This is one offer you won't refuse

This is one offer you can’t refuse

I’m misquoting the Godfather here but the recipe for greatness in men is not so different from the recipe for greatness in wine. Well, there’s a little more to it… science, I suspect, a little sun and rain, and a certain je ne sais quoi imbued by each individual winemaker.  Anyhoodle, ask me again in two years; once I have my Masters in Winemaking, I’ll know for sure!

I almost named this post “the grapes of wrath” to describe my thus-far frustrated long-distance apartment search in Bordeaux. For the first time in… ever… my apartment hunting resume is not a clarion call to high quality landlords and fascinating potential roommates to come running and implore me to pick them.  It’s probably my mechanical French throwing them off (…Je suis une étudiante canadienne. J’aime du vin. Je parle comme un robot, mais je vous promets que je ne suis pas ça.  bip boop.), but I’m sure my sunny personality will win(e) them over when I am there in person in just over a month!

Don't.  Don't you want me.  You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't see me

Don’t. Don’t you want me?

I kept thinking about that phrase after the apartment tangent, because it occurred to me that great wines do come from grapes of wrath.  I was at lunch with a friend recently, both of us daydreaming about where to put my future winery, and a question about the importance of soil came up.  Of course soil is important, but the interesting thing about grapes is that the vines must suffer in order to produce great grapes for wine. Think about it – grapevines grow in chalk, limestone, gravel, clay, sand, etc. – the better fertilized and water-retaining the land is, the bigger and lusher the grapes are, which actually waters down the juice inside the grape and makes it ill-fit for high quality wine of character. With the right acidity and nutrition in the soil, not too much water, and a good amount of heat and sun (between 30 and 50° above and below the equator), grapes will fight through what looks like disadvantageous terrain to grow just about anywhere.

Like in volcanic ash on the island of Sicily, home of the Nero d’Avola grape.  Vineyards are spread all over the island, even all the way up the sides of Mount Etna.  Volcanic ash is naturally resistant to the phylloxera pest which devastated most of Europe’s vineyards in the mid-1800s, so many grapes actually grow very well in it.  Nero d’Avola is one of my favourites from this region – I characterize it as a summer red, because young Neros are smooth and fruity enough to quench thirst even during the summer heat.  That said, with a little age (no more than 4-5 years), more of the smoky, earthy, spicy notes emerge to complement the fruit character.

These wines pair well with smoky... ah crap....!

These wines pair well with smoked… ah crap….somebody warn Pompeii!

And then call me the second you have this entire lineup, because I'm coming over!

And then call me the second you have this entire lineup, because I’m coming over!

Neros are often compared to Shiraz/Syrahs because they like similar climates, so if you’re a Syrah fan, you will probably like this Sicilian gem. A good clue with food pairing is to pair local wines with foods from the region – so pizza and pasta are no-brainer pairings with the Nero d’Avola, cheese too.  The smoky characteristic is another clue: try this with traditional southern or Korean BBQ dishes.  And the earthy quality suggests a good pairing with lamb chops.

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13 thoughts on “great grapes are not born great, they grow great

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