Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! It seems that the theme this week is sour cherries. Unlike sour grapes which tend to indicate a person’s bitterness or sourness, sour red fruits like cherries are some of my favorite flavors to discover in ales or wines. I’ve talked about the Sangiovese grape before and its not surprising considering how much there is to find in the Italian section (and beyond). Let’s take a moment and refresh ourselves on this versatile grape varietal!

Sangiovese has been around for centuries and is first mentioned around the 1500’s with winemaking notes stating that the grapes make high-quality wines, but caution is needed or else the wines can quickly turn to vinegar. This simple statement refers to the higher acidity levels easily achieved by this famous Italian grape. The varietal didn’t become popular in Italy until the 1800’s and the grape had a massive international resurgence in popularity in the 1970’s with the utilization of modern oaking techniques and blending with non-indigenous Italian grapes (the beginning of Super Tuscans).

Following another theme from last week, the name Sangiovese is known in Latin as Sanguis Jovis, aka “The blood of Jupiter”. What is it with these wines and references to blood? The grape is famously Italian with most of the production occurring in Tuscany. Sangiovese has found international success as well with plantings in Argentina (Mendoza region), California, France, Turkey, Greece and Australia among others.

You can find this grape in a large variety of single varietal and blended wines like Brunello di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese), Chianti (at least 80% Sangio), and Super Tuscans which are blended using Cab Sauv, Syrah and other international varietals. There can be a lot of flavor and quality ranges going from wine to wine and you will notice a marked difference between entry-level wines and premium options. A lot of this comes from the general quality of the fruit and growing conditions as well as the production methods used to make the wine.

The flavor profile of a Sangiovese from a cooler season can differ significantly from one made in a warm season. In cool vintages, Sangio displays high acidity, red fruit and herbaceous notes like tomato plant or plant stems while a warm-season version will offer red cherry, leather, cloves, blackberry and vanilla. This grape needs a long and warm growing season to develop richness and body and if the season is too cold, the wine tightens up and becomes quite acidic with harsh tannins. While Sangio may be temperamental when dealing with hot or cold seasons, it adapts quite well to a variety of soil types, seeming to thrive in limestone-based soils.

Another reason that this Italian red is so versatile is the fact that it is extremely food friendly. This is one of those wines that tastes great at almost any price point (excluding the most basic, entry-level wines) but transforms when paired with appropriate foods like tomato-based sauces, dried meats/cheeses and fresh produce (freshly grilled vegetables or roasted eggplant in herb-infused oil).

The flavors of Sangiovese can shock some palates at first, especially those that prefer full, plush wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, but the tastebuds usually adjust fairly quickly and once you know what to expect, it can be a delightfully affordable and quaffable red, perfectly suited for family pasta night. Besides trying out some Sangiovese, you should also try out a few ales from Nokomis Fine Ales in Nokomis, SK. This brewery is producing some of the most unique and well-made ales in Saskatchewan and there is a flavor for everyone. Here are my wine and beer picks of the week!

Poggio Al Gello Montecucco Riserva Sangiovese 2018: (DOCG Montecucco, Italy). Dry red, medium ruby color with minimal signs of fading. The bouquet is delicate (medium intensity) with notes of fresh red cherries, soft leather gloves, pencil shavings, earth and black pepper flakes. To the taste, this Sangio opens with a quick zip of sour cherry and soft earth quickly backed up by a rush of medium-plus acidity and plush medium-plus tannins that stick to the tongue and coat the mouth. The wine is light-bodied with medium intensity and the flavor profile takes a few sips to allow the subtleties to begin to display. With patience comes cherries/red fruit, hints of pencil shaving (graphite) and a nice bite of pepper. The wine becomes very easy to drink and you know what to expect with each sip. Definitely Italian in style with the tangy acidity and cherry flavors combined with light body. The finish is long and features more cherry and hints of peppery earth. This wine works best with a spot of food on the side, especially red pasta sauces, antipasto or cured meats. Will also taste great with some freshly cut Parmesan cheese. Misses a few points due to the slightly lower intensity and lack of complex flavors. Still very enjoyable! Good! $25, 14% ABV

Nokomis Scwingungen Barrel-Aged Flemish Style Sour Red Ale: (Nokomis, SK). Belgian-style sour red ale with a dark, reddish/brown color and a thin layer of cream-colored lace. The scent prickles on the nose with pickled red fruits, hints of vinegar sharpness, sour oak, tangy raspberry, sour cherry and wild strawberry. This beer is very intense on the palate with mouth watering high acidity and a light body. Sour cherries and lemon juice impact first followed by a chewy texture from medium tannins and some lovely barrel character providing a long, biscuity and sour finish. The mouth really puckers with each sip and keeping the beer on the tongue creates a blast of flavor and concentration. The carbonation is fizzy and not too bubbly overall while the style of the ale is dry. Complex combinations of sweet/sour and salty notes make for an excellently-balanced brew. Bottle-conditioned, unpasteurized and unfiltered. Real SK beer! Very good! $10 (500ml), 5.8% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!