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January 10, 2018
Tannat... Uruguay's Malbec!
Twenty-six years and about forty-five pounds ago, I joined a group of six fellow cyclists on a seven day bicycling trip in the Pyrenees mountains of southwestern  France.  Over those seven days, we cycled through Gascony, the most rural and remote of the French provinces (when you tell a Parisian that you are going to Gascony they look at you the same way a New Yorker would if you told him you were spending your vacation in Kentucky).

Gascony is famous for its Foie Gras and the local red wine called Madiran.  This is fiercely tannic wine made from the Tannat grape that typically must spend two years in oak before being bottled.  Even after the softening effect of the oak, Madiran offers a tannic, big-bodied, high-alcohol wine that tastes like it will grow fur on your teeth.  It's everywhere in Gascony, it costs less than the bottled water at Casino convenience stores and we drank it at lunch and  dinner.

When we returned, we discovered that Madiran never really caught on here in the States and that it is almost impossible to find in Indiana.  Then four years later, before I owned a wine store,  I found a bottle of Madiran at Sam's in Chicago. After telling Linda on numerous occasions what great wine it was, she was finally going to be able to try some.  I popped the cork and Linda was pretty unimpressed, just as I was. It was just a big, tannic wine that just didn't quite taste the same without the rest of the Gascony experience to go with it. 

Well, Tannat has now been adopted by Argentina's neighbor, Uruguay, as its national grape.  Like Malbec, Tannat is better suited to the warm dry climate of South America than France.  The result is a bigger, softer, less tannic wine than those of Madiran.  If you have ever tasted a French Malbec from Cahors you know that it is hard to believe that it's the same grape that is used to make Argentine Malbec.  Uruguayan Tannat shares that distinction in a good way.... bigger, softer and smoother.  Try this Wine Spectator Top 100 Tannat and discover how good Tannat can really be!

Bodega Garzon Tannat 2015 Uruguay $20
We Bought Bunch $15.99

What the Wine Critics Thought: Wine Spectator 90 Points
Well-sculpted, with dense, rich flavors of dark plum, dried blackberry and dark currant that are supported by firm tannins. Christmas pudding and rich savory notes show on the finish. Drink now through 2022. Top 100 Wines of 2017, #41. –KM

What We Thought: Inky-dark, thick and full-bodied, this soft, ultra-ripe wine has nothing in common with its French ancestors.  Filled with robust blackberry and plum fruit with notes of dark chocolate, the tannins are but a whisper of the firm finish of a Madrian.   


The Recipe Exchange
Here is something that I never would have thought that we could get right at home, but it only took one try! And, I think this is better than a lot of what I have had in Thai restaurants.  Using more meat may be the secret...  

Pork Pad Thai
Serves 4
2 Tbs peanut oil
2 garlic cloves - minced
1 bunch green onions - sliced - separate green and whites
1 lb of pork tenderloin sliced into small strips (shrimp also works or use both)
2 eggs lightly beaten
1  8oz  package of rice noodles (we used Annie Chun's Pad Thai Noodles) - prepared according to box directions
1 cup canned bean sprouts
4 Tbs. of roasted peanuts - chopped
2 Tbs fresh cilantro - chopped
4 tsp lime juice
3 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs Thai Chili oil (more if you dare)

Thoroughly mix together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chili oil and set aside.

Pad Thai :
Heat wok or pan over high heat.  Add 1 Tbs of oil, garlic, white parts of onion and pork and sauté until pork is cooked, remove from pan and set aside.  Add 1 Tbs of oil to the pan and the eggs and scramble until fluffy.  Reduce heat to medium and add the sauce and noodles, toss until well mixed.  Add the pork and bean sprouts and toss. 

Continue to cook for a few minutes until everything is nice and warm. Taste and adjust your seasoning if  you want more heat then serve, garnishing with the peanuts, scallion greens and cilantro.  We paired this with, what else, a nice Côtes du Rhône wine...

Wine Guy Reviews
This exceptionally well-balanced Chardonnay will be as comfortable with dinner as it is before....
Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2015 Sonoma Coast, California $21
We Bought a Bunch $16.99
What the Wine Critics Tho
ught: Wine Enthusiast 92 Points

This wine from cool sites in the county overdelivers for its price. Floral pear, nutmeg and orange peel flavors give it crispness and a savory bite, as tart grapefruit notes provide additional liveliness. Focused and bright, it's well worth stockpiling. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.

What We Thought: Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and ripe pear frame this viscous, lightly oaked Sonoma Chardonnay that displays its balance by finishing with some bright, food-friendly acidity. 
This elegant Chardonnay has been a consistent winner over four vintages....
Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2015 Sonoma, California $24
We Bought a Bunch $16.99

What the Wine Critics Thought: Wine Enthusiast 90 Points
Richly soft, round and concentrated, this wine is exuberant in apple flavor, with a touch of stone fruit and papaya. It has a pleasing succulence that should broadly appeal. —V.B.

What We Thought: This elegant Chardonnay displays a deft balance of fruit, oak and acid with aromas and flavors of ripe pear, vanilla and a little baking spice that creates a wine that is at home with or without food.

Pick Of The Week
An Inky-Dark, Robust Tempranillo!
Wine Advocate 93 Points

We got a great closeout price on this big Toro from Spain's warmest region.... only 25 cases!
Almirez Teso la Monja 2012 Toro, Spain $25
Vintage Closeout $12.99

What The Critics Thought: Wine Advocate 93 Points
An inky/purple color is followed by aromas of camphor, ground pepper, blackberries and cassis. This full-bodied, Northern Rhône Valley-like Spanish red exhibits meaty/lard notes, terrific density and purity, and a finish that lasts nearly 40 seconds. It should drink nicely for a decade or more.

What We Thought: A classic Spanish nose of black fruit, leather, tobacco and a little spice leads to a robust palate of ripe blackberry and plum enrobed  with supple, but very drying tannins.  This is a wine that will pair well with any number of robust foods, we thought it was great with a spicy shrimp creole.
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Issue 932 Vol. 19 No.
January 10, 2018
The Wine Guy @
The Grapevine Cottage

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