Three Wines Around the Med!

A loose title for a piece on a weekend of sipping wine while still on Virtual Lockdown from the CoronaVirus, as clearly any trips to the Mediterranean this year will only be achieved via the medium of the wines, and foods coming from the countries that border on the waters.

First up on Friday evening was a bargain buy from last summer, which had snuck under the radar. a 2016 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore from Sartori di Verona. I picked this up last year from Supervalu here in Dublin, as part of a deal, for only €8.66 a bottle. An excellent blend based on Corvina and being a Ripasso, it could be thought of as a leftovers from Amarone. But it’s much nicer than it sounds. Ripasso style takes the skins after Amarone has been made, and goes again with the Valpolicella, a second fermentation, with the word Ripasso translating as “To Go Again”, which is exactly what they do, creating a more complex Valpolicella.

Dark Red cherries were prevalent, there was spice, there was an earthiness which defied the risotto that we ate alongside, and the length was staggering for such a bargain wine. Normally I would expect a wine like this to be heading around the €15 euro mark as a starting point, so a bargain buy, and having kept it hidden (by accident) for twelve months at home, it was even better.

Saturday saw me moving from the the Veneto region of Italy to a new world for me – not in the “New World”, very much in the Old World, to some the potential cradle of grapes being made into wine. To Turkey we sailed. This came about due to a conversation with a Sommellier friend who heard I had some Bolivian Marselan in my cellar, so a deal was made to swap for something interesting he had, and so, we swapped, and I received a bottle of KAV from Doluca Wines.

Kav is a blend of Bogazkere and Okuzgozu grapes, both indigenous to Turkey, and I confess, I had never heard of either, nor can I pronounce them! Bogazkere translates as “Throat Burner”, a robust tannic grape, from Southeastern Anatolia, which is combined with the Okuzgozu from Eastern Anatolia, an aromatic red grape, with a crisp fruity character. These grapes are known as Bulls Eye Grapes, as they are far larger than one normally sees.

The blend is aged in 225 lt. French oak for 12 months before a further 2 years of bottle ageing, to acquire a full-bodied, fruit driven, fig and dried fruits abound, in a very dark coloured, but remarkably well balanced wine. Yes, the tannins were there, but the more aromatic grape certainly hit the Bulls Eye and softened the Throat Burner, to reveal an excellent wine, and one really worth seeking out, retailing at under €20 here in Ireland. We drank with a robust Venison Stew, which paired perfectly.

Sunday saw a switch back to France, and the Languedoc. For the past few months of lockdown, every weekday morning has found me logging into Instagram Live at 7.30a.m. (Irish Time), and the Vineyard Rambles of Katie Jones from Domaine Jones, in Tuchan, in the Aude department in France. Every morning, Katie takes us to one of her many small vineyards, and will be taking us through to harvest and beyond as the summer progresses, well worth checking out on InstaLive, at DomaineJones.

As a result of the rambles, I sought out the wines that Katie produces, with a diverse range of grapes, from the Languedoc faithful, Grenache & Syrah, to more interesting variatals of Grenache Gris, Carignan and even the Hairy Grenache. Unfortunately no importer here in Ireland (you’re missing out guys!), so I went direct, and purchased a mixed case direct from the winery.

The first wine from the selection to be opened was the Along Came Jones, “Difference” 2018. A Grenache heavy blend, combined with Syrah & Carignan, The very interesting cartoon of a label is worth checking out on its own, telling the story of Katie’s arrival in the region, but once opened the initial colour of the juice leapt out at me, red cherry, along with the fruit aromas which were jumping out of the glass. The wine took me straight to the Garrigue, the limestone hills of the Languedoc, and the wild vegetation that abounds. Rich herbs shone through, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme, (although, no parsley or sage!), and the Carignan spices also came through. Medium bodied, soft tannins, and a truly wonderful finish, lingering long after the swallow.

All in all, an excellent weekend haul, and a journey around the Mediterranean, where I long to return, although that looks like it will be delayed to 2021, along with other travels, In the meantime, we can explore the regions through the wonder of wine, I hope you will join me on the journey. In the meantime, tune into Katie’s Insta Live at 7.30 in the morning, and wave as you watch and listen to the rambles.