Simon here. As you know, I come from England - a land steeped in legend, where dragons live under the local pub roof, trolls steal your fish n' chips, the knitters' circle runs the village, and we still have a 1,000 year-old ceremony to celebrate the crowning of a king or queen. I know that if you ask my daughters, they would say I'm a little superstitious, especially around magpies. This week's wines feature two from the producer Straka in Austria, which directly translates as 'magpie'. The legend is that the amount of magpies you see at any one time bears meaning. The saying goes: "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy." To reverse the bad luck of seeing one, you need to salute the magpie, military style with your hand at your brow, and call out "Morning mister magpie!" This tradition has entertained my daughters on many a long car journey across England.
Before heading to Austria for today's magpie inspired wine, we start in Burgundy, France, with a zesty and refreshing white for the warm days ahead.
This great little Aligoté comes to us from just outside of Chablis in Burgundy, France. In fact, the tiny town of Chitry is making a name for itself for top quality wines grown on the same chalky, Kimmeridigian soils as are prevalent in Chablis. The resulting wines have a similarly distinct mineral quality about them. Olivier Morin left a life in the music industry behind to tend to his family’s farm in 1992, and trading in his turntables for a tractor set him on the path he still pursues today. This Aligoté is just delightful. Fresh notes of lemon verbena, lemon flesh, chamomile, and a faintly bright quality like adding a little honey to an herbal tea. A very intriguing wine that is just so drinkable with a mediterranean-style pan roasted chicken with artichoke hearts and olives.
Our two Austrian wines this week come to us from a producer in the heart of the Eisenberg district of Burgenland. Tom Straka, whose name translates to "magpie" (inspiring the art on his labels), is an exciting local winemaker with a deep respect for nature who is crafting some really unique wines. The terroir in which his vines grow, in the foothills of the Alps, is harsh, windy, and often very cold at night because of the high altitude. Indigenous grape varietals do best here because they have adapted to these severe conditions. Some of you may remember the delicious Straka Blaufränkisch which we featured previously.
Tom Straka is a big advocate for the local grape Welschriesling, saying you can pair it with anything. This example certainly has that quality about it. A rich, perfumed, and feminine wine with notes of jasmine and fresh citrus fruits. We would pair it with scallops, fresh mussels, or even blue cheese. Or sip this on its own to refresh yourself on a warm day.
Straka Stratos Red NV ($23)
This red is a non vintage blend of Merlot and Rotburger grown at high elevation on metamorphic, and magmatic rock with cristal schist - a unique and rare soil composition found only in a few places around the world. Non-vintage means Tom can blend grapes from various harvests to create the best possible expression of the wine. This wine is clean and pure with incredible tension and concentrated fruit character. The wine surprised us in the best way when we first sipped it. Wonderful notes of cola, orange, satsuma, and chocolate. A fun, easy-drinking red for the barbecue or with pasta al ragu!