In part two of our wine speed dating session we invite you to slip into something more comfortable, light the fire and fill that balloon glass with a different type of red wine. After all, variety is the spice of life.
From Italy’s famous wine growing region of Piedmont comes Nebbiolo. Known as the ‘Italian Stallion’, this lesser-known red packs a serious punch. If a wine variety was a place, then Nebbiolo would be a smoky subterranean speakeasy in 1930s Chicago. Lovers of the variety describe its aromas of smoke, tar and roses, fusing magnificently with the fruit flavours of plum and cherry. Its incredible complexity has seen it compared to the Pinot Noir, both for residual flavour in the glass, but also the challenges it presents to the vigneron for successful harvest. The finest Nebbiolo wines of Italy are the Barbaresco and Barolo.
Australia is one of the few regions outside Piedmont (and the Napa Valley) that has successfully grown the famously fickle variety. Heathcote, in Central Victoria, is one such place and the aptly named ‘Tar and Roses’ Nebbiolo has had promising reviews.
Nebbiolo, so named for the swirling fog engulfing the hills of Piedmont during harvest, is a wine well worth cellaring, or enjoying right now with a rich protein based meal or cheese board on a dark and stormy night.
Tempranillo is a versatile red wine of medium body which pairs with an array of savoury foods due to its tomato infused flavour. Like your best mate watching the game with you on TV, Tempranillo is as happy with pizza, lasagne or a burrito, as an expensive cheese or traditional Spanish roasted vegetables or cured meats.
Which is not to say that there is anything low-brow about its flavour. On the contrary, it a much celebrated variety grown in the Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions of North Central Spain. Regarded by the Spanish as the noble black grape, it exhibits notes of leather and cherry. Tasters also detect heady aromas of vanilla, clove and tobacco. It is closest in flavour to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese.
For such an exciting flavour mix, Tempranillo is a great value wine. Spanish grower Jose Moro from Ribera del Duero has produced a 100% Tempranillo called ‘Lovers not Toreadors’ available in Australia for less than $20 and described by its fans as ‘a cheap wine that doesn’t taste cheap’.
Sounds like the perfect foil for a night in with a movie, a pizza and a pretty lady (or man).
Malbec had a rocky start in its home terroir of France, where imperfect growing conditions led the French to unkindly name it mal bouche – meaning bad mouth. It took a trip half way around the world, to the high altitude plains of Mendoza, Argentina, for this purple grape to really find its feet, literally on the rooftop of South America.
Championed by the Argentines, this unassuming variety has morphed into an eclectic wine displaying the nuances of flavour we associate with Latin America. As well as its dominant red fruit flavours, it exhibits chocolate, molasses, coffee and mocha. Interestingly, tasters have noted gravel, green stem, black pepper and tobacco. Pretty much your average day out in Buenos Aires.
Given its quirky nature, Malbec is a great accompaniment to earthy dishes and smoky spices such as paprika, cumin and sumac. Of course it pairs well with red meat, also wild game flesh such as venison and duck, or ‘meaty’ vegetables such as eggplant and mushrooms. It’s a surprising match with the Asian flavours of tempeh and black bean and also rice-based dishes from all cultures. On the cheese board add some goats curd, blue vein and rich soft cow’s cheeses.
As with its Spanish friend Tempranillo, Malbec is a moderately priced wine which represents great value. The ‘Santa Julia’ is available in Australia for less than $10 per bottle. Wine experts describe it as ‘astonishing value’ given its complexity of flavour and versatility with a variety of cuisines.
If you can’t afford the trip to South America, then bring South America home to you. The Malbec is anything but a mal bouche. Try it, you’ll love it.