Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Wines with Spanish accents, French roots

By JIM BEAUREGARD | January 03. 2017 9:02PM


Another year, another, well, I don’t keep track of how many times I taste and spit, but know that I do it for you.

The year just past will go down in history as one of the most unusual and unexpected of the century, I’m sure — England is leaving the European Union, which has done nothing but admit members since 1956, and computers crashed in Canada one day last November as many looked at the possibility of living there for a few years.

Here in this column, we had started taking a look at Spain, and my plan is to continue that for the coming year, since we really only saw a fraction of the many regions and types of wine that Spain has to offer.

And it’s not only about Spain, either. As you know, Central America and South America (with the exception of Brazil), are Spanish speaking, and the people who emigrated there from southwest Europe over the centuries included more than a few winemakers.

So, in addition to Spain, we will begin taking a more organized look at the regions and winemakers of South America. They have taken the grapes of the Old World and found new expressions for them in the mountains of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and other countries in the region. If you have stopped in a wine shop or other wine-bearing outlet in recent years, you are likely to have seen large Spanish and South American sections.

Malbec is one of the most common grapes that makes its way to shops here in New England, but it’s important to remember that Malbec is originally a French grape — in fact, it’s a standard part of a Bordeaux blend along with the more famous Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. All five of the great Bordeaux grapes can be purchased as single varietals these days, and Malbec has shown itself to be a contender right from the beginning. Let me say a few words about Malbec to get us ready for the New Year.

Malbec is considered a black grape, also known as “Cot.” Its skin is very dark. Depending on where it is grown, it can yield flavors of blackberry, game, plum, violets and others. It is the grape that is at the center of wines made in the Cahors region of France, where it can be blended with other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay.

Here in the States, however, we are more likely to encounter Malbec in a bottle from Argentina, which boasts over 50,000 acres of Malbec vines. It’s not planted as widely in California; it was common prior to prohibition, but it never really came back after that. But you can see it in California Meritage, which is their answer to the Bordeaux blend. Italy has begun to experiment with Malbec as well.

Now, having said all this, you were probably expecting a bottle of Malbec to appear right about now, but I have to admit that as I write this I am sipping beer — from a can. Yup. Not just any beer, though, but a very good German beer: Warsteiner, which is available locally in both bottles and cans, the bottle in either light or darker varieties. The cans are usually coated with an inert substance that doesn’t interact with the beer.

The Warsteiner is light, golden, with a white head. Dry, with good acidity — mouthwatering, in fact. Alcohol is 4.8 percent by volume. The flavors include citrus and bread, and an overall long finish that’s refreshing and enjoyable.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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