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The Perfect Grape



Simon here. I am sat listening to the waves from our balcony on the most perfect day. The pink wisteria vines that adorn the house are a waterfall of color and the perfume is wondrous — so fresh and fragrant. It helps me describe what I look for in that ideal balance of flavors in both food and wine. Beauty is one thing, but without substance it is nothing. I would rather eat a lumpy apple that tastes fantastic, than a bland apple with the perfect form. In my earlier days in the wine business, I ran a wine club called “The Perfect Grape.” The name was inspired by my search for the world's best wines, which all start with exceptional fruit. It's harder to find than you may think. Grapes must have so many components that go beyond what the eye can see. They need to have the right balance of sugars and acids, flavorful skins, ripe pips, and a million other things.


One sip of the wines we selected today tells me they were all made by people who understand that perfection starts in the vineyard. All three wines are expressions of pure joy. The Bical and Arinto varietals from Portugal breathe freshness with great balance and allure, and the Cabernet Francs from the Loire in France are a stupendous, hedonistic thing of beauty. We just loved these, and hope you will treat yourself.

 



This beautiful white is born from the chalky soils of the Beiras region in central Portugal - a beautiful area dotted with medieval castles and small villages. Its temperateclimate bridges the cooler green north with the dryer south. Partners Filipa Pato and William Wouters share a love for food and wine, both coming from families in the restaurant and wine businesses. Together they have brought up a number of vineyards and are working with native grapes. On first sip we immediately recognized the chalky limestone notes from the soils, which give great lift and balance out the rich floral and fruity palate. A blend of native Bical and Arinto grapes, this wine is full of honeysuckle, green apple, and guava. A wine to sip in the sun or pair with calamari, shrimp or Iberico ham. Just delicious!

 

For our red selection this week we have two expressions of Cabernet Franc. Both come to us from the Loire Valley in France where it is the dominant red varietal. Cabernet Franc was for many years somewhat overlooked, due to its often underripe nature. However, with the climate warming and more winemakers experimenting with how to bring out the best in the grape through more natural and hands-on viticulture and winemaking methods -- be it on a smaller scale-- there are more and more outstanding examples available if you seek them out. The grape's true potential shines through in these wines, and is something you just have to try for yourself.




A seductive, complex treat. Explosive fruit aromas of blueberries, mulberries, and dried rhubarb with a little spice and faint notes of eucalyptus, wonderful tannins and a long finish. A highly appealing expression of Cabernet Franc from an estate where everything is done by hand, tractors are forbidden, and natural winemaking is the status quo. What a wine!



Slightly to the east we travel, from Anjou to Chinon where we find Phillipe Alliet’s Cabernet Franc, which is grown on chalky limestone and clay on a single small plot. A slightly lighter expression of the grape, but wonderfully lifted and incredibly clean. This is a layered, elegant wine with great mineral tension and inviting notes of dark fruit, coffee and vanilla.


If you are intrigued by Cabernet Franc, we recommend tasting these two side by side with a rack of lamb. They both offer something unique, yet are unmistakably Cabernet Franc in its best form.

 

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Looking for an 'everyday' red? Grab some of this great-value Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy that is just so drinkable. It's one of those wines that's too good to miss. Bright right notes of rose and cherry, great mineral tension, robust tannins and a delicious, approachable character, it just makes your senses dance.

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