This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!
No you haven’t gone mad, this is still a wine blog and not a condiments review. Nor is it a homage to the New York female hip hop trio Salt-n-Pepa. Read on…
I recently tasted two different wines, in different settings, from different countries and brought in by different companies, but one had a distinct pepper taste and one was remarkably salty, so I thought they would make for an interesting pair.
Bodegas Vegalfaro “Rebel;lia” Utiel-Requena DO 2014 (€12.95, Cases Wine Warehouse) 13.0%
The Utiel-Requena DO is in the Province and Autonomous Community of Valencia in eastern Spain, in the transition zone between the Mediterranean coast and La Mancha high plateau. Away from most of the softening effects of the Med, the climate is very continental (long hot, dry summers and cold winters) and one of the most severe in Spain.
Bobal is the main grape grown here, accounting for over three quarters of the land under vine. Other permitted black varieties are: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The authorised white varieties are: Planta Nova, Macabeo, Merseguera, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Until fairly recently, Utiel-Requena has mainly produced bulk wine for early drinking. Some vignerons are now taking quality much more seriously, especially where vineyards are located at altitude which gives the grapes a chance to rest in the cooler evenings.
From the design of the label you can guess that Bodegas Vegalfaro is a modern winery, even putting the name of the wine upside down on the label. And so it proves in the glass. This is a blend of two French grapes – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – which are often seen outside France as well as in the country itself, but rarely blended together. Often single varietals, when in a blend it is often with Sémillon or Colombard rather than each other (Italy is another exception).
It is a lovely, clean wine; no overt oakiness but plenty of citrus and tropical fruit. The acidity is refreshing and keeps your mouth watering, especially with added saltiness on the finish! It’s beyond the saline character of some Albariños or Sancerres, but while unusual is actually quite enticing. The perfect fish and chip wine? Perhaps, but move over Muscadet and Chablis, this is the perfect match for oysters!
Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret 2013 (€12.99 down to €10.00, SuperValu) 14.0%
In the Rhône Valley there is a well-recognised hierarchy amongst the AOCs, with the 16 Crus at the top and generic Côtes-du-Rhônes at the bottom. One step up is Côtes-du-Rhônes Villages which is made within some of the better villages outside the Crus, and the final step below the Crus is Côtes-du-Rhônes Villages with one of 18 village names appended, such as Séguret as we have here.
Among the dozens of varieties permitted in the Southern Rhône, most wines are primarily blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, GSM for short. Grenache gives soft red fruit, some body and plenty of alcohol. Syrah and Mourvèdre give colour, tannin, acidity and complexity, especially with pepper and spice notes.
The village of Séguret has been voted the most beautiful in France – and the vista of vines growing protected by a hill must surely have helped.
Château Goudray was built around 1815 then after changing hands a few times was bought by Marie and Hugues Meffre in 1900. The vines were still weakened after the effects of phylloxera so they had to replant virtually all the plots. It took until 1920 for harvests to become fully healthy and stable, so they could finally properly market their wines.
The 2013 Château Goudray Côtes du Rhônes Villages–Séguret is full of juicy red and black fruit, supple tannins and is a real pleasure to drink. While not the most elegant of wines it is quite moreish, and easy to quaff. I don’t know the precise blend but it does have the most pronounced black pepper notes I have encountered in a wine – most expected from Syrah dominated blends from the northern Rhône. This surely makes it the perfect wine to pair with peppered steak!
And for those disappointed not to see Salt n Pepa: