Three Hurricane Irene Wine Pairings

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA...
Image via Wikipedia

What did I do when as soon as I heard there was a hurricane coming to New York City? I closed up shop, and I called my best sipping buddy. I told him to head over to the wine shop straightaway because, “we have to have some truly wonderful wine before the hurricane hits.” Liquor can have heartbreak and beer is great for ballgames, but nothing pairs better with natural disaster than wine.

As soon as we sat down we could taste the salt in the air. That made the natural first sip a glass of Txakolina from the Basque countryside in Spain. Txakolina is sometimes also known as Txakoli, and is always pronounced along the lines of “chaw-koh-lee-nuh.” It is the perfect hurricane wine because it smells like the ocean. The best ones smell like what a crashing wave’s sea foam would smell like if you could set it on fire. Txakolina has a white, salty heat to its nose that probably hasn’t been known on the Earth since her oceans bubbled up with ancient volcanoes constantly spewing their lava into the tumultuous surf.

If your server or wine shop clerk happens to know what grape is the base for Txakolina, give them a huge tip or a gold star. Hondarribi Zuri is the base grape from Txakolina and it produces wines that have as much flavor as a hurricane has wind. Since it’s a wine for hurricanes, pair Txakolina with foods that come from the ocean. I have a friend who says that it Txakolina should only be paired with fishes that still have their bones in them!

The next glass of wine we had as we watched the weather report get worse was a rose made from Cabernet Franc grapes. Cabernet Franc rose is perfect wine for a hurricane because it smells more green than red. By “green” I mean that the wine smells a bit more like a fruit’s leaves, shoots, and stems than a fruit’s flesh or pits. In fact, the wine smelled more than a bit like the twigs and leaves that were blowing off the trees above us and landing in our glasses.

You can find Cabernet Franc rose wines all over the Loire Valley in northwestern France, and you can pair them with any food that you might describe as “farm fresh.” Cabernet Franc’s pairings are more about getting the food from out of the ground and into your mouth as quickly as possible than about any slow-cooking culinary “techniques.” Cabernet Franc rose is definitely not the best wine to pair with steak, but pull a cucumber out of the garden, pop a bottle of Cabernet Franc rose, and start chomping.

When the hurricane really started to hit, the streets were almost deserted, and of course we decided that an impending hurricane was the one time when we should allow ourselves to have another for the road. Even with just a one percent chance that we would die in the hurricane’s flood on the way home, it seemed like a good enough excuse to really blow the bank. We broke into a bulging, mineral-driven Priorat.

Priorat is a place in Spain that uses whatever grapes they feel like to make expensive, delicious, and truly full-bodied that puts most Rioja to shame as far as breadth of flavors goes. Priorat producers are known to grow Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and some unpronounceable local varieties on slate and quartz soil that takes decades for the grapevines to navigate far enough down into to produce a proper Priorat wine. All that effort pays off though because Priorat tastes as if Rioja took off its craggy, vintage ballgown and threw on a little black dress that sent off signals of “wives, hide your husbands or I will devour them.”

Priorat is the perfect wine to end a hurricane night on, too, because it will devour your palate with flavors of baked fruit, slick graphite, and smokehouse bacon dipped in bitter chocolate. The only thing to follow a great Priorat wine up with is a good night’s sleep or a refreshing midnight walk through a New York City hurricane.

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