Off the Beaten Path

    I was recently invited to dinner by friends from France, who, though here for many years, still love to go ”off the beaten path” when it comes to wine with dinner. They mentioned that they were having Beef Bourguignon and asked me if I’d bring something red and out of the ordinary.

    As I started thinking about what to bring, I came across a number of red wines that, while not mentioned a lot, are still worth finding.

    In France’s Loire Valley, much more known for its white wines than its reds, there is Chinon. Chinon is the appellation covering wines produced around the historic town of Chinon, an area that has been producing wine for many centuries, and although wines of all three colors are made there, the focus is now very clearly on reds. Small quantities of crisp white Chenin Blanc play a useful role here, but these account for just a few percent of total production.

    The Raffault family have been making wine on their estate for over 400 years, so, in French terms, they’ve probably got the hang of it. Their 2018 Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Les Galuches, Loire, France, ($17.99), is a spicy, medium-bodied red with blackberry, currant notes and a nose of smoky overtones. It’s a red that is had from Fall through early Summer and is really great with lamb, cheese and game dishes.

    It’s pretty easy to go off the beaten path in South Africa, as jungle areas separate many of the country’s best wine-growing regions.

    One of the country’s best reds is Pinotage, a Burgundy-style red that is grown in several parts of the country and has recently been finding favor here in the U.S. One of the best examples is grown by  Doolhof Estates, located in the country’s Wellington wine-growing region. TheEstates lie between Bain’s Kloof and the Groenberg Mountain Range. The result is soils that are finer, more balanced and deeper than in the surrounding countryside with clay content evenly distributed. A combination of Malmesbury shale, homogenic Glenrosa and Clovelly soils ensure that the roots are able to descend to four metres or beyond.

    The Doolhof Dark Lady Pinotage, 2019, Wellington, ($18.99), is a youthful purple, fresh in color. A coffee, mocha explosion with dark chocolate, rich black fruit, almonds and black cherries on the nose. All these elements follow through adding complexity and depth on the palate. Light to medium body with firm, well integrated tannins. Lovely fruit and wood balance, this wine is made to enjoy young. In addition to rich meat dishes, chocolate confections and Duck a l’Orange, South Africans have it with Ostrich;(so don’t hesitate if you’re so inclined!).

    Although Chile produces many wine varieties which we all know and love, not many people know that the country’s most popular wine for domestic consumption is one that’s not very well known here and that would be Carmenere. A trademark for Chile, this red variety disappeared in European vineyards in the mid 19th century, and reappeared between the Merlot vines in Chile 100 years later. The deepest, darkest and most purple of the red grapes, Carmenere needs a long ripening period to reach its maximum potential. Rich in red fruits with smooth and well rounded tannins, make this an easy to drink variety and very enjoyable.

    Tarapaca Gran Reserva Carmenere 2018, Maipo Valley, Chile, ($15.99), has an expressive, complex, fresh aroma characterized by spicy notes such as clove and pepper, as well as subtle vegetal notes such as red pepper. These aromas are apparent due to the fact that the vineyards are situated very close to the river, with its cool waters, and also due to the summer afternoons, whereby fresh breezes travel up through the valley from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes mountain range. This wine stands out for its unique red ruby color and black fruit aromas; in mouth it is well rounded and rich in flavors, where the figs notes and wild fruits, together with delicate spices aromas, are in perfect harmony. For this reason, on the palate the wine is round, smooth, full-bodied, and with ripe tannins. Black fruit aromas are present, such as blackcurrant, blackberry and plum. Flavorsome, balanced and with good persistence.

    So, the next time you decide you’d like to try something new and different, go “off the beaten path” with these great alternatives.

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