Wine 20: Tannat

To drink or ‘tannat’ drink, that is the question. In my case? I choose to drink. ūüėČ

Tannat is a grape I first heard about in an article sent by Wine Folly early last month. If you read the article, I’m sure you’ll want to seek it out the next time you’re in a wine shop! And when you do, you may find it in the ‘France’ or ‘Uruguay’ sections (and I even found a California winery that makes it here). Tannat is an extra-thick skinned grape which can grow in a variety of climates, being nearly immune to the colder temperatures and frost, and also isn’t as susceptible to typical vine diseases. Those thicker skins help the grapes withstand many of the environmental challenges other grapes can’t.

Though still widely grown and produced in the southwest of France near the Pyr√©n√©es, tannat is the grape that put Uruguay on the proverbial wine-map.¬†This grape produces red wines that are inky in color, and have a robust flavor with strong tannins. The French version tends to be extremely astringent, with powerful tannins and a high level of alcohol. Because the strength of the tannins can be deemed too harsh, French winemakers developed a wine process called micro-oxygenation, which helps to soften the tannins (similar to aerating your wine). These typically age well, and often have bright red fruits like raspberry on the palate. Uruguay’s tannat tends to have softer tannins¬†and darker fruit notes, with slightly less acidity than its French counterpart.

Another fun fact: tannat wines have one of the highest polyphenol and antioxidant levels of all wines, making it a “health drink,” in my opinion. ūüôā

At my local wine shop, Ray’s Wine & Spirits, I intentionally went to the Uruguay section to find this gem of a wine. Given what I’d read, not to mention I’ve never had a Uruguayan wine, I really wanted to explore another country through the vine. I found the 14.5% ABV¬†Bodega’s 2015 Garz√≥n Tannat Reserve on the shelf for about $17:

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This particular bottle (unbeknownst to me at the time!) is responsible for putting tannat on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year list, coming in at¬†#41! Say what?! This vintage has also received 12 international awards.

As Chandler Bing from¬†F¬∑R¬∑I¬∑E¬∑N¬∑D¬∑S might say, “Could I¬†BE¬†any more excited to drink this wine?” (No, he didn’t say it, but we can dream.)

img_2992.jpgFrom its website, I learned that this particular vintage was aged 6-12 months on its lees (dead yeast particles leftover from the fermentation process) in untoasted French oak barrels. Why is ‘untoasted’ important? Because many winemakers will choose to treat their barrels in order to impart other flavors – lighter toasted barrels yield lighter notes like vanilla, while more heavily toasted barrels can produce slightly sweeter or richer notes like caramel or coffee – it’s very interesting that Bodega has intentionally chosen to limit the impact of the aging barrels. I’ve heard a sommelier or two say that winemakers ‘correct’ flaws in what might not be the best vintages or the best wine-making processes by using new or treated oak (though I think we should acknowledge that the majority of winemakers do not follow¬†that particular reasoning for using treated barrels).¬†Anyway, what this means for us is that we can expect that whatever aromas and flavors this wine gives us, they’re from the grapes themselves.

I slightly chilled the wine and let it sit in my glass for about 10 minutes before drinking (see, I can be patient). I was maybe busy doing the first part of my 3-part wine tasting:

Appearance:¬†I said it was inky, ahhhh it has such a deep, beautiful, dark coloring. I took my box of 120 Crayola¬ģ crayons out to figure out what color I’d most likely compare this to – I’m going with maroon, what do you think?

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Nose: Smells like a freshly opened bar of dark chocolate (you can smell a slight bitterness to the chocolate, like its 80% dark), with black cherry and fresh blueberries. It only had a light perfume, which was somewhat understated for me, considering the dark pigment.

Taste:¬†The fruit forwardness of the blueberry hit first, followed by the flush of tannins, that were a bit softer than expected. A slight tingling sensation¬†was left lingering on the tongue that just made you want to drink more. It’s like taking a bite of blueberry pie – with a slight tartness because after all, I said it smelled like fresh blueberries, not cooked – and that’s what you’ve got left over.

Overall: It was de-lish-ous. I can definitely see how some might compare this wine with cabernet sauvignon Рit does seem to have a similar flavor profile, one of a bolder red wine.

I thought the food pairings Wine Folly suggested to be well-stated, so I’ll quote the writer¬†Stacy Slinkard here:

The happy pairings of beef, sausage, cassoulet, roasted lamb, duck confit, and assorted aged cheese (reach for Roquefort or Chaumes) will gladly serve to soften the tannins and amplify the rich vibe of the food itself.

So get yourself a beautiful bottle of tannat – French, Uruguayan or otherwise – and hunker down with a rich and delicious meal.

Cheers!!

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