I always feel that September in Cayman is more like January in that it’s a time of renewal – when everyone returns back on island after long summer breaks, when kids finally go back to school and old friendships are reaffirmed. There’s no better time then to break out from the old routine and try a few wines that you might not have ever heard of, let alone tasted. The Journal teams up with Jacques Scott in this first of a two part series on unusual but delicious varietals. This month we start with the whites at everyone’s favourite seafood restaurant, The Lobster Pot.
Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, Albariño, these might all be names that you may have fleetingly glimpsed in Jacques Scott’s well-stocked stores, however you might not have had the inclination to try. After all, who wants to go to the expense of buying a bottle that you don’t end up enjoying?
The experts at Jacques Scott have therefore picked five of their favourite top varietals that prove to be a great alternative to the bog standard Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay favourites.
Pfaffl Haidviertel Weinviertel DAC, Austria, 2009 CI$29.99
Grape: Grüner Veltliner
In the main native to Austria, the Grüner Veltliner grape is an exciting and varied varietal, often producing an elegance and refinement like no other. Grape growing in the region of Weinviertel, on the slopes of the hills leading to the Danube River, dates back hundreds of years when Sistine monks tended the land.
Austrian Gunter Gosch is the manager of The Lobster Pot and enjoys this varietal immensely.
“This location is the best for growing Grüner Veltliner grapes,” he confirms. “The wine has a good amount of acidity but it is also well balanced. There is a lovely apple scent on the nose mixed with peppery notes, quite typical for the grape. In Austria they drink Grüner Veltliner in white wine spritzers during the summer. It’s very refreshing and very popular.” Lee Royle with Jacques Scott notes the “brace of acidity” running throughout the palate making it the perfect accompaniment to seafood dishes.
We therefore tucked into The Lobster Pot favourite appetisers such as their deliciously creamy lobster salad (a real winner with the wine) along with the equally tasty marinated conch (a might too spicy for a great pairing this time around) and the classic crab cakes and conch ceviche.
Try this wine if you love Sauvignon Blanc.
Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo DOCG, Italy CI$26.99
Grape: Greco di Tufo
Feudi di San Gregorio is Campania, Italy’s premier winemaking estate, producing wines that constantly attract high accolades from the wine trade.
Lee says: “Italy has literally a thousand indigenous grapes many of which are completely unheard of”. The Greco di Tufo is one such which was actually originally brought to Italy from Greece, hence the name. The grapes are grown in volcanic ash and fermented in stainless steel.
The result is a shimmering yellow wine that begins with a flourish of aromas of pears, apricots and apples and ends with a lovely minerality on the palate.” A great accompaniment to the crab cakes matching richness for richness.
Try this wine if you are looking for something completely different.
Oremus Tokaji Mandolas, Hungary, 2006 CI$
Winemaker David Alvarez of Vega Sicilia took advantage of the huge potential for the development of wines in the region as soon as the Hungarian state’s monopoly was relinquished in 1993. Since then the winery has modernised its techniques, and is going great guns making some excellent wines, going as far as piping classical music to the grapes in a bid to get the best possible growth.
The furmint grape makes up about half the vineyard and is well known for its propensity to botrytis and the resulting luscious late harvest dessert wine that the grape produces. This wine is dry, however, yet still retains its lush richness and opulence. It’s fresh and full bodied. A beautiful pairing with the lobster and crab cakes on our menu.
If you like white Burgundy you should try this wine.
Pazo señoráns Albariño, Spain, 2005 CI$24.95
The Albariño grape is something of a classic in Spain and is therefore extremely popular in the country with the locals. Sergio Serrano with Jacques Scott enjoys the wine’s complex fruit aromas on the nose, including apples, and citrus fruits. Spicy floral notes also linger while the palate gives way to a refreshing acidity with a certain sweetness that offsets the acidity nicely.
A good rule of thumb is to pair food that comes from the same region as the wine. The grapes come from the Rias Baixas region of Spain, with its rugged coastline in the north west of Spain. The wine was therefore a lovely accompaniment to The Lobster Pot’s beautifully cooked delicate and fresh snapper served with a pineapple salsa. A real winner of a pairing.
Try this wine if you enjoy a less dry, less bracing wine.
Vietti Roero Arneis 2007, Italy CI$25.95
Arneis is typically a tricky little grape to grow as it is sensitive to the terroir and susceptible to disease. In fact, in the local Piedmont dialect it translates to ‘little rascal’ because of this fact. The grapes for this wine are selected from vineyards located in the middle of the Roero area, in Santo Stefano, Roero. A lovely floral wine on the nose, without any trace of oak (It’s aged in stainless steel), the Arneis displays a well-balanced acidity and a medium body along with a lingering finish.
The delicacy of this wine danced deliciously with the delicacy of the Lobster Pot’s signature poached lobster in a lemon beurre blanc sauce, making this another excellent pairing.
Try this wine if you like the citrussy, floral palate of Pinot Grigio.
We hope this gives you a good grounding in some of the lesser known grapes out there and hopefully it will give you the confidence to try something new, as, in the words of Jacques Scott’s Paul McLaughlin: “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink Albariño”.