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Native Grapes

Much of the Old Wine World, meaning primarily Europe as opposed to any other region, has the distinct advantage of viticulture dating back thousands of years. Before the boom of many of the world's most popular grapes, winemaking was a regional event. Centuries of trial and error led to a perfect symbiosis between native grapes, native food, terroir and winemaker. Our wines this week are expressions of grapes native to their regions. There is something to be said about the harmonious relationship between land and grape that develops over time - a bond that has formed over centuries and often results in a distinct sense of place and connectedness coming through in the wines. That’s not to say that planting Chardonnay in Greece can’t result in outstanding wine, but knowing that a grape has extensive experience working in tandem with the land it comes from is definitely special. To me, that relationship adds a layer of story, an element of history, a sense of myth and legend.


Portugal is where we find our red wine this week.

 



A blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, and Castelão from Lisbon. We featured this producer's white Arinto wine a few weeks back, and, similarly, this wine is a treat. Touriga Nacional is one of Portugal's most popular red grapes, used both in dry wine production, as well as in fortified wines. Not only is it one of the vital ingredients in Port, but Touriga Nacional has proven itself very successful as a dry red wine. It often brings structure, expressive fruit and bold tannins to blends with other native Portuguese grapes. This Quinta do Pinto 2015 features perfectly ripe redcurrant on the nose with lively black cherries, mulberries, orange zest, hibiscus, fig and a hint of black pepper coming through on the palate. A wine that punches way above its weight and a great companion to any grilled meat or stews.


 

Our two whites this week feature new vintages from some familiar, favorite producers.




Under current winemaker Hannes Schuster this estate is really blossoming, consistently turning out delicious red and white wines. Schuster’s elegant reflections of Austria’s native grapes are garnering much international attention and have become some of our favorite wines at Wine Friends. The 2021 Grüner Veltliner is full of green apple, honey, apricots, kumquats and Meyer lemon zest with a broad palate, fresh acidity and a lingering finish. This is a fantastic vintage displaying a great sense of connection to the Austrian countryside from which it is born. Drinking a glass of this is like walking through the Austrian forest in spring with green all around and plentiful flowers to smell. Due to its slightly richer nature this wine will do very well with pork chops with a honey mustard glaze and roasted carrots with crumbles of feta cheese. Delicious!


 



An outstanding white wine indeed. Wenzel is known for his strictly minimal approach to winemaking, working symbiotically with nature and biosphere to create wines that are very much alive and expressive. While Furmint originates in Hungary, it has been growing in Austria and neighboring regions for centuries. This example is planted with an easterly orientation resulting in a slower ripening process and the retention of very concentrated fruit aromas. Grapes are hand-picked and minimally treated and the resulting wine is wonderful. Like a top class Chablis the wine has piercing acidity, great complexity, concentrated character and a fresh lift. Notes of freshly squeezed lemon, red apple skins, and ripe quince combine with a crisp minerality and focused palate. Such an elegant, refreshing, and layered wine that keeps going and is eminently drinkable. Pair with an asparagus risotto with creamy parmesan and oven-baked salmon.

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