Posted by: tomciocco | August 19, 2012

THE CATALAN VITICULTURAL YIN AND YANG

When it comes to red wines, the greater Catalan world (this wine is actually from Catalan France whose regional name is Roussillon a.k.a. Rossello’ in Catalan) is not a place that is ever held up as any sort of paragon for balance or elegance. Much of Catalan wine country is fairly high altitude, with poor, slatey soil that is sun-lashed and hotter than hell in the day time, and often quite chilly at night. Only certain hardy vine varieties do well in these fairly harsh conditions, and the two whose numbers that have long, and indeed still dominate Catalan vineyards are, if you will permit the Catalan spellings, Garnatxa and Carinyena,  i.e. Grenache and Carignan.

And those of you who have had even just a few passing encounters with either of these vines’ produce will know that neither of them result in a wine anything as refined or feminine as Pinot Noir or even Nebbiolo. Garnatxa and Carinyena are bold and decidedly masculine.  But as BIG as both of these grape are, they occupy places at the flavor poles. Garnatxa is typically all smiles: broad, “sweet”, and vivid, with three dimensional FRUIT in spades, good tannins and plenty of alcoholic muscle. Conversely, Carinyena is tough, earthy, darker, a bit brooding, and it too usually packs a good whack of alcohol, and well tended, a certain complex, austere nobility…So, if you can continue the little journey of taste in you mind’s palate, and blend these two varieties in your brain, it quickly becomes apparent how much they truly belong together, with each variety perfectly filling the other’s gaps, while both still have the ultimate strength not to be covered over by the other one.

This strapping youth of a wine went to the table with an appetizer of soft goat cheese into which I whipped some pounded fennel seeds, dried mint, and a small dollop of hot pepper paste, that I spread onto toasts. The main course were farcellets de col – twice cooked pork, cabbage, tomato, and onion meatballs, with chick peas cooked with bay leaf, oil, garlic, and vinegar on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Vins de l’Aire Cotes du Roussillon Villages Rouge “Effet Papillon” 2011

Opaque blackish purple color with crimson at the rim. Strong, clean nose of grass, blackberry jelly donut, gingerbread, pine resin, fresh brook water, melted dark chocolate, wood smoke, prune juice, and a touch of lily. In the mouth the wine is big, burly, rich, and strong, with a pulpy texture, and firm, tough, dry tannins in which hang flavors of black cherry, raspberry jam, fig paste, violet candy, black tea, and cracked black pepper. Big, torrid finish.

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