Posted by: tomciocco | June 24, 2008


In A good, cheap, and characterful wine planning dinners and matching wine, sometimes pairings strike like lightning – you select a dish, and POP! – you realize that you’ve got the the perfect bottle cooling its punt in the cellar. In other cases you taste a wine, and a dish to accompany it begins to immediately gather itself in your mind’s cooktop. And then there are times when I’ll plod through scads of combinations -this in that out, etc. –  before ultimately settling on one program…

So which scenario would you guess prevailed when, the other evening, we tabled up to Polish food with a Uruguayan Tannat? No, I’m not having a stroke – that is indeed what we ate. Jen and I had gone shopping for provisions for that night’s dinner, but we knew we’d be too busy the next evening to cook, so the great Stan’s at the corner of Central Ave. and South St. in Jersey City got the nod. We picked up a few lengths of their skinny kielbasa (smoked and stuffed on premises), a package of potato and cheese pierogis (also made at the shop), and a little tub of sour cream. We already had some sauerkraut in the fridge, and some Lithuanian rye bread in the freezer. To cut the preparation recapitulation a bit short, I sliced the kielbasa on the bias, and fried it in a splash of olive oil for 3 min. (this stuff is edible without any cooking anyway), then added a pinches of oregano, cumin, allspice, and a liberal dusting of Hungarian sweet paprika…I did up the pierogis ultra-classically: fried some sliced onions in butter, and once browned, pushed them to the edge and fried the pierogis deep brown on both sides…

So back to the question…Was this pairing a labor, a bolt springing from food to drink, or a strike from drink to food? Believe it or not, the moment we bought the provisions, the Bodegas Castillo Viejo San Jose Tannat “Catamayor” 2005 leapt immediately into my mind’s palate…And in the end, it paired even better than I had expected: Tannat’s tannins, though more tame when Uruguyan, really stood up to the hearty, gutsy fare in general, and had enough acid to cope with the kraut, and pick up BEAUTIFULLY with the spiced, smoky sausages.

From time to time, it’s fun to try to pair the foods of non-wine-drinking countries with a little jug of the old fermented grape juice…the temptation to stay strictly “regional” is not present, so a Uruguayan Tannat can work as well as a Greek Aghiorghitiko or a South African Pinotage…maybe. The notes, yo:

Bodegas Castillo Viejo San Jose Tannat “Catamayor” 2005

Very “black” with reddish /purple at the rim. Surprisingly sophisticated nose of fig paste, prune, wood smoke, soy sauce, motor oil, and quince jam (the quince jam part is actually written on the bottle, and I AGREE, I AGREE!). The palate is robust and warm, with pulpy berry and rosewater flavors in a rich mid-palate, with just a hint of butterscotch on the otherwise clean, notably dry finish.




  1. Hey Tom! Did you happen to check this out?-
    Coincidence, or is you old boss keeping tabs? Should have at least thrown you a link!

  2. Hey Russ-

    Thanks for the heads up -I hadn’t seen this Yeah, Gary’s been stealing my material for years; 😉

    But in all seriousness, though South America was not one of the countries for which I bought at Wine Library, I bugged Brandon Warnke, who did and still does buy for South America, to bring ing in what I think may have been the first Uruguayan Tannat at WL.

    As Gary says in the video, because of the warmer, sweeter climate, and richer soils in Uruguay, the Tannats from there are rounder and “pulpier” than those from Madiran.

    Thanks for reading

    Tom Ciocco

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