Posted by: tomciocco | October 15, 2012

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME – THE CASE OF ALICANTE BOUSCHET

Mousetraps, potato peelers, vacuums. Just a few of the things over the years, that countless times, inventors have tried to “perfect”. So why should grape vines be any different? Some types of these domestic instruments have stood the test of time, presumably for their ease of use, effectiveness, etc., while others have passed in a flash, or never even got going in the first place. Again, why should grape vines be any different?

The historical roots of vitis vinifera are inextricably linked to the hands of humanity, so much so that there is no truly wild version of the plant known to exist  anywhere. Vitis vinifera is by its nature a highly mutable species, so if individual vines or small plots are abandoned in isolated areas, a sort of slide into a semi-feral state can occur, but with a return to regular husbandry, the prior “breeding” (or lack thereof) typically returns.

And so the conspiracy of the grape vine, the earth, and human hands has, over millennia, produced the thousands of cultivars spread around the world. But if it seems that age of vine  “perfection” might be over , it is decisively not. That said, this is a business that is most effectively carried out over decades or even generations, as breeders test cross after cross for the desired traits, which truth be told, are often exceedingly difficult to isolate…The great varieties of the world are the products of Lord knows how much time, selection, and luck

Recently crossed varieties like the French Alicante Bouschet (also known as Bouschet Alicante, as is the case with this evening’s wine) and the equally obscure Dornfelder from Germany, or the Italian white Incrocio Manzoni are a few of the recent “success stories”. Alicante Bouschet was only “perfected” in the late 1880s by one Monsieur Henri Bouschet who was actually carrying on the work of his father in crossing Petit Bouschet (presumably another cross of Bouschet Sr.’s creation) and Grenache, then often known by the name Alicante. The eventual result was a grape that yields well, and makes deep, dark, highly structured, and earthy wines (it is one of the few varieties that has red juice to go with its red skins) that are most often used for ballast in a blend with more elegant varieties, but in the right hands, in the right spots, (mostly in the Languedoc, this wine’s home region) can produce pungently powerful, dark and chewy wines than can stand alone.

This is a wine that needs BIG food – barbecued red meat, game, or as I did this evening, 3 cheeses (with the usual supporting cast of bread, fruit, and nuts): Tomme de Savoie (cow’s milk), P’tit Basque(sheep’s milk), and Bouche du Poitou (goat’s milk).

Domaine de Virand Vin de Pays de Cessenon Bouschet Alicante “Aromes Sauvages” 2010

Very intense, saturated, inky purple garnet color. Ripe and piercing nose of black raspberry and black currant fruit, with supporting notes of minerals, roasted meat, fallen leaves, damp earth, dill pickle, dried wildflowers and grass. The palate is a blockbuster, with a big, dense, chunky texture, and powerful bitter-sweet, rugged tannins, and somewhat funky flavors of black cherry, prune, blueberry, pomegranate molasses, strong black coffee, and unsweetened chocolate. Fiery, super dry finish.

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