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Domaine de Vaccelli Cuvée Roger 2009 with Meadowood Farm Lamb Chops and Red Fire Farm Brussels Sprouts.

Domaine de Vaccelli Cuvée Roger 2009
with Meadowood Farm Lamb Chops and Red Fire Farm Brussels Sprouts.

France’s Île de Beauté (Island of Beauty) lies one hundred miles south of France’s Côte-d’Azur and just over fifty miles west of Tuscany. This wildly majestic island enjoys some of the hottest, driest conditions in all of France (it holds the record for the most annual sunshine), and is where the Greeks first cultivated vines back in the 6th Century BCE. Despite this long history of production, it was not until the 1960s, when a horde of skilled wine-makers fled Algeria (the so-called French pieds noirs) for Corsica, that it became known for wines of quality of distinction. One of these wine-makers was Roger Courrèges, who founded the Domaine de Vaccelli in 1962 outside of Corsica’s southern capitol, Ajaccio. In Ajaccio, one of Corsica’s two AOC’s (designations of protected origin), southeastern facing granitic slopes have provided an excellent environment for indigenous varietals like Sciaccarellu, a thick-skinned grape that is literally translated from the Corsican dialect as “crispy-crunchy between the teeth.” Corsicans are often viewed as fiercely nationalistic, refusing to identify as French or Italian, and the Courrèges family is no exception, focusing on native vines and traditional practices to make wines truly representative of Ajaccio–the island’s oldest wine region.

Roger’s son Alain took over Domaine de Vaccelli in 1974 after his father’s death, restructuring the 28 hectare vineyard around the three most noble of Corsican varietals: Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, and Vermentinu. Today, Alain works with his son Gérard to produce a range of reds, a white, and a delightful rosé (Juste Ciel) aged in caves beneath the winery, where natural granite walls are covered with Alain’s carvings. One of our favorites from Vaccelli is the Cuvée Roger Courrèges, a blend of Sciacarellu (70%), Grenache (20%), and Niellucciu (10%), that is a nod to the domaine’s founder. Cuvée Roger is dark and brooding, with a deep ruby color that hints at something sinister yet seductive. Rich aromas of red berry and spice give way to a stunning textural experience that is reminiscent of eating a low-hanging, super-ripe strawberry just after a rain storm. The fruit is ripe and laden with earth, and the warm, spicy finish recalls the wild mountain herbs, or maquis, that pepper the Corsican hillsides. These herbs are so distinctive–and remarkably aromatic–that their scent is said to have made native Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte weep when he was in exile on Elba, an island 50 miles to the east!

This herbacious, full-bodied red makes an excellent pairing for rich, meaty fall feasts.  The most classic pairing would be wild boar, or sangliers, marinated with red wine, herbs, and garlic, but alas, I was unable to wrangle any wild boars in Cambridge!  The next best thing is lamb, however, and I managed to procure some lamb chops from one of our favorite cheesemakers, Veronica Pedraza, who raises lamb and beef in addition to making cheese at Meadowood Farms in Cazenovia, New York. I rubbed the chops with whole-grain dijon, salt, pepper, and plenty of thyme (a nod to the Corsican maquis), and seared them until golden brown and medium rare. Paired with some roasted Brussels sprouts from Red Fire Farm in Granby, Massachussetts this gut-warming, hearty, harvest meal brought me right back to the Île de Beauté. I could almost imagine the lambs grazing amongst the rugged vines and kicking off the smells of the maquis–it’s enough to make anyone weep!

 

Rory Stamp is a classroom instructor, Wine Buyer, and cheese monger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Clos de l'Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Clot de l’Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Southwest of the Languedoc lies Roussillon, a region that has too often been reduced to mere suffix. Roussillon stretches from the river Aude in the north to the border of Catalonia in the South. In the West, the snow-capped Pyrenées rise above 2500m in places, with the jagged peaks of Pic du Canigou at 2,786m (9.140ft) above sea level. A sharp descent eastward brings you to back to the stifling heat of the Mediterranean coastline, where Vin Doux Naturels reign supreme. Roussillon is primarily known for these wines, which are made from partially-fermented grape juice that is fortified with alcohol before it fully becomes wine. Made from the most common regional varietal, Grenache (whether is be Noir, Gris, or Blanc) , these aperitif “wines” benefit from early ripening fruit in some of the hottest, driest vineyards in all of France. Overall Roussillon produces 90% of all French Vin Doux Naturel, the most famous of which is Banyuls, made in the southeasternmost corner of the region. In Banyuls-sur-Mer, Grenache grapes are grown on steeply-terraced schist slopes, allowed to shrivel on the vine, fermented, fortified, and aged in barrel for years at a time at which point they can achieve a depth comparable to vintage port.

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Vinho Verde: Dom Diogo Padeiro from Quinta da Raza

Dom Diogo Padeiro from Quinta da Raza

Even though it’s designated as a “Vinho Verde”, the Dom Diogo Padeiro from Quinta da Raza is not green or even white – it’s pink!

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The Sintra Coastline

The Sintra coastline

Like everything born of Sintra, the Arenae Colares Malvasia is of and from the sea.

I had the good fortune to spend several weeks last summer exploring Lisbon and its surrounding environs, including an unforgettable day in Sintra, guided by two friends of mine who grew up there.

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Mottura Vineyard

Porcupine’s eye view of the Mottura Vineyard

This past April the Formaggio Wine Team took a pleasant trip to visit Sergio Mottura’s estate on our way to VinItaly 2014. We flew into Rome’s Fiumicino airport early in the morning and drove north-east towards Umbria. We eventually split off from the crazy A1 autostrada onto small, one-lane roads. Just along the northern border of Lazio we reached the medieval hamlet of Civitella d’Agliano, and the home, hotel and cantina of the Mottura family.

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Farmers Jane Field Blend WhiteIn celebration of Independence Day weekend, we’re featuring one delicious American wine. The Farmers Jane project is run by friends and wine lovers Angela and Faith in southern California. This tasty white is made from grapes purchased from a Santa Ynez valley vineyard belonging to the Native American Chamush tribe. In this vineyard Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussane grow together, and the grapes are harvested, pressed and fermented all together at the same time, old-school style. (more…)

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Reuilly Rosé perfect for summer sipping!Reuilly is a wine growing appellation in the eastern Loire Valley, not far from Sancerre. The three main grapes grown there are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a tiny amount of Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio). Pinot Gris is a sub-clone of Pinot Noir that has a very pale, blueish-grey skin. Much of the soil in Reuilly consists of Kimmeridgian marl, a type of limestone perfect for the production of aromatic, delicate wines.

Domaine de Reuilly is a 17 hectare organic estate in the heart of this commune. Denis Jamain’s grandfather first planted vines here in 1935, when he also purchased a small parcel in the local forest. Denis has been managing the estate since 1990 and has the luck of being able to select oak trees from his grandfather’s forest to be made into barrels for aging his own wines! (more…)

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