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Aug 11, 2013 01:01 PM

Do you like to walk on the wild side of wine?

Right now Irouléguy Blanc 2009 Dom Ilarria from a small appellation in the Basque country of France.

Other Irouléguy blancs I've tried were dominated by Manseng grapes like a Jurançon, but this one from one of the stars of the appellation is 60% Petit Courbu. Flavors of pink grapefruit, lime with a touch of apricot according to Gault et Millau. Didn't go well with ginger-lime scallops last night, but I got the right match with a lime-mustard pork chop this evening.

I love these unusual little wines when they are good, and with the right food, this deep golden wine is quite good.

How about you? Do you like to walk on the wild side of wine, or do you just prefer excellence in better known grape varieties.

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  1. If you limited yourself to the best-known "international" grape varieties, you'd miss a lot of good wine, especially at the lower end of the price spectrum.

    I stopped counting around 300.

    1. I started out in the one dollar bin in 1974 at the Dixie Bar here in Melbourne. Most of them had lost their labels to critters or humidity and were quite drinkable. My favorite was a wide range of Pedro Domecq sherries that I got for less than a buck each with the labels, as nobody was buying them.

      I have since enjoyed searching out local wines with a wide range of results. Am still searching for a Florida product whose highest and best use is not as a marinade. Tabor Hill gewurtztramineer is as quaffable as many from the Alsace. And I have been led to believe that California does a decent job as well.

      I have recently been trying wines of the Italian side of the Adriatic. A plonk of Montepulciano was a great buy and stood up well to grilled shark. Heresy, red with a fish. :-)

      The chain ABC dominates our market, but they are happy to special order for me. Which gives me my periodic fix of Franken wines from Germany. And Total Wine in Viera is a pleasure if you can find somebody knowledgeable. But the most fun for me is traveling. And yes, cases have been deposited into the trunk.

      3 Replies
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        Ah yes, Franken wines. I am about to have my fix tonight with some Wurzburger Stein Grosses Gewaechs Silvaner and Riesling, with some Rheingau wines thrown in as well.

        1. re: Asomaniac

          Schloss Schonborn from the Rheingau is one of my favorite producers along with Clemens Busch from the Mosel. If you can find a Kerner from the Alto Adige, get it, you won't be sorry.

          1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

            Agreed. Kerner is normally a pretty boring, pedestrian grape variety, but some producers in Alto Adige produce some rather wonderful wines from it. I generally love, love, love Alto Adige wines. There are even some producers in Alto Adige that can make something like Muller-Thurgau interesting.

            By the way, I have also had some pretty good Kerner from Hokkaido, Northern Japan! They make wine from a lot of Central European grape varieties up there, including for instance Austrian Zweigelt. They also do Pinot Blanc and, interestingly, usually call it by its German name, Weissburgunder.

            Japanese wine is for the most part not good, but there are some that are fantastic. More often than not those are not available in shops because many wineries produce their top wine in very tiny quantities and then sell the whole production to one or two restaurants in Tokyo.

            Of the international grape varieties, Merlot and Chardonnay do better than most, often coming from vineyards in Nagano Prefecture. Just in case you are ever in Japan: a very good Chardonnay that is available in shops is the Mercian Hokushin Private Reserve. Mercian is a very large producer that is capable of great quality at the high end. Infinitely smaller is Obuse winery (Sogga Pere et Fils), which produces some fine Chardonnay as well (their Private Reserve is fantastic), and really good Sauvignon Blanc. The Yama no Chardonnay by Coco Farm is also exceptional.

            The domestic Koshu variety (actually originally Chinese, came to Japan maybe 800 years ago) is OK, but with a few notable exceptions, fairly unexciting. Japanese red grape varieties (Muscat Bailey A, Black Queen, etc.) tend to be underwhelming, though there are a few good examples out there.

            A restaurant called "Takazawa" (formerly "Aronia de Takazawa") in Tokyo probably has the best selection of Japanese wines there is. It has been discussed many times on the Japan board, for those who are interested.

      2. I stopped counting when I hit 200 that I could name off the top of my head . . .

        1 Reply
        1. re: zin1953

          Yes - that is the exciting but also slightly frustrating thing about wine, especially Italian wine. Hundreds and hundreds of grape varieties, the more you learn the more start cropping up, and i am not sure if my memory is what it used to be. There are still a few hundred lurking around my head, but in recent years I find myself just focusing more on the regional character of the wine rather than the names of all 8 grape varieties contained in the blend, none of which I had ever heard of!

          My dream would be to stop working and dedicate the next few years to formally studying and drinking wine... but I guess somehow I have to actually finance my wine habit, so I remain employed!

        2. The French Southwest if full of lesser known varieties:
          in addition to Madiran (tannat based), or
          Cahors (malbec based), a month ago I picked up at
          Corti Brothers a bottle of Fronton (negrette based)
          and a bottle of Pacherenc du Vic Bilh (similar varieties to
          Irouleguy blanc-- petit et gros menseng and courbu
          blanc). I also picked up a bottle of Irouleguy rouge which
          I enjoyed (it is tannat based like Madiran).

          7 Replies
          1. re: bclevy

            There are stranger than that.

            Marcillac is made from Fer Servadou and served by Michel Bras*** in Laguiole.

            Gaillac includes Duras.

            Tursan blanc includes Baroque. A wonderful one, Baron de Bachen, is produced by Michel Guérard

            Mauzac is dominant in Blanquette de Limoux.

            I have two bottles of Irouléguy rouge that are about ready to drink.

            1. re: collioure

              I opened a Tursan Blanc (gold medal) last night, made from Baroque and Gros Manseng (and SB and Petit Manseng). Baroque offers mowed grass and green apple flavors. Best with leeks and fish, I read. That makes sense to me. After tasting it I prepared cod with chive beurre blanc.
              Interesting wine, I suppose. Won't be rushing out to buy the last six bottles on the shelf though. However, the next time I see a Baron de Bachen (12€), I will buy that!

            2. re: bclevy

              Malbec's well known internationally now thanks to Argentina, so much so that some Cahors producers have started labeling their wines with that name, even though the traditional local name for that grape variety is Côt.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                That IS interesting. I have been going to Cahors for 35 years. Fell in love with the wine in the first hour - I think we ran to dinner. Adore the 14th century fortified bridge, recently closed to automibile traffic. Admire it for an hour on every visit.


                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I thought that Malbec was called Auxerrois in that part of France

                  1. re: kagemusha49

                    That too, among others. The older varieties often have a confusingly large number of synonyms.

                2. Every now and then a friend will send me down a side street. Right now I am looking at a gift of a 2007 Fort Ross Pinotage, a grape I know not a whit about except its South African home base and majorly mixed reviews as a varietal grape. It strikes me as an autumnal wine so I will hold it for cooler weather.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: budnball

                    Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut and has a very distinctive character. It can be quite good. I've never had a domestic one.

                    1. re: budnball

                      Oh my gosh that's a good one. Was lucky enough to try the current vintage at Pinot Days recently. Definitely made for cooler weather and bigger food. Lucky you!