Last month, I published an article called “Doing a Tasting of Unusual Wines” where I talked about the fact that in France today, the 20 most popular wines account for 93 percent of total wine produced. That means hundreds of wines account for the remaining seven percent of wine produced. Wow. It’s no wonder that there are so many rare wines. In that article, I also said that I was likely to do another article on the topic of rare wines. Not to let you down, I’m doing that today. The focus of this article will be on the amazing rare wines we sampled at a recent tasting.
The Tasting Setup
I have a small wine group that gets together every couple of months to do a themed tasting. Sometimes we focus on a single varietal. Sometimes we look at a region. Every once in a while, we do a vertical tasting. Whatever the theme, we always have a good time.
Recently, we came across Wine Folly’s recent list of rare wines, which motivated us to do a rare-wine tasting. But in that tasting, we were only able to try 8 wines. Recognizing we had many more to go, we decided to do a second tasting. We did the second tasting at City Place Wine Bar in Sunnyvale. We chose City Place because Theron, the sommelier, has quite a collection of rare wines that he was happy to introduce us to.
The Rare Sparkling We Tried
We started with the most delicious Sparkling Rosé I’ve ever tasted. It was a Zweigelt from Austria. Theron told us that the wine had a little Pinot Noir in it too to soften it up. This wine was the absolute perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. Several of us bought bottles to enjoy on Thanksgiving, because we can’t think of anything that would pair better with a big Thanksgiving dinner than this bottle.
I just got my new Master Edition Wine Folly The Master Guide. Here is what this wonderful book says about Zweigelt:
- Austria’s most planted red wine grape
- Bright, tart and fruity
- The ultimate picnic red
The Rare Whites We Sipped
We tasted two whites, even though one was really orange. The white wine was a 2016 Viura from Spain. I had thought that Albarino was the most important white wine in the Rioja region of Spain. Come to find out I was wrong. It’s Viura that holds that place of high esteem. This grape is also very important to Cava, Spain’s Sparkling Wine. According to Wine Folly, Viura has notes of honeydew, lime peel, lemon verbena, tarragon and hazelnut. The one we tried didn’t exhibit many of these notes. We mainly got nuttiness with a hint of citrus. I’m eager to try more Viura, so I can get to know this variety better.
The orange wine we tried was a 2008 Malvasia from the Emilio Romano wine region in Italy, where they pronounce the grape MAL veh ZEE ah. In other parts of the world, they pronounce the grape mal VAY zee ah. Theron explained that this wine has an orange tint because it’s a white wine that’s made like a red wine, with the skins in contact with the juice for an extended period. It’s also a wine that is aged for a very long time. We really liked this wine with potato chips.
The Rare Reds We Sampled
We tasted two reds. The first was a 2014 Yacoubian Areni from Armenia. Areni is the name of the grape. This wine had a beautiful nose with a lot of maturity and minerality. The taste is lighter than the nose and has an old-world feel to it. One of our tasting guests thought it tasted like a fruity Italian wine. We were told that it would pair nicely with all kinds of pasta dishes, from Pomodoro to alfredo, as well as with Mediterranean dishes like kebabs. We came up with a word to describe this wine: herbalicious!
The second red we sampled was a Georgian ampora wine. That means a wine that was aged in a clay vat. This wine apparently can age for 30 years! The grape was Quevri, and it went great with balsamic vinegar.
The Rare Dessert Wine We Enjoyed
We finished our tasting with the delicious Vin Deux Naturel from France, one of my favorite wines that I always manage to have when I’m at City Place. The grape is Grenache, and the wine is lightly fortified.
Celebrating Rare Wines
After this tasting, are we experts on rare wines? Sadly, no. But are we eager to try more. Happily, yes. I hope I’ve inspired you to try some unusual wines. If you’ve tried some recently, please share your experiences with us. Thanks. Cheers!
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Yes, it was quite fun to try the lesser known (in our part of the world) varietals. I have been a quest to taste more odd wines since our first gathering to taste the unusual a couple of months back,
Of this lot, I enjoyed the sparkling Ziegelt and the Areni wine best. It was surprising how different all these wines tasted from what most of us drink everyday.
And I encourage you to try more Viura wine as the one we had that night was not the typical Viura.
Add Grechetto to your list of unusual wines to taste, as well. I recently discovered this low-yielding grape from Italy and thoroughly it’s fresh and nutty flavors.
Thanks for recommending Grechetto! I will definitely try that. I agree with you that the Sparkling Zweigelt was to die for. I’m excited that I bought a bottle to enjoy on Thanksgiving.