Your wine repertoire should contain more than cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and sangiovese. Stretching your palate with these red wines will exercise it and make you a more nimble taster.
Though typically thought of as a southern French red wine grape (and it’s believed to be a Spanish grape, as the kingdom of Aragon ruled Sardinia for 400 years), carignan also grows in Italy’s Carignano del Sulcis appellation on the island of Sardinia.
Argiolas is a leading wine estate on the island and specializes in native grapes. Antonio Argiolas, who died in 2009 at the age of 102 (a recommendation in itself for Argiolas wines), inherited seven acres of vines from his father in 1938. His sons Franco and Giuseppe now own or manage 600 acres, including vineyards in the southwest where the carignano grape is at its best. Their vineyard is only 550 yards from the Mediterranean Sea.
The 2017 Argiolas Cardanera Carignano del Sulcis is a bright-red-colored, fresh wine. Red berry and herbal aromas and flavors are carried on a medium body with integrated tannins and noticeable acidity. This is a wine for pasta dishes ranging from lasagna to red sauces. 86 points. It just arrived in our market, expect to pay from $16 to $19.
Portugal is the undiscovered—possibly ignored–dry red-wine region of western Europe. American wine consumers know Port, some have a familiarity with vinho verde, the slightly spritzy, light-bodied white wine consumed in summer, and fewer still know the red wines of Alentejo or other regions. But this lack of exposure to the American market has the side benefit of attractive prices.
In 1987, Paulo and Alice Tavares da Silva purchased a 110-acre farm in the Alenquer appellation of Portugal’s Lisboa wine region, naming it Quinta de Chocapalha. They began the process of replanting and rejuvenating the abandoned vineyards nestled in the hills of the Serra de Montejunto mountain range where vineyards and winemaking date to early Roman times.
In 2000, their daughter Sandra became the winemaker. Recently, I enjoyed her 2015 Quinta de Chocapalha Castelao Lisboa. Castelao is an indigenous grape that is widely planted in the Lisboa and southern regions. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for one year in twice-used French barrels, this bright cherry-colored wine has appealing spicy, raspberry and strawberry aromas and flavors. Its zippy-acidity and red fruit character make it ideal for pates and short ribs. 89 Points. Prices range from an incredibly low $9 to $16.
For many, Austria conjures images of “The Sound of Music,” but for wine consumers the hills are alive with the sounds of grape growing. Blaufrankisch is a central European red grape variety that is to Austria what carmenere is to Chile (although Austria’s white gruner veltliner is probably better known).
Blaufrankisch (blau-fronk-eesh) is made in two styles: oak-barrel-aged, full bodied, intense black-fruit flavors with a peppery kick and noticeable tannins that sometimes remind me of pinotage or mourvedre. Or, the polar opposite: fermented and aged in stainless steel, used barrels or large cask-aged, resulting in light to medium body wines with red-fruit flavors and bright acidity. The latter recalls gamay and lighter pinot noir wines such as Chorey-les-Beaune.
Paul Achs makes both styles. In 1991, Achs returned to his family’s winery in Gols after making red wines in California. He transformed his 60-acre estate from white wine vineyards to 90% red, farming it biodynamically. More than half of his production is Blaufrankisch.
Gols is located in the Burgenland (Burgundy) region, near the Hungarian border, considered to be the heart of Blaufrankisch vineyards. The 2016 Paul Achs Blaufrankisch Heidenboden comes from a gravelly vineyard area that is the source for fresh and easy-drinking red wines. After fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, the wine is aged for one year in used Burgundy barrels and large casks. It’s filled with peppery, black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, herbal aromas and flavors with a brisk acidity that makes it ideal with sausages and stews. 89 points. A reasonable $18.
Hopping south to Sicily and nero d’avola, Tasca d’Almerita’s Regaleali estate is one of three owned by the Sicilian family. Located in the island’s mountainous area and owned by the family since 1837, its modern winemaking dates to the 1950s when Count Giuseppe Tasca changed the focus from bulk to bottled quality wines. Today Tasca d’Almerita is operated by Giuseppe’s son Count Lucio and his grandsons Giuseppe and Alberto.
Nero d’Avola is a Sicilian red grape whose profile was raised in the 1990s by various producers who made a syrah-like wine by picking the nero d’avola grapes at riper levels and aging the wine in new French oak barrels. The result was a plush wine that appealed to drinkers of New World wines.
The 2015 Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Nero d’Avola Lamuri Sicilia is made from grapes cultivated in hillside vineyards in the warmest parts of central Sicily. Lamuri means love in the Sicilian dialect, and that’s what you might feel when drinking this wine with its soft texture, blackberry and dried-oregano aromas, and vanilla, black-plum flavors. It’s all upfront and ready for drinking. 88 points. And the love affair will continue when you see the price (especially at the lower end of its range): $9 to $18.
So, now that you worked up a sweat pulling the corks or turning the screw caps, lifting the bottle, and raising the glass, sit back and enjoy the results of your workout.
Photos by John Foy
John, thanks for bringing these wines to our attention. It makes wine appreciation and food pairing much more interesting and approachable. Given the pricing you can buy several or a case and play with these over time and with various dishes. I also love finding these indigenous old world wines, which I generally find very food friendly — maybe that’s why these are still around!!! Really love your newsletter — clear, to the point and something you can act on. Thanks for the thoughtfulness, John
Prior to the mid-20th century, all Old World wines were part of the agricultural life of the winemaker or landlord. Their wines went on their table with whatever they ate. Whereas many New World wines are created by a marketing team of large international corporations or wealthy individuals with little, if any, consideration to food.