Posted by: tomciocco | October 21, 2010

A TRUE REFLECTION OF THE CATALAN SUN

There’s already a lot to love, and still a lot to learn (at least for me) about the Catalan table, and they’re lessons I relish learning, at least regarding the comestibles. Quite a bit less so for the fermented beverages, especially with reds (though Cava rocks).

For me, too many Catalan producers make reds that are too clever by half, made in the blockbuster “International” style, from four or five grape varieties, both native and imported, with lots of French oak applied. The strategy seems to try to appeal to every palate with just one wine by taking a sort of all-you-can-eat buffet approach. But as with nearly all buffets, there’s far more on offer than anyone actually wants to eat.

This is a wine whose mother tongue is clearly Catalan. A wine that plainly grew up in the scrubby, dusty, craggy, and sun-burnt landscape of Montsant. As the label says, this wine is made from (100%) Samso`, which is just a local A.K.A. for the vine variety most commonly know by the name Carignan, which by many accounts, originates in Catalunya. And as the label also says, the fruit squashed to make this wine was clipped exclusively from old vines (“vinyes velles” in Catalan), and the typical depth and intensity that old vine fruit yields is clearly on display here.

As always, I stuck to a regional approach and served this Catalan wine with Catalan food. My own version of sopa de bolets (mushroom soup) and the classic estofat de bou (beef stew) redolent with wine, chopped vegetables, herbs, cinnamon, and CHOCOLATE, ladled over plain white rice. As Coleman Andrews notes in his indispensible cookbook Catalan Cuisine, Catalonia has a bit of a problem with brown food. Yes, Catalan cuisine contains its fair share of beautifully colorful salads, appetizers, vegetable side dishes, etc., but the Catalan kitchen also turns out more than its share of stolidly BROWN food – wildly and wonderfully flavorful – but visually pretty blah…So for this post, just a photo of the wine label.

Clos de Noi Montsant Samso`Vinyes Velles 2008

Deep bluish purple color with a garnet rim. Powerful and complex nose of vinous blackcurrant fruit, juniper berries, tomato leaf, strawberry syrup, pencil lead, and ashy brick oven bread crust. The body is big and muscular, but with a certain elegant polish with pulpy plum fruit, peppery tannins, and flavors of cocoa and sandalwood. Finishes with long, clean and defined juicy cherry fruit.

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