Que Syrah, Shiraz.
Lengend has it that the Syrah wine grape was orginally grown in Shiraz, an ancient city in Persia, now Iran. The grape found its way to Rhone Valley where the French put their own pronunciation twist. However, in Australia the Syrah is call Shiraz simply using the grapes orginal name.
If you have a preference for a particular expression of Syrah grapes like me, you are quite aware that terrior does matter. The Syrah is an adaptable grape that does well in both warm and cool climates. It also prefers well drained gravelly soil for roots to delve deep to survive and requires good sun exposure.
A nice bottle of Syrah wine is definitely a personal preference. In my opinion, many of the Australian Shiraz are aggressive and robust. The N. Rhone styles are still traditionally elegant and classic. The CA Rhone Rangers are usually voluptuous skyrockets (high alcoholic fruit bombs). Argentina Syrah’s are so tasty and powerful that one needs to pair with a hearty steak. Also, I have been enjoying Washington’s Colombia Valley expressions on the Syrah. BTW, I fall into the ideology camp that blends are better than any grape can be alone. Many nice Syrah wines can stand alone or are blended with their complementary grapes such as zinfandel, Merlot, Grenach, Mourvedre, Cab. Sauv., Petite Sirah, Carignan, Viognier, Counoise, etc. But lately, I enjoyed a few Syrah blended wines from Valencia, Spain that are worth mentioning.
Some of the Syrah blends that I enjoyed while traveling throughout the Valencia wine region were also blended with the mainstream grapes varietals listed above. But then I came across some Syrah wines that were blended with grapes such as Graciano, Tempranillo, Monastrell, or Bobal. Que? Isn’t Bobal the bimbo grape of Valencia? Well, even bimbos have their forte. Yes indeed, the Bobal is a bombshell that blends beautifully in a Syrah wine, so keep an eye out for Bobal / Syrah blends from Valencia!
I also enjoyed a Bobal Rose to complement my Mediterranean, sun bathing, view that was very nice. I am not a wine smartie, but am well aware of the wines that I enjoy, the wines that triggers memories, and the wines that make a lasting impression. And I must say, these Bobal grapes give a unique Valencia twist. Now this wine has some nice legs!
Usually one presumes the popular Spanish wine appellations of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Ruedo, and Priorat are the only noteworthy regions. Debunk that assumption because Valencia is a reputable DOC, which produces such juicy and succulent fruit. As the saying goes, It takes great grapes to make great wine. After all, Valencia's association with wine and the wine trade dates back to Neolithic times; so it goes to show that Valencia's history has long been associated with tasty and voluptuous grapes.
In my opinion, the Valencia expressions on their Syrah wines are fabulous and actually a nice change from the 'old world vs. new world' debates regarding Syrah styles. With these Valencia styles, I get the combinations of an elegant N. Rhone, with a CA fruit forward, yet an Oz style of richness, and Argentinean boldness. I am not saying that these wines are higher quality, I just simply prefer these styles over the others. Some of these Valencia Styled Syrahs remind me of Sicily's Nero D' Avola wines (sometimes called Italy's Shiraz).
Needless to say, not only is Valencia one of the best producers of juicy oranges, but it is now my preferred style of Syrah wine. Word has it that around the local Valencia wine shops and resturants Syrah wines are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the surrounding Mediterranean towns.
Speaking of Valencia’s oranges, don’t forget to try Agua de Valencia, which is a Spanish cocktail made from a base of cava, orange juice, vodka and gin. Yummy! It makes a nice apéritif to compliment tapas as a prelude to our night event of bull fighting. Toro!
Don't forget to try Valencia's famous dish, Paella. Did you know that there are different styles of paella depending on the region of Spain. Paella Valenciana consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), land snails, beans, and seasoning.
So, the next time you find yourself strolling down the streets of Valencia do
what the Valencians do. Dine café al fresco at 10 pm enjoying a nice bottle of Syrah paired with their traditional style paella.
El Vino Valenciano Fue Sabroso!
So if you want to take a break from ABC (Anything But Cabernet ) try a Syrah/Shiraz; whatever will be, will be!
Wine tasting throughout Japan is a pleasure to my tastebuds. There are many wines available that are made from grape varieties still not mainstream to the average wine enjoyer. One white wine in particular is Japan's pride and joy; the Koshu grape.
Koshu grapes were brought to Japan through the Silk Road by a Buddha. According to legend, in 718 a Buddhist Monk had a vision of a medical Buddha holding a bunch of grapes. So, the Monk established a temple and began to cultivate the grapes for medicinal purposes. The Koshu grape took root in a basin area surrounded by the Southern Alps where today is called the Yomanashi Prefecture. And voila, it is the grape and wine region that warrants Japan as a recognized player in the world of wine.
Japan's wine country is often promoted as "The Napa Valley of Japan". In this region, today's wineries are located near yesterday's earthen burial mounds "Kofun". From many wineries visitors can see in the distance the peaks from the Alps and majestic views of Mount Fuji. When visiting this area, consider joining a hiking Buddhist Pilgrimage up the summits to see ancient temples. Other attractions include: winery tours, natural hot springs, concerts, lakes, amusement parks, etc.
The white wines made from the Koshu grapes are styled a couple of ways, oaked and unoaked. The stainless steel unoaked styled white wine produces an austere crispy fierce acidity wine that is racy across the tongue. Think of bone dry Rieslings from cooler climate wine regions.
