The summer holiday is coming to an end, and it has been a fun one indeed. We’re now back in Muir Beach, the kids have started school, and down on the ranch the harvest is in full storm. The mulberries and apples are popping and I am getting ready to make the usual vats of chutney and jam.
I have to say the transition of seasons is always one of my favorite times, when I notice it getting darker earlier or the there is a different smell in the air. It reminds me we exist within so many cycles, some smaller and some bigger, like our own lives. All around the northern hemisphere, winemakers are walking their vineyards, tasting grapes and judging the exact time to harvest, some smiling, some worried about too much sun and not enough rain. I was reading today that Europe is in the harshest drought for 500 years, which is going to affect many producers as they try to adapt to these changing times. But adapt they will, as we all do when pushed outside our comfort zones. As ever, there are silver linings, as areas that were on the edge of being able to make wine consistently are starting to hit their sweet spot.
Wine harvest in the Sud Tyrol region of Northeast Italy
A great example of a region that benefits from warmer summers is Sud Tyrol in northern Italy. This cool climate sometimes isn't warm enough to ripen grapes fully, but with increasingly warm temperatures it is producing excellent vintages more and more consistently.
Sylvaner is an acidic grape which can be searing on the palate without enough ripeness, but with a little warmth it delivers wonderful bright wines that sing with acidity and have a great ability to act as a canvas for the expression of the rock to come through. This wine has a crispness, which comes from the quartz layers, and a smooth texture from the slate beds. It is full of candied lemon peel, satsuma, and a hint of bay laurel on the nose. When I compare Sylvaner to other wines, it’s almost like a marriage of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. This is the wine I’ll reach for next time I make my favorite kale caesar salad topped with crispy, grilled chicken.
Our second wine is from the Terre Alta region of Tarragonia in northeast Spain. These high-altitude vineyards benefit from seasonal cooling winds, called the Mistral. This vineyard’s proximity to the Ebre river also helps moderate the temperature extremes and allows them to produce some wonderful wines.
Once a producer of bulk wines, the current generation has transformed this winery and is producing a set of fabulous wines of which the Il-Lusio Garnacha Blanc is one of my favorites. The mixture of clay and limestone gives the wine a wonderful textural quality, while the clay polishes the edges and delivers the delicate flavours of pear and pink lady apples like a ballet dancer floating across your palate. This would be a perfect wine to have with Spanish Tapas, especially a bowl of warm herbed almonds and some thinly sliced Ibérico ham.
If reds are what you’re looking for this week, we wanted to call out this trio of wonderful Italians that are just perfect for late summer BBQ fare or a simple pasta or pizza weeknight dinner.
Chiara Condello Tre Vigne 2018 ($26)
Monte Santoccio Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2019 ($24)
Fabio Motta Pieve 2019 ($29)
Here’s to welcoming the next season with open arms.