The Great Grape Alphabet
In continuation of our wine journey here are six varieties beginning with H, K and L... it's not the conventional order and we aren't purposefully forgetting I and J. This alphabetical and blissful voyage through the ampelographic wonderland is supported by diverse examples from our wine portfolio.
Hondarrabi Beltza and Hondarrabi Xuri or Zuri
Indigenous to the Basque region (in particular Getaria and Guipuzcoa in the north of Spain near San Sebastian), Hondarrabi Zuri is a light-skinned berry, while its darker brother the Hondarrabi Beltza grows in Baquio y Almaseda in Viscaya. Used to produce the Basque wine called Txacoli. Artery-hardening to pronounce and artery-cleansing to drink our Txacoli de Getaria from Bodegas Ameztoi is a classic example - a green-tinted wine with lively spritz, high acidity and crunchy apple flavours. Txacoli is typically effervescent, vivacious and aerial and is traditionally served with supreme panache from a great height into small tumblers. It then turns chalky white, foams and eventually settles. Drink or rather quaff with extreme enthusiasm with all manner of pinxtos such as anchovies any which way, olives, escabeche of mackerel, cipirones and deep-fried vegetables. Said to be the only wine that can partner wild rabbit as it can dissolve lead shot on contact. Life without Txacoli is like a crouton without an anchovy. Let the Txac attack.
Quick definition: Fermented sea spray
Kisi is indigenous to the continental region of Kakheti in eastern Georgia. Notwithstanding the high quality of wine it can produce, it became almost extinct by the 2000, a result of the Soviet preference for Rkatsiteli and the decline of Georgian vineyard land following the Soviet collapse. Further, it is bit trickier to grow. A late-budding variety, Kisi is relatively resistant to frost, drought and downy mildew, but susceptible to powdery mildew and black rot. It ripens before Rkatsiteli, typically in the last two weeks of September, and is made both in the European and Georgian styles. The intensely amber qvevri wines reveal aromas and flavours of apricot, mango, lime as well as an orange and walnut character. The Pheasant’s Tears version has changed over the vintages. Once intensely tannic it is now made with 90 % destemmed and 10 % whole bunch grapes and traditionally, and naturally, fermented in large qvevri with one month on skins before being pressed and then transferred into smaller qvevri. The winemaking is totally natural with just a little sulphur added before bottling.
Quick definition: Georgian Kisi-pleasy
Slow food pilgrims who take their hunger, scrip and staff to Bologna and environs know that it’s possible to find interesting, well-balanced Lambrusco from artisanal producers and go-ahead co-operatives. We are talking frothy and refreshing wines that one can sip on the piazza or enjoy with a pizza. Little of the quality Lambrusco escapes Emilia-Romagna; Camillo Donati’s is a seriously happy little warbler from the land of Verdi. He prunes the vines severely in order to acquire grapes with greater concentration, farms biodynamically and picks at full maturity. Vinification takes place with the maceration of the grapes on the skins to obtain a wine rich in colour and body. After a gentle pressing of the grapes the must is repeatedly pumped over to extract the most possible colour and body. The wine goes through a natural fermentation. It is then left to rest until December or January. This process allows the wine to filter naturally from impure substances. The wine is then transferred to bottles where it continues its fermentation until dryness. The result is a wine with an inky dark purple colour, almost black, and it pours out with a bright and very persistent raspberry-colour froth. Black plum and strawberry aromas tickle the nose with a touch of fizz and the cherry-berry flavours are shaped by crisp acidity and distinct peach-stone bitterness in the finish. And plenty of tannin! Traditionally sipped as an aperitif or pizza wine, it works well with hot-and-spicy dishes. “Red like wrath, sparkling like life itself, as clear as friendship, Lambrusco invites to a high tones bouquet with this land’s such different flavours blending them in a unique hymn of joy, the bright joy of this Lambrusco. In these lands only, finds its birth a wine which merges with air, rich of scents and chants while merely pouring it out. These are not ordinary hymns, on the contrary they are lively, sparkling, uncommon arias inspired by Verdi’s operas. Only the places that inspired Giuseppe Verdi’s music could generate such a wine... it has the power of a companion’s song, of a friendly drink, of a debate between old experts in food and women. This Lambrusco only is able to arouse strong emotions, to move your soul, to always surprise.” It pairs wonderfully with cooked salumi such as Mortadella di Bologna and the typical deep fried with a splash of lard bread puffs of Modena/Reggio Emilia/Parma, known as gnocco fritto (or torta fritta in Parma). Often served along with gnocco fritto are the small baked bread discs known as tigelle, that have a texture similar to piadina, the signature flatbread of Romagna, which is the area stretching from Bologna to Fellini’s hometown of Rimini on the Adriatic. Another Modenese specialty that works beautifully is borlengo, a super thin flatbread rubbed with cured lard, rosemary, pancetta.
