Monday, September 22, 2008

Muller Thurgau? How Unexpected.

Sometimes, you just don't know what to think of a wine.

When you think "southern Italian white" maybe you think Chardonnay from Sicily. Maybe you think of a more acidic white made to be sipped with seafood fresh from the Mediterranean.

Here's what you're probably not thinking: a blend of Muller Thurgau and Gewurztraminer.

From northern Italy--yes. From Basilicata? No.

Muller Thurgau is one of the "new" grape varieties that was created in the 19th century after phylloxera devastated European grape stocks. It's a cross between Riesling and Silvaner, and as a result it has some of the qualities associated with many wines from Germany and Alsace: good fruit, a flavor profile that can fit anywhere from dry to sweet, and nice acidity. Mix it with some spicy, aromatic Gewurztraminer, and you've got a wine that's big on fruit with a distinctive character.

The only analogy I can make to the 2005 Re Manfredi is that its not unlike a dry Sauternes. ($16.99, Biondivino; between $16 and $28 from other merchants) Made from grapes grown on Monte Vulture, Basilicata's famously extinct volcano, the vines are tucked in around more widely populated Aglianico vines that produce the region's distinctive red wines. The Muller Thurgau seems to like the volcanic soil, and the warm temperatures and marine influence help to shape a wine that smelled deliciously of cocounut, pineapple, and spice. When you sipped the wine, you were bowled over by tropical fruit flavors that had a lot of acidity (so think starfruit, pineapple, and slightly under-ripe papaya). There was a juicy, pineapple-inflected finish and notes of stone and iron. Unlike Sauternes, this wine is medium-bodied so it's not as mouth-coating, nor is it as sweet. If you serve it straight from the fridge the sweetness is actually emphasized, so I would recommend letting this wine come up a bit in temperature so that you can really enjoy the aromas and flavors.

As you can imagine, this wine is a honey with spicy food--and would be especially delicious with Indian food, since its medium body would stand up to dishes made with coconut milk (like South Indian curries). We enjoyed it with some homemade Kung Po Chicken that really went well with the tropical fruit flavors. And the spice in the dish was very nice with the spicy notes that the Gewurztraminer brings to the wine.

No matter how much you know about wine, there's always a surprise around the corner. And I love when a bottle of wine's flavors are unexpected--in a good way.

2 comments:

Dale Cruse said...

I really enjoy Muller Thurgau but have never had it blended with Gewurtztraminer. That must have been so exotic! Wow!

2onbugdet said...

I love Miller Thurgau above all white wines (maybe on parallel with Sauvignon only) but you would be surprised what was the best one I have ever had - Czech one from Moravia. They have perfect soil and climate conditions for this variety and, what's best, it comes for amazing prices. Honey, spicies, harmonious and aromatic...