“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
My mother always used to tell me this growing up whenever I thought someone or something was strange to me. It rings true today, and I often hear it echoing in the hallways of my mind. Today, I am specifically thinking about judging a wine based on where it comes from or judging a grape because of your past experiences with it. I kept this in mind at the most recent LBV tasting. In front of us sat a white from Australia with a label that looked like the creators of South Park had designed it, and a red from Argentina with a label that looked very traditional, with elegant font and minimal fluff. I thought, just open your mind, open your mouth, and experience these wines without judging them first. For me, knowing the origins of a wine conjures so much, which is why I normally prefer to do blind tastings; but in our virtual club setting, we leave ourselves at the mercy of discussion and opinions that allow the LBV tasting group to constantly evolve. Both of these wines were truly delicious, and at the end of the day, that is what matters most.
I want to dive into the grapes to get a base understanding and then we can turn it on its head. The Australian white was made from the Savagnin grape, a small-berried, thick-skinned grape that has been cultivated in France over the past 900 years. Traditionally grown in the Jura mountains, it is a late-ripening grape that produces dry wines with good acidity. The typical characteristics in the Jura are floral and citrus notes, little briny and nutty notes. There is still debate over the Savagnin’s birthplace, but it is also known as Traminer and “Heida” in Switzerland. It is the signature grape in the Jura, Eastern part of France. Savagnin is also the star grape used exclusively in a specialty type of wine called “Vin Jaune,” which translates to “yellow wine.” The process of aging this Jura favorite takes time—it is aged in old barrels under a flor-like yeast cover for six years and three months. This results in sherry-like aromas, and a nutty, oxidative yellow wine that delights many wine lovers, but that could also be considered an acquired taste to the novice. There is one entire appellation, Chateau Châlon, that makes exclusively Vin Jaun from Savagnin grapes. While many wines in the region are made of 100% Savagnin, it is also commonly blended with Chardonnay, and it’s one of the five grapes permitted for making Crémant du Jura sparkling wines.
The red wine was made from Malbec, a grape that’s a little more mainstream. Malbec is a thick-skinned red grape that comes from southwest France. It is a minor player in the Bordeaux region, where it’s used as mostly a blending grape because of its poor resistance to mold and pests. In France, the grape is also called by the name “Côt,” particularly in the Loire Valley. But the Malbec grape rose to stardom after a French Botanist planted it in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1868. The Malbec grape likes the sun and high altitudes, which is why it thrives in Argentina. Unlike the Savagnin grape, which is only found in the Jura, France, Australia, and a small percentage of experimental plantings, Malbec is planted more widely across the world, including Argentina, France, the United States, and Australia to name a few.
The transportation of the Malbec is a fine example of how planting a grapevine in a new and foreign environment—and exposing it to new elements—can yield excellent results. In fact, I think this kind of transplanting is necessary for the future of wine.
Wines From Our Tasting:
Yetti & The Kokonut Mt. Savagnin, Mclaren Vale, Australia 2019:
A friendship turned into a partnership when two young winemakers, Dave Geyer (the “Yetti) and Koen Janssens (the “Kokonut”), teamed up to produce sustainable wines across South Australia. Yetti manages the vineyards, and Koko takes care of sales. The monikers Yetti and Kokonut were nicknames the co-founders gave each other during the vintage, and the names stuck. The two men share the philosophy that wine starts in the vineyard, which is one reason why they always farm or co-farm the vineyards from which they select fruit. These wines are serious with a whimsical outlook—just look at this label! The wine is made with five days of cold soaking skin contact, then transferred into a stand-up foudre and mix of old barrels. The color of this wine is bright yellow with a cloudy hue. The aromas were jumping out of the glass, growing stronger as the wine opened up. I smelled beeswax, chalk, clean sheets, melon, and pineapple skin. The palate was round with notes of white flowers, stone, mineral, and salty pop rocks on the finish. I kept going back to this wine because it was varietally correct—it tasted like Savagnin, but that’s where it finished for me. I would never have guessed this was from Australia. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Finca Adalgisa Malbec, Mendoza Argentina 2013:
Malbec from Argentina is familiar to most wine drinkers, but the Finca Adalgisa is truly artisan work that will make you think twice about what you think you know.
The estate goes back three generations of the Furlotti family and was planted in 1916. This is a small winery with a boutique hotel in the vineyard located in Chacras de Coria. Carmello Patti, the famed winemaker, produces one wine that is 100% Malbec. The winery produces only about 500 cases of this wine per year. The fruit is hand-harvested and fermented with native yeasts before it is aged for two years in a mix of variously aged French oak barrels, followed by a final year of aging in a bottle. This mix of aging is most likely one of the reasons that this Malbec is so elegant. The color of this wine is garnet with a purple hue. It is slightly translucent. On the nose sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, and mixed dark berries. First, on the palate, I got sweet spice, clove, bacon, and layered wet earth. This wine is integrated and extremely sophisticated. I would decant for at least two hours for the optimum moment to drink.
If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!
Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. This is her reflection on the tasting that took place on April 14th, 2021. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.
First photo via Pinterest
Join the Club to participate in
Members, view the