Quick definition: Bring your lambruscos to the slaughter
Listán negro (also known as Listan Prieto) is a red Spanish wine grape variety that is widely planted in the Canary Islands, particularly on the island of Tenerife where it is a permitted variety in the Denominaciones de Origen (DO) wines of Tacoronte-Acentejo, Valle de la Orotava, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, and Valle de Güímar. It is also permitted in the Spanish wine regions of El Hierro, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma, Lanzarote. Listán negro is the black-skin version of the Palomino grape (Listan Blanco) that is used in the production of sherry. In 2007, DNA fingerprinting done by the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología in Madrid, Spain discovered that the Mission grape that was widely planted in the earliest New World vineyards in the America was a genetic match to Listán negro, although centuries of separation now allow them to be classified as two separate varieties. Our version comes from the Valle de la Orotava from Bodegeas Tajinaste. Their oldest vines were planted in 1914 on volcanic soils under the traditional trellised system unique to the Canary Islands: el cordon trenzado (the braided cord), which is a multiple cordon with a number of the vine’s branches braided together. Our wine is vivid ruby-red with spicy redcurrant and cherry scents and underlying notes of dried rose and blood orange. Juicy and penetrating, offering lively red fruit flavours and a hint of black pepper. Finishes brisk and appealingly sweet, with gentle tannins and lingering red fruit notes.
Quick definition: A singing Canary
A small Welsh village where the hairy Grenache family lives on kebabs. Perhaps! "Hairy Grenache" (Garnacha Peluda as known in Spain) is a Grenache variant evolved to grow fuzz on the underside of its leaves to protect the vine from transpiration in hot climates, "like the corresponding fuzz on rosemary or other Mediterranean plants." Compared to its more widely planted cousin, it produces wines lower in alcohol and higher in acidity that show spicy and savoury notes more readily as they age. Our sole example is Rafe Bernabe’s Musikanto! If music be the food of love play on- but this wine needs no food. Made from old vines Garnacha Peluda and fermented in Tinajas (clay amphora) with nowt added and nowt taken out, this cranberry-hued perky-pinkster is watermelon incarnate with abundant “le crunch” down to the last pippy seed. Such is the wine’s casual brilliance that you really only notice it after having sucked down the bottle and you have to return to the fridge toot sweet to fish out a second, then a third…
Quick definition: Hairy, hairy, not contrary
Although now widely dispersed throughout the Vinho Verde region, it seems that the Loureiro grape originated in the valley of the River Lima, towards the north of the VR Minho/DOC Vinho Verde region. "Loureiro" means "laurel" or "bay" and the aroma of Loureiro wines is said to resemble that of laurel flowers, also orange blossom, acacia and lime blossom, overlaying appley, peachy fruit. Loureiro wines usually have refreshing, well-balanced acidity. Loureiro is much in evidence nowadays bottled as a varietal, but traditionally it was more often blended with Arinto (Pedernã) and Alvarinho, or with Trajadura. Vasco Croft (Aphros Wine) specialises in this grape variety in Vinho Verdo where it grows on decomposed granite soils in a climate strongly influenced by the Atlantic (long growing season with even ripening). He farms biodynamically. The Aphros Branco is made in tank with a little ageing on the lees. This is very aromatic – white flowers, lots of citrus fruit such as mandarin, grapefruit and lime. In his amphora project Vasco makes a 100% Loureiro, which ferments in three amphorae, each with a different proportion of stems/whole grapes/must; and a « Palhete », a blend of 80% Loureiro and 20% Vinhão. These are more textural wines – malolactic is completed, no filtration or fining and only a small amount of sulphur brings out the more tender side of the grape. Loureiro is a bit part player in the Terras Gauda O Rosal blend, complementing the Albarino and Caino, and the merest whisper in the multi-grape Sameiras Blanco.
Quick definition: Laurel is hardy
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