With the throngs of summer upon us, it is a good time for a mid-summer reality check. Have you been relishing in all summer has to offer? Exploring new parts of the world? Embracing the gift of longer days, lazier nights and a slower pace of life? Certainly you’ve tasted the bounty of summer foods and explored new flavors in wine, right? If not, grab yourself a glass and set your plans for exploration because after all, you deserve it! If a summer holiday is out of the question, there is no better way to discover new terrain than through flavors of wine. Why is this? Well, by its pure essence, wine embodies distinctive characteristics based upon its region of origin. It’s a concept known as terroir (from terre,”land”). Terroir can loosely be translated to a “sense of place.”
In this blog post, we’ll be discovering some of the finest terroir of Europe, including: Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Grab your virtual passports as we explore four must-try and should-buy European wines, compliments of contributions from our friends at Wine Elite.
The Wine Elite is a nationwide consumer resource for Sommelier-Guided Wine Tasting Experiences, Education, Public Speaking and Wine Expertise.
Sommelier Jörn Kleinhans is a certified specialist of wine, and the owner of the Wine Elite Sommelier Company. Erik Brown is the firm’s specialist for market and consumer communications.
“What to buy” recommendations in this post were kindly provided by Kevin Hart, sommelier, Boca Restaurant Group in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
Let’s jet set to Europe…
First stop, Germany. Here, we are tasting the region’s famous Riesling. This is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world’s 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly “terroir-expressive”, again, meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine’s place of origin. (source: wikipedia)
“A Riesling is known for its sweetness, high aroma, and high acidity,” says Erik Brown.
What to buy: Rienhold Haart
FRANCE: Chardonnay from Burgundy
Next up, France in the Burgundy region where we are sampling Chardonnay. This is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand. For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a “rite of passage” and an easy entry into the international wine market.
The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavors commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisply mineral wines of Chablis, France to New World wines with oak, and tropical fruit flavors. (source: wikipedia)
“A fantastic food wine, it’s clean, mineral taste pairs well.” – Erik
“A perfect expression of Burgundy itself.” – Jörn
What to buy:
- Jean Marc Roulot
- Anotine Jobard
“If you like Meursaults that are big, broad and oaky, and are as yellow as French headlights, then this may not be the domaine for you. However, if you like Meursaults that are taut, mineral, complex and refined, then François Jobard is your man.”
Tempranillo (also known as Ull de Llebre, Cencibel, Tinta del Pais and several other synonyms) is a black grape variety widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain.Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish. Temprano (“early”), is a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. (Source: wikipedia).
“This has the signature signs of Spanish wine making with notes of American oak and dark cherry.” – Erik
“This is the most important grape of Spain, it will give you a good sense for the Spanish style of wines.” – Jörn
What to buy: Lopez de Heredia
ITALY: Sangiovese from Tuscany
In Italy, Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh) is the most widely planted grape variety. It derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove“. Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavors of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels. While not as aromatic as other red wine varieties such as Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, Sangiovese often has a flavor profile of sour red cherries with earthy aromas and tea leaf notes. Wines made from Sangiovese usually have medium-plus tannins and high acidity. (Source: wikipedia).
“This rustic taste pairs wonderfully with rural Italian meal. This wine has flavors of dark cherry and soft vanilla.” – Erik
“This is perhaps the most know grape varietal from Italy, since the underlying wine is Chianti.” – Jörn
What to buy: Stella di Campalto
So go ahead, be adventurous. Even if you can’t travel physically to these fine regions, you can experience their distinctive wines and let your palate travel the globe. And best yet, you can do it in the comfort of your own home. As Rick Steves would say, “keep on traveling” even if wine is your destination.
*“What to buy” recommendations are compliments of Kevin Hart, sommelier at Boca Restaurant Group.
Ciao wine lovers,