In a recent post discussing carbonic maceration, I briefly mentioned a bit about Beaujolais. And in my Wine Regions of Burgundy post I completely ignored Beaujolias, which is, in fact, the southern-most portion of Burgundy. Yet, so different is Beaujolias from its northern neighbor that few associate the two together. And even textbooks—from the WSET to Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible—break the two areas out into separate chapters. So, let’s dive in and find out what exactly makes Beaujolais so unique.
In a previous post, I explored potential Australian alternatives to Burgundian Chardonnay. This was in response to part one of a WSET Level 3 practice question. Before I move on to part two, which (spoiler alert) takes a deep dive into the wines of Bordeaux, I want to finish up my tour of Burgundy with a quick look at the regions not discussed in that prior post.
It’s not often I review foreign wine, so when I do I always like to insert a little bit about the region. This Gris de Gris hails from France’s Languedoc-Roussilon AOC, which spans along the Mediterranean coastline, from the southern border with Spain up toward France’s region of Provence. In total, the AOC has about 700,000 acres planted to vines and is one of the biggest wine-producing regions in the world.
The terrain and climate characteristics are similar to that of the Southern Rhône region (located to the north and slightly west of Languedoc) and Provence (located to the north, arching toward the east along the Mediterranean Ocean.) Thus, the whole of the Languedoc-Roussillon region produces a wide variety of grapes and wine styles — from your classic “Bordeaux” varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc) to your typical Rhône varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Viognier).
There are several appellations and sub-appellations within Languedoc that, for the most part, were originally separated based more on politics than wine-related reasons — though this seems to be changing even as we speak. However, a lot of wines from this area will still simply state “Languedoc” without any other regional or varietal information on the bottle.
On the whole, the Languedoc regions seems to be –what? — undiscovered or under-appreciated? There are quality wines coming from the AOC that are a lot more affordable than some of France’s other notable regions. I guess, for now, let’s not question it, let’s just go with it. And let’s go with it with this Gris de Gris.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — rosés are hard for me. Oftentimes, the popular rosés found in grocery stores tend to appeal to the mass market — cloyingly fruit forward to the point of a high perceived sweetness. But the Greek grapes used for this rosé were pretty much made for rosé. Added bonus? Seasoned winemaker Robert Rex is the master mind behind this wine. So while the wine may present a much “too” pink color and an extremely fragrant nose, rest-assured that this is a dry wine that even picky pink drinkers like myself can enjoy. (Double extra bonus points: California residents can find this bottle of Georgos Wines at your local Whole Foods.)
When we think of Greek wine, we often think “Old World.” We can’t help it — the phrase “the drink of the gods” directly points to the mythos of this culture. But Georgos Zanganas had a different thought. When he came to Sonoma he immediately fell in love with its bucolic beauty — who could blame him? What he didn’t love, however, was the obvious lack of Greek wine varietals available to him. So he asked himself, why not combine his history and culture with his new California life. And so it is that Georgos Wine was created — old world grapes blended with new world grapes; old world winemaking tradition combined with new world techniques; old ideas revitalized and re-defined to meet the modern wine drinking world.
About the Wine: The name ITHAKA is named after an ancient Greek island, said to have once ruled by Odysseus, the legendary Greek king of ITHAKA (and a hero of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey). The name is a nod to the noble grape of Sonoma — Cabernet Sauvignon — with which the wine is made.
The Georgós Wine 2014 ITHAKA is made from a combination of 15% Agiorgitiko grapes — sourced from and produced in Greece — and 85% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from Sonoma County . All grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted, and gently pressed. While the Agiorgitiko was picked and produced in Greece, the final blend was created in Sonoma, California. The wine aged in combination French (55%), Hungarian (20%), and American (25%) oak barrels (35% new).
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Georgós Wine 2014 ITHAKA and breathe in the aromas of plump blueberries — skins and all — along with a very light background of a kind of gamey umami. On the pour this Greek wine is very sanguine: a rich, ruby-red on the pour. It settles into the glass quite dark, with an impenetrable maroon center that fades out toward a dusty rouge, which fades out even further to a rose petal pink at the ultimate perimeter.
Initial aromas are actually quite floral from the glass, reminiscent of roses still hanging on the bush. You can still smell that bit of gamey umaminess along with the dust of dried tree bark — any berries as well as acidity linger quite delicately in the back. So swirl and awaken the raspberries, cranberries, vanilla essence, blood orange zest and hints of nutmeg.
The palate is quite soft with plush, cotton-like tannins. The acidity is present but maintains a calm and level presence from start to finish. Dominant flavors are of eucalyptus tree bark, raspberries, cranberries, raw cacao, hint of anise, dessert-like spices, and a finish reminiscent of candied cinnamon.
What was most pleasantly surprising to me was how well rounded, balanced, and light this Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine was.
Food Pairing: I paired the Georgós Wine 2014 Penelope’s Spell with a herb-crusted lamb rack, golden beetroot and goats cheese salad, and a green pea purée. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot brought out a bit of the earthy, somewhat soily elements that were hidden behind some of the fruit notes in the wine, yet simultaneously highlighted the brightness of the cranberry notes. The lamb, with its thready texture and innate juiciness, brought forward some of that hidden umami initially sensed on the nose, as well as brought forward some darker fruit flavors (like plum and currants) not originally defined on the palate when sipping the wine on its own.
More Info: I received the Georgós Wine 2014 Penelope’s Spell as a sample for review. (Cheers Alexa!) Retail: Currently Unavailable. For more in formation about Georgós Wine and to purchase available wines directly, please visit the Georgós Wine website.
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