Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Each wine-producing region or country in the world has their own unique signature or imprint that they’ve made in the world with the wines they make. Argentina is known for Malbec, France is known for Bordeaux and Champagne (among many others), New Zealand has Sauvignon Blanc and Germany makes some of the most stunning Riesling on the planet.

Some wines are so unique that they typically derive from their home countries and recreating these exact varietals or wine blends outside of those countries can sometimes be an impossible task. So, if you’d like to try a “Pinotage”, you’ll want to check into South African wines and if the grape “Montepulciano” sounds intriguing to you, Italy is your best bet.

What is Pinotage? South Africa designed and created a grape varietal to call their own by crossing the Cinsault grape with Pinot Noir grapes. This type of genetic crossing made a grape known as Pinotage and the wine made from these grapes has a character that is all its own. With Pinotage, you’ll often get intense aromas and flavors of lush, ripe dark fruit (plums, blackberries) with an alluring background of chocolate and coffee (aka mocha). The label on the Grinder Pinotage perfectly alludes to the taste of coffee with roasted coffee beans and a hand-turned coffee grinder on the front.

One downside of the Pinotage style is that the cheaper options sometimes give off a bit of an alcohol smell (some people call the scent paint thinner) but the more expensive options can really jump in price. You will notice a marked difference between a $20 Pinotage and a $100 Pinotage but that spike in pricing can exclude many wine drinkers. Thankfully enough, the Grinder is very affordable and is a great way to dip your feet into the Pinotage pool. If you want a delicious (albeit expensive) option, check out Diesel by Beyerskloof (around $100 per bottle). Pinotage pairs excellently with gamey meats like venison, elk or smoked sausages as well as roasted lamb and grilled meats.   

Next up is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Montepulciano of Abruzzo). This wine comes from Southern Italy and the name Montepulciano indicates both the red grape varietal and the region. Montepulciano, or Monte for short, is known for being extremely approachable and food friendly with a bright, grapey flavor and zippy acidity. Tannins remain moderate which makes the wine suitable for pairing with pasta sauces, appetizer courses and creamy cheeses. The other important factor to look at is the affordability of this type of wine and Monte certainly delivers some killer value for the price. While I found the Vinosophia to be a bit too pricey for the quality, you can often find many delicious bottles for around $20 to $30.

Why should you try Monte? In my opinion, this wine makes the perfect choice for family gatherings. The wine has an attractive color when poured in a decanter and there is nothing quite like setting the wine in the middle of a big table full of good food and company since most people can easily drink it without getting overwhelmed by tannins, acidity or dryness. Some may call it a “middle” wine since most of its profile hits the middle: i.e. medium body (sometimes lighter), medium intensity and medium tannins.

Those that enjoy their big, bold wines like Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon may not find enough in a Monte wine to satisfy their wine cravings but bring it to a pasta night and put it with a meatball marinara and most people will be smiling from the combination of flavors.

Out of these two wines, which sounds more interesting to you? I couldn’t choose one over the other stylistically but in terms of access, it seems easier to find a bottle of Montepulciano on the shelf rather than Pinotage. Here are my wine picks of the week!      

Vinosophia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2019: (DOC Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy). Dry red, deep purple color. The nose is medium in intensity with fruity highlights of cassis, dark fruits (plums, dark cherries), a hint of toasty oak and delicate spice. On the palate, the flavors start out simply with dark cherries, plums, a touch of earthy chocolate and some astringent, grapey notes. Tannins are medium but build on the tongue with each sip. The wine is medium-bodied with medium-plus acidity. The main flavor profile focuses on that grapey, fruity character which is reigned in by a delicate touch of baking spice on the quick finish. This wine is fantastic with meatballs in marinara sauce and salty snacks like roasted almonds, pistachios and flakes of high-quality parmesan cheese. While I enjoyed the wine in general, the price is a bit high for what the wine delivers. Many wines under $30 can deliver a similar experience so I’m not sure I would buy it again. Good! $34, 13% ABV

The Grinder Pinotage 2020: (South Africa). Dry red, deep purple color. This wine delivers an enjoyable bouquet of juicy wild berries and mint on the nose with a splash of vanilla and roasted coffee beans. To the taste, full-bodied flavors of candied cherries, blackberries and plums combine with silky mocha and coffee creating a slightly creamy effect. Tannins are mellow and medium while the wine is soft on the palate with medium acidity. Since the wine is medium in intensity, the wine never impacts the tastebuds forcefully and the flavors open with dark fruits followed by smooth mocha and a light zip of acidity. The finish is enjoyably long with notes of red pepper flakes and cloves. Overall, this is an enjoyable wine I would drink with many types of roasted/grilled meats, and it makes a good sipper when I don’t want to think too much and simply sip a decent glass of wine. Could use more complexity and intensity but still worth a taste. Good! $23, 14% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!