“I like rosés with lower alcohol and more freshness,” says Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker of Y.Rousseau Wines. “Of course,” he adds, “being made from 100% Tannat, the wine has a lot of structure and backbone, and so can actually be a great alternative to some lighter reds on warm summer days.” Perfect. Personally, I’m always looking for a rosé with some life to it. Something that, at a cooler temp, is perfect as an aperitif, but can last the whole evening with flavors and textures that amplify as it comes to room temp. With Y. Rousseau’s Rosé of Tannat you can actually rosé pretty much all day…
Troon Vineyard may have a 40 year old winemaking history, but they seem to be on the cusp of what’s new and innovative in winemaking. Not out to make the fast, easy sell, they embrace what their little piece of Oregon terroir has to offer — climate and terrain similar to the Old World France and Spain, and yet still uniquely Oregonian. That means their focus is on under-appreciated grapes: Vermentino, Tannat, Malbec, simply because this is what grows best. (Learn more about Troon Vineyard’s Applegate Valley)
As Craig Camp says, “If you want to bring real pleasure to peoples lives, your wines have to have personalities as interesting as the people that drink them.” (You can read more of Craig’s thoughts on Troon Vineyard’s Wine Camp Blog.)
“Tannat Russian River Valley is made to introduce people to the world of Tannat,” says Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker at Y.Rousseau Wines. Indeed, with grapes harvested from the temperate, friendly terroir of Sonoma’s valley floor and a little love from blending a bit of California-based varietals, there’s no better way to dip your toe into Tannat. But what the heck — let’s just dive right in…
Tannat — an often forgotten grape varietal, one that is rarely seen in a single-varietal bottling. It’s thick-skinned, tannic, acidic, and a gothic shade of purple. To look at it, you may think angry thoughts — and to prevent those angry thoughts when drinking, winemakers often blend Tannat with the more voluptuous Cabernet Franc or Merlot — or, in Uruguay, even Pinot Noir. (Learn more about the origins of Tannat.)
But there seems to be a recent turn of events. Maybe it’s because the warm-weathered Uruguay has adopted the lonely variety as their heritage grape. Maybe it’s because “weird” wine is now some kind of fad. Or maybe, maybe, winemakers and drinkers alike have discovered that there’s no need to be afraid of the dark. Remember,
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Time for a little Tannat 101. Tannat is a red grape that grows in large bunches, though the berries themselves are small-ish in size. Tannat is a relatively “easy” grape to grow. Because of its thick skins, it’s less susceptible to frost and cold temperatures, diseases, and mildew. It’s also easy to manage; the grapevines are not prone to overproduction, so vineyard owners don’t need to constantly trim excessive fruit clusters nor any bushy greenery. The grape originates from the South West of France in the Madiran AOC, on the eastern side of the Pyrénées. Here, because of the mountainous terroir and extremely cool (often downright frosty) temperatures, the Tannat wine produced is characterized by its firm, tannic structure, full body, dark color, and high alcohol content. Accordingly, modern winemaking in the region has begun to emphasize the use of more new oak aging, spending at least 20 months in barrels before bottling.
But the truth is that there isn’t a lot of Tannat growing in France any longer. Instead, it’s Uruguay who’s taken over Tannat grape-growing and wine production. Here, the weather is warm and dry, but because of the proximity to the ocean, Tannat benefits from maritime air and marine-influenced soils (read: softer, well-drained soils). The affect on the wine: softer tannins, mellower acidity, and richer fruit notes. (Decanter has an interesting article about Uruguay’s wine production and focus on Tannat.)
But it’s not just South Africa who’s learned to tame the tannic beast. Here in America, certain parts of the West Coast seem well-suited enough to grow the hearty grape — from chilly, coastal California to some of Oregon’s warmest valleys.