The Crémant of the Crop

I recently had to face the horrifying self-realization that I am a hoarder. I am not sure of the exact moment I made this realization. That slight tinge of recognition when I saw a few minutes of a reality TV show on the subject? When I started having to ban houseguests from opening certain closets or even bedroom doors? I don’t know. But I buy things I think are wonderful and beautiful and then decide they are so wonderful and beautiful that I can’t possibly sully them with use. And so they sit, in packages, with labels still intact. If I ever mention wanting something in the presence of my mother, she tells me to go shopping in my closet first. She is sure I will find it there, whatever it is. She is usually right.

This hoarding instinct tends to permeate my wine buying habits as well. I find a wine I am incredibly excited about and carefully store it away because I can’t possibly bring myself to drink it and then be faced with the harsh reality that I no longer have it. For a while, I tried purchasing two bottles of every wine that excited me – one for now, one for later – but that got to be expensive. I decided just recently that it was time to start enjoying some of these beautiful and wonderful things before I was no longer around to do so. After all, things happen. And so, this is how on a recent Sunday evening I came to be drinking a delightful wine that had been chilling in my wine refrigerator for longer than I could remember. What had I been waiting for?

The wine was Jean-François Ganevat Crémant du Jura “La Combe” Rotalier, a sparkling wine from the fascinating wine region of Jura in eastern France. Jura, from which the term Jurassic comes, has topography similar to that found millions of years ago with the key soil types being limestone and marlstone. I was incredibly pleased with the wine. Its lovely pale amber hue with delicate bubble ballet immediately belied any notion that this was going to be just another Champagne wannabe. The nose was abundant with fruit. Pears and stone fruits such as peach and apricot flooded my taste buds and then were quickly enveloped by a pronounced biscuitiness that lingered for several glorious moments. It was during one of these moments that I recalled why I had purchased this particular bottle of wine. It was produced using biodynamic agriculture. Jean-François Ganevat converted his family’s estate in Rotalier to biodynamics in 2006 after returning from Burgundy where he spent time in the company of natural wine enthusiasts. Ganevat’s methods include minimal intervention with nature while growing his grapes as well as minimizing intervention in the winemaking process. For example, he limits his use of sulfur to a bare minimum. I have yet to try a biodynamic wine I do not like. This wine was no exception. And that was the most wonderful and beautiful thing of all. 

Zweigelt? Zwei Not!

A recent issue of a food and wine magazine offered up several grapes to pinot noir lovers looking for more affordable alternatives. Among those proffered was Zweigelt, a red grape indigenous to Austria that is a cross of Blaufränkisch with Saint Laurent, created in 1922 by Dr. Friedrich Zweigelt. Although both Zweigelt and pinot noir grapes are red, for me, that is where the similarities end. That having been said, I highly recommend trying Zweigelt for a multitude of other reasons. Although it is often blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot, I suggest tasting a bottle of the varietal in its pure form. You will be in for an affordable treat.

Last night I had the pleasure of tasting a 2008 Zantho Zweigelt at the hotel I am staying at in San Diego. Darker than pinot noir, the nose on the bright ruby red wine gave subtle hints of the fruit within; nothing too overwhelming. On the tongue, the wine started out smooth and fruity, with notes of red fruit, currants. I was expecting this to carry to a long, smooth finish. But the fruitiness gave way suddenly to a rather intense, spicy bite, slightly astringent, with a touch of tar. It was surprising, but extremely pleasant. Overall, it gave the sensation of beginning down a taciturn river, then unexpectedly hitting a waterfall. It was a wild ride and one I would take again.

Pairing Notes: I paired this wine with a palm and butter lettuce salad with quinoa and a lemony dressing, and pistachio-crusted salmon with wheatberries. Both dishes proved worthy companions to the wine. However, I would really like to pair this Zweigelt with slightly heftier dishes, including chicken and pork with some spicier seasoning, which I think would allow the wine to really shine.

Interesting Fact: The bottle and the Vino-Seal cork are decorated with a picture of the rare woodland lizard that lives in the village of Andau, originally named Zantho, in the county of Burgenland, from whence this wine hails.