to flabbier wines due to its high tannin content from its thick skins – and hence the name. Though here they are made in a slightly softer style, as the French ones can be overwhelmingly tannic at times. The acidity was pretty well-balanced and the tannins were not too intense on this one. Perhaps its age also contributed to it being softer and more balanced. I picked up some chocolate on the palate especially, and plum and raspberry. It had a spicy long finish. A worthy first bottle for me.