I interrupted my grazing at Chicago Gourmet to interview Mr. Andrew Knowlton, the Restaurant and Drinks Editor of Bon Appétit Magazine. (Chicago Gourmet, for those unfamiliar with the festival, is like a smaller, $150-per-person version of The Taste of Chicago. Thank goodness for press passes.)
Knowlton looked far too trim for someone with his enviable job title, and I couldn’t help but wish he had been a bit more portly. Putting these ungracious thoughts aside, I asked Knowlton if he had discovered any off-the-beaten-track wine regions lately.
He cited Sicily as a particularly intriguing area, especially the region around Mt. Etna. “I don’t know what’s in the ground there,” he marveled, “but the wines have an incredible sense of terroir.” Terroir, as many of you are aware, refers to the soil, climate and any other environmental factors influencing the taste of a wine. Wines expressive of their terroir offer a strong sense of place, something increasingly valued in what many argue to be a world of wines homogenized for the “international” palate.
A quick search on Binny’s website yielded three red wines from Mt. Etna produced by Tenuta della Terre Nere, ranging in price from $15 to $66. The most expensive bottle claims to be from pre-phylloxera vines, which survived the ravages of this tiny aphid-like insect in the late 19th century. You can read some reviews and additional information about these wines on their distributor’s website.
I also asked Knowlton if he’d enjoyed any particularly unusual wines lately. Without hesitation, he said, “Orange wines. Some winemakers allow their wines to oxidize,” he explained, “making these wines with an almost sherry-like character.” He said the wines of Lopez were especially notable.
I found four wines from Lopez de Heredia (in Spain’s Rioja region) on Binny’s website, priced from $23 to $30. After reading this article about oxidized wines in Imbibe Magazine, $23 sounded like a pretty darn good deal.
Back in July, I had the fortune to try the Escoffier menu at Next, which paired an oxidized wine from France’s Jura region with some turtle consommé:
Our next course of Turtle Consommé with Madeira smelled of mulled wine spices, and it had a texture strikingly similar to that of the wine pairing: A very unusual 2005 Domaine de Montbourgeau, an Appellation L’Étoile Controlée from the Jura region (near Lake Geneva in eastern France). This bone dry, oxidized wine is vinified in the same manner as sherry, except that it remains unfortified. Its relation to sherry showed through in the nose and flavor, but its texture was something totally different. One dining companion said the wine “…is what wild meat is to supermarket meat.”
Thanks to Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant and Drinks Editor of Bon Appétit Magazine, for his excellent recommendations. And if any of you, dear readers, have discovered an oddball wine or an obscure wine region, I would love to hear about it. Post a comment or drop me an e-mail.