Thursday, September 20, 2012

MRE Menu 24: Southwest Beef & Black Beans

Today’s recommended red represents another successful immigrant from the Old World.  Tannat, used alone or as the major part of a blend in Basque-influenced parts of southwest France such as Madiran, made the journey to Uruguay in the hands of Basque settlers to become the signature grape of that country.  The same grape has made the journey to the United States and gained a successful foothold in Virginia, where it is used mainly to make single varietal wines.  French versions tend to express red fruits, while black fruits predominate in the New World.  As its name suggests, it has a robust tannic structure, which will complement the seasoned beef in the dish nicely.  It is also prone to a relatively high alcohol content, which should be a welcome relief if you find yourself eating an MRE in the first place.

Why limit yourself to just a single white variety when you can have a mix of 3 to 20?  That’s precisely what you’ll get with Wiener Gemischter Satz, a re-emerging traditional blend from vineyards on the outskirts of Austria’s capital, Vienna.  This is a true “field blend,” because the grapes are not only grown together within the same vineyard, but also harvested and vinified together.  Such a mix of grapes naturally adds complexity and a plethora of aromatics to the wine.  Early ripening grapes provide rich white and golden fruits, while late-ripeners give acidity and freshness.

Complementary Pairing:  Tannat, Virginia, USA
Try:  Chateau O’Brien Tannat Reserve
[]  Howard and Debbie O’Brien believed strongly that the terroir at their Northpoint estate was well-suited for tannat.  Given the quality of their production from vines that are at most a decade old, they have proven themselves correct.   Winemaker Jason Murray uses native yeasts and a maceration lasting three weeks, together with an élevage of 22 months in French oak, to create a powerful yet balanced wine that combines elements of Old World tannic structure and New World dark fruits.

Contrasting Pairing:  Wiener Gemischter Satz
Try:  Wieninger Nussberg Gemischter Satz Alte Reben
[]  From one of the leaders of reviving this style, the vineyards are part of the privileged Nussberg slopes on the northern side of Vienna, adjacent to the left bank of the River Danube.  These biodynamically farmed old vines on a limestone base are a mix of grüner veltliner, neuburger, riesling, rotgipfler, sylvaner, traminer, weissburgunder, welschriesling, and zierfandler.  This wine ages on the lees for a year prior to bottling and releasing flavors of pineapple and citrus together with plenty of minerals and a racy finish.