VOICE OF THE VINE
Wines That Will Take You Far
By Abby Cifarelli
Staying at home in these uncertain times is difficult, but at least we can still travel the world through our wine selections. Thankfully, wine stores have been deemed essential and will stay open while we continue to be on lockdown and social distance. This month, your taste buds will travel all the way to South Africa and New Zealand. So, let’s go.
Our first destination is the Citrusdal Valley in the Western Cape of South Africa, which is about 100 miles north of Cape Town. It is the northernmost wine-growing area in the country and known for its high-altitude vineyards nestled in the Cederberg Mountains. The area grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Colombard, and Chenin Blanc.
The most widely planted grape varietal in the area is Chenin Blanc, a white grape that originated in France’s Loire Valley. Once the varietal made it to South Africa, it flourished in the Mediterranean climate, eventually surpassing France in production. Chenin Blanc is hard not to love, a chameleon of a white wine, which is versatile in style and can be paired for every occasion. Chenin Blanc can be transformed into a dry summer white, a sparkling wine, or mirror chardonnay after it’s been aged in oak.
The Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018 ($19) is a delicious representation of the grape, showcasing a dry white wine in style with zesty acidity. Once you twist off the cap and pour your first glass, you’ll see a pale-straw color and smell aromas of tropical fruits, melon, grapefruit, and white pear. On the palate, your mouth is coated with a level of creaminess, however it differs from a Chardonnay as this particular wine was aged not in oak but in steel tanks. Cederberg Chenin Blanc is dry with the fruity aromas mirrored on the palate with a lively acidity that lingers long after your last sip.
Thanks to the intense acidity present, it pairs nicely with fresh seafood, spring vegetables, light salads and even some spicy dishes and poultry. Thanks to social distancing, we find ourselves spending much more time in the kitchen, which gives us the opportunity to try out the following recipes with a bottle of Chenin Blanc: pan-seared halibut with lemony zucchini noodles, Filipino Grilled Chicken, Thai Drunken Noodles and spring vegetable risotto with poached eggs. Not in the mood to cook a full meal? I most recently drank Chenin Blanc as an aperitif with some triple cream brie, which was a delicious way to kick off an evening.
We travel some 7,000 miles to Central Otago, New Zealand, the southernmost growing region in the world, for our next selection. The area has a continental climate, with extreme temperature variations from day to night, and vast landscapes that have been carved by glaciers over time bringing a unique soil composition of mica and schists to the area. Pinot Noir dominates the area, thanks to the good soil drainage, and vines end up producing highly concentrated berries which result in intense flavors. So, grab your glass.
Once you pour the 2015 Maude Pinot Noir ($34), you’ll notice a ruby-red color with a slight rim variation when you tilt your glass. You’ll also notice that if you hold your glass over a piece of paper with text the wine is light enough that you can make out some of the letters, an indication that you’re drinking a thin-skinned grape. Swirl your glass and give it a sniff, which should help you pick up notes of dark cherry, plums, dried herbs, and strawberries.
You’ll quickly realize this Pinot Noir is complex; the palate is dry showing dark fruit flavors, violets and a touch of earthiness. While the acidity creates a pleasing sensation in your mouth, the wine is balanced and has a nice tannic structure. Maude Pinot Noir is a beautiful representation of a New World-style pinot, with its fruity and bold characteristics.
Pinot Noir pairs nicely with an array of foods due to its high acidity and low to medium tannins. Try the Maude Pinot Noir with crispy mushrooms with creamy white beans and kale, grilled butterflied leg of lamb, or roasted chicken breast. For the cocktail hour, serve up Pinot Noir with Brie or a mild blue cheese.
Just because we are homebound doesn’t mean we have to forego a food and wine adventure. I encourage you all to give the 2018 Cederberg Chenin Blanc and the 2015 Maude Pinot Noir a try while enjoying this time at home. Fingers crossed that we will be able to enjoy our next wine selections outside with a group of friends.
Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy.
Doug Kooluris of G. Griffin Wine & Spirits on Forest Avenue stocks these wines and can deliver them along with many others from his extensive stock to your doorstep with his winebulance! Cai Palmer at Wine at Five, located in the heart of downtown Rye, offers a carefully chosen selection. The tri-level Harrison Wine Vault, across the street from the Harrison train station, has a vast selection.