History has it that the Koshu wine was originally consumed by the Tokugawa Shogunate (Edo Period), and due to its thick skin and acidity, was generally sweetened with honey or sugar. And, for you military history buffs, the Koshu grape was so acidic that during the past wars they were a valuable source for extract of tartaric acid for military use to manufacture radars. Now that is a racy grape. But today, the viniculture of this grape is very sophisticated and has come a long way from its historical usage. Yet, I prefer the oaked style wines which are full bodied and a bit softer for my taste.
The viniculture method of the Koshu grape is called Tanashiki Saibal, which grows upward similar to a fruit tree; not your traditional fence trellis method. There is an active volcano near the basin, so the soil is volcanic ash that contributes to the wines richness and complexity.
This firm acidic yet, citrus aromatic white wine pairs well with Kaiseke (high end Japanese cooking). Haute Cuisine such as horse sashimi, raw fish, etc., offer excellent harmony. The texture of food is as important as taste with Japanese food because of the elements of nature (land, sea, river) that correlates with tastes of salty, bitter/sour, sweet.
So, the next time you are searching for that special wine, pull out your "iPad Radar App" to find Koshu wines from Japan!
Today we took a tour into the mountains north of Hiroshima, Japan to visit Miyoshi Winery and taste Japanese wines. Many people make the connection of Sake with Japan. Dispel that assumption right now, because Japan has some really good wines and their wine industry is absolutely booming! We have tasted a bunch of indigenous grape varietals with many more to come, so join me on a Grape EdVenture to Japanese Wines!
The Miyoshi Winery is one of three wineries in the Hiroshima Prefecture and is located several hours South East of Tokyo on the coast; think USA North Carolina to New York in comparison. This winery is my favorite because they offer many amenities to pique my interest. Not only can you tour their wine making facilities on your own time, but, you can enjoy a choice of two different style restaurants, a gift shop that offers wine, local foods, crafts, artwork, and unique wine accessories. Best part though is the unlimited wine tasting. Get this...there are about eight wine barrels in the center of the floor that are all self- serve with no cap on wine tasting! Yes, you read right, there is no cap on the number of refills. The staff does not even question your return for refills and no disapproving attitudes.
There are also many wine regions across Japan such as Aomori, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagano, Oita, Okayama, Shimane, Tochigi, Yamanashi, and Yamagata Prefectures. Legend has it that grape-growing in Japan began as early as 718 CE, in Katsunuma, Yamanshi Prefecture. Yet, the first grape culture dates back to the 12th c. Yet, regular wine making began in Japan with the adoption of Western culture during the Meiji Restoration (late 19th c). So, needless to say regarding their relaxing demeanor toward wine enjoying; in Hiroshima there are wine shops sprinkled throughout the city and definitely a fun place to taste different wines because of their liberal attitudes toward wine tastings.
Even though there are mainstream wine grapes grown in these areas such as Cabernet Sauv., Merlot, Chardonnay, etc., obscure grapes such as Pione, Delaware, Muscat of Alexandria, Puchiberudo, and Kyoho just to name a few come from these regions. Pione grapes are a cross between a Kyoho and a Cannon Hole Muscat. The Pione is usually seedless and sometimes compared to a Muscat grape; sweet and juicy.
When I visited one vineyard in the region, it was interesting to find that the Pione grape is grown in the aerial style vs. standard trellising methods. The Pione wine will pair nicely with Japanese cuisine such as spicy sushi, my favorite noodle dish Okonomiyaki (it is a type of noodle pancake) and cheeses such as Camembert and Blue Cheese. What you say? Instead of a bold Chardonnay? Yes, debunk that myth that bold pairs with bold. By contrasting a sweet wine with a very bold and salty blue cheese, it is heaven in your mouth. In addition, Pione grapes are a main ingredient in some Japanese style desserts because of its sweetness.
The other indigenous grape Kyoho is a cross between Campbell and Centennial grape varietals. Kyoho grapes are known as "giant mountain grapes" with blackish-purple, or almost black colors with large seeds. Again, you can pair this wine with Japanese cuisine that includes mild sushi and noodles soup dishes with pork, beef, and chicken. These wines remind me of a Pinot Noir/Burgundy because it is such a versatile light red wine.
O-Tsukimi is an annual event where you take the time out and enjoy viewing the moon. The celebration dates back to the Nara Period 700 AD. If you make it to the Miyoshi Winery make sure you visit the Okuda Genso Sayume Art Museum adjacent to winery. This art museum features a comprehensive display of artwork by the Japanese painters Genso and Sayume Okuda. Or, if you are into fishing, check out Miyoshi City's traditional fishing techniques; fishermen using birds to catch fish instead of fish bait. This practice is called Cormorant fishing; such an entertaining sport to watch.
Please check out their website www.miyoshi-wine.co.jp. Google an internet translation tool because the winery's website is written in Japanese.
The Delong 100 Grape Varietal Challenge encourages all wine enjoyers to expand their wine drinking horizon by seeking out unusual grape varieties. These past few years, I have tasted over 180 grape varieties. After all, there are over thousands of grape varieties world wide. With so many wine grapes, styles of wine, and wineries to explore, wine is an educational adventure. So grab your virtual passport and come along with me on a Grape EdVenture™ around the world.
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