You’ve probably never heard these words, unless, perhaps, you live in New York’s Hudson River Valley and you get out a bit. And if you want to expand your tastes and wine experience a bit, now that we’re sequestered behind masks it’s a great time! Sadly, Covid19 may keep you mostly at home, but you can still enjoy one of the great gifts of life: Wine.
Of course, these days you can’t really “get out” a bit, except to go to the pharmacy, grocery store or G*d forbid, the ER. But thankfully, wine, beer and liquor stores are considered ESSENTIAL, virtually everywhere…and they’re open!
So think about these: Seyval Blanc is a French-American hybrid that’s a little reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc, and can produce outstanding, crisp dry white wines as well as slightly sweet ones. When mixed with Chardonnay, as they do very well at Baldwin Vineyards with their Mist de Greco, or Clinton Vineyards where they do a 100% Seyval, it’s a nice change from the whites you probably drink frequently.
Baco Noir is another hybrid, this time a red, that produces a foxy, smoky varietal a bit like Charbono, another grape you may not know. Benmarl in upstate NY makes a great Baco as does Canada’s Henry of Pelham Family Estate, shown here.
Norton, which was introduced to the US in the 1830s by one Dr. Daniel N. Norton of Richmond, Virginia, is sometimes called “America’s True Grape.” They make very nice wine from Norton in New York, Virginia (Chrysalis Vineyards), Illinois, and especially in Missouri where it’s the popular state grape. Bet you didn’t even know that Missouri had a state grape! Try the Stone Hill Winery for this one, too. Many of these are available in wine stores in New York and New Jersey, too.
And I’ll throw in a couple from across the pond and down south, too.
Savagnin is a European white grape that makes an aromatic, Sherry-like wine and is widely grown in the Jura region and often bottled as Vin Jaune or “yellow wine.” The nutty taste is unmistakable and makes a great aperitif before dinner in place of cocktails. Look for the place name of Arbois where it’s sometimes mixed with Chardonnay and gets a little closer to table wine.
Tannat is a red wine grape, typically grown in SW France in the Madiran region, but as of a few years ago it’s become a wonderful wine from Uruguay. Specifically, the one I drink most in from Bodega Garzon, and at about $16 it’s a wonderful treasure you ought to enjoy. It’s a powerful wine, with structure and body and great blackfruit flavors, but not overpowering like, say, Shiraz or Amarone. This producer also makes a fabulous wine called Marselan, as well as an amazing Cabernet Franc.
Picpoul Blanc (Picpoul de Pinet) is a white grape and one of the few grown in France whose wine is named for itself rather than the place where it’s grown. Its name means “lip stinger” and it really is, with crisp citrus and floral flavors that go great with seafood.
So – expand your horizons and try some of these. Here’s to a better second half of 2020! No surgical masks!