Friday, November 20, 2020

A Look into the Sweeter Side of Bordeaux Wines

I’m thrilled to finally join the French Winophiles group and gain some knowledge into the world of French wine.  I’m so immersed typically in Italian wine that branching out here and there is important to get a better grasp on wine from around the world.  This month the feature are the sweet wines of Bordeaux, which I’ve written about in the past.  If you follow my blog you know I truly enjoy dessert wines so this was a treat. 

Sweet Bordeaux wines are primarily made of semillon, sauvignon blanc and/or muscadelle.  They are sweeter because the grapes are typically harvested about a month or two after regular harvest of the other grapes.  This dehydrates the grapes concentrating the sugars.  What makes the sweet wines of Bordeaux special is the fungus known as botrytis cinerea or noble rot.  I know it may sound unappealing a fungus growing on the grapes, but it transforms creates complexities in the flavors and aromatics of the grapes lending more toward honey notes.  Noble rot develops due to the climate, which in Bordeaux develops from the misty mornings and the heat and humidity of the day.   

Botrytis Cinerea noble rot
Botrytis Cinerea ~ copyright of

Dehydrated grapes of Sweet Bordeaux
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The appellations 

I sampled four wines from 2 of the 8 AOC’s, appellations, in Bordeaux that make sweet wine, Loupiac and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont.    Loupiac occupies about 865 acres that located about 18 miles southeast of Bordeaux on the right bank of the Garonne River. It’s hilly terrain made primarily of gravel and chalky clay soils.  The appellation follows strict laws around density and even weight of the grapes harvested.  Romans were the first that cultivated vines in this area and an ancient Roman villa still exists today that can be visited. 

Sainte-Croix-du-Mont is located on the right bank of the Gironde River as well south of Loupiac.  The soils here are more limestone with clay on steep hillsides occuping 1,100 acres.  The sweet wines of this area are known for being more powerful and intense. 

Sweet Bordeaux wine appellations
The Wines 

2014 Chateau du Cros Loupiac: Part of the wines of Famille Boyer.  This wine is made of 90% semillon, 5% sauvignon blanc and 5% muscadet.   It spends 12 months in barrique.  The most golden in color of the 4 wines.  An intense nose mostly of honey and apricot.  Rather delicate on the palate, but with concentrated, complex flavors including apricot.  A beautiful silkiness to this wine.  ABV 13% SRP $15 

2015 Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac: This winery is operated by 8 generations.  These grapes are harvested from the oldest vineyards onsite planted in 1910 and are considered the best of their production.  The wine is made of 80% semillon and 20% sauvignon blanc and aged for 1 year in barrels that are a year old.  Light golden color with a nose lending more towards citrus compared to the previous wine.  Elegant and balanced on the palate with the citrus (orange) showing up more on the palette.  ABV 13% SRP $25  

Sweet wines of Bordeaux Loupiac Sainte-Croix-du-Mont
2016 Chateau La Rame Sainte-Croix-du-Mont: One of the oldest estates of the area.  Made of 95% semillon and 5% sauvignon blanc.  The grapes spend 2 years in stainless steel with 30% oak.  My favorite wine of the group here.  Light golden in color.  Raisins, apricots and peach showing up on the aromatics.  The palette is layered with flavors in harmony showing lots of vanilla with a hint of the raisins and apricot.  ABV 13% SRP $34 

2019 Chateau La Hargue Moelleux Semi Dry: These vineyards in Entre-Deux-Mers occupies all of the AOC’s and have been part of the family since 1954 acquired by Henri Ducourt.  Made of sauvignon blanc, sauvignon gris and semillon and aged on lees in stainless steel.  The only full sized 750ml bottle, while the rest are 375ml.  Pale straw colored, almost colorless in the glass.  The sauvignon blanc shines on the nose showing grassiness.  Definitely semi-dry showing up crisp and clean with tropical notes and white peach.  ABV 11% SRP $18 

Sweet Bordeaux wines
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Join us live on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am EST at #winophiles and chat with our food and wine loving friends on more sweet wines of Bordeaux.


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Primitivo: Zinfandel of Southern Italy

Back in September I wrote about a unique white blend from the Amastuola winery in Puglia.  This month’s Italian Food, Wine and Travel event brings us to discover the Primitivo grape of Italy.  I fortunately had a bottle of Primitivo from Amastuola as well that I’ll be sharing a little later. 

The Grape ~ Primitivo 

Let’s first chat about the Primitivo grape.  It’s a grape that hails from southern Italy, primarily in the region of Puglia located on the heel of the boot.  In Puglia it’s the 3rd most planted grape that grows well in the hot, dry conditions.  It’s a grape that is genetically related to zinfandel, although quite different in style.  Those from California are typically higher in sugar and therefore riper in a New World style versus those of Italy that have more of a rustic presentation. 

The Primitivo grape originally came over from Croatia in the 1700’s and was selected this name meaning “early ripening”.  Primitivo had always been used as a blending grape until the 90’s when many growers and wineries received incentives to uproot many of the vines to better focus on quality.  Today the grape can be produced in a variety of styles, but is usually a full-bodied, jammy, fruit driven wine with high alcohol and moderate tannins. 

Some of the primary appellations of Puglia where this grape is grown are Primitivo di Manduria DOC, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG, Gioia del Colle DOC and the Salento IGT.  Italians are allowed to use Zinfandel on the label in place of Primitivo, which I can imagine would give them better recognition on the market with the unfamiliarity of the name Primitivo. 

The Wine 

2015 Amastuola Primitivo Puglia IGT 

Garnet in color with aromas of cherry, pepper and earth.  On the palette it’s very dry with medium body.  It’s very different than many of the Primitivo I have experienced that are usually more lush and fuller bodied (not typically my style).  This wine has an earthiness about it, with cherry and cedar notes.  Nice acidity showing up drier on the finish with firm, moderate tannin.  ABV 14% SRP $16 

2015 Amastuola Primitivo

What’s your experience with Primitivo and is it a style you typically favor?

Follow my fellow Italian food and wine writers as they share their perspective on Primitivo.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.  Importer: Mariposa Imports