VOICE OF THE VINE
A Taste of the Transitional
By Abby Cifarelli
While summer still lingers in the air, and we’re all grateful for that, now is the time to transition into wines that match the crispness of fall.
Start by “traveling” to France’s Loire Valley, a 600-mile stretch of land that is home to a number of varietal favorites, including Sauvignon Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne, Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, and produces some beautiful wines that provide year-round enjoyment.
Muscadet-Sevre et Maine, in the lower Loire, is best known for the Melon de Bourgogne grape varietal, commonly known as Muscadet. Heavily influenced by the sea-breezes, the wines are often crisp, dry, and lean, making them a perfect accompaniment to seafood. There are also varieties with a bit more depth and texture, because they are aged Sur Lie (“on lees”). Lees are the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the barrel or stainless–steel tank during the aging process. The winemaker can then removes them, leaves them on the bottom, or stirs them up into the wine and lets them fall to the bottom again. This process adds depth to a wine without imparting oaky flavors.
Open a bottle of 2017 Bonnet-Huteau La Tarcière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, and you’ll notice a pale–yellow color with hints of gold. The aromas are apple, melon, citrus, and minerality from the sea breezes. On the palate, it shows ripe apples and melon with a hint of brioche. The Bonnet-Huteau is dazzling with moules frites or oysters. It is also the perfect aperitif after a warm fall day with a slight crisp in the air paired with a charcuterie board of cured meats and brie.
While in our part of the world, we are just starting to experience nippy fall mornings and cool breezes, Central Otago, New Zealand, where our second selection hails from, is already deep into the winter season. When it comes to wine production, Central Otago is the world’s most southerly location. The focus is on Pinot Noir, which thrives there.
My first choice is the 2018 Loveblock Pinot Noir, which began with passion and a dream. The wines that are produced are single varietal that showcase the land and grapes. As you pour a glass of the 2018 Loveblock Pinot Noir, admire the crimson color with hints of ruby red. Give it a swirl to release the ripe black cherry, black plum, and mushroom aromas.
Pinot Noir is extremely versatile. It’s the perfect happy hour selection with gruyere cheese, and it goes well with most main courses — pasta, chicken, fish, or steak. I’ve enjoyed it with garlic-butter salmon and lamb chops cooked in rosemary and thyme. The 2018 Loveblock Pinot Noir is lighter in style, yet still has a dry tannin structure.
The 2017 Bonnet-Huteau La Tarcière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie is available at G. Griffin Wine & Spirits in Rye. The 2018 Loveblock Pinot Noir was rated No. 46 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2019. It is available at Varmax Liquor Pantry in Port Chester.