Grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Nebbiolo amongst others are known for being rich in flavinoids – phenols that contribute to the pigment, tannin levels, mouth feel and overall richness of flavour of the wines made from these grapes. While these wines deliver big flavour they also often deliver mouth puckering tannins which can be accentuated when aged in new oak (new oak also contributes its own tannins to a wine).
Traditionally, the tools available to a winemaker to reduce the tannic impression of these grapes were limited to blending in other less tannic grapes and time. Bordeaux winemakers blended in Merlot and Cabernet Franc to soften Cabernet Sauvignon’s aggressive nature, Rhone producers similarly found Grenache and other grapes would temper Syrah’s fiery persona and winemakers in Piedmont found the best course of action to reduce the harsh tannins of Nebbiolo was to age them for excessive amounts of time in barrel (arguably at the expense of fruit flavours). Now, with a wealth of science behind them, winemakers are better able to control how they extract the flavour and colour from the skins, seeds and stems without imparting massive amounts of tannin via state of the art presses, temperature controls for maceration and fermentation and a wealth of other techniques including microoxygenation. Here are two wines, which traditionally would have been tannic, but have been made in a modern approachable style.
Everyday: Famous Famaey Malbec (France) (Select NSLC*, $15.79)
This wine is made by Chateau Famaey one of Cahors’ most dynamic producers. The wines from Cahors are well known for their intense colour, and fierce tannic nature. This wine represents a new approachable style of Malbec emerging from Southwestern France. A deliciously fruity and lightly spicy red that is impeccably easy to drink.
Serving Suggestion: Grilled lamb sausages with bean stew
Gourmet: Villa Matilde Aglianico (Italy) (Select NSLC*, $21.99)
Villa Matilde is relatively new to the NSLC but it has been one of my favourite Campania producers since I first visited the area a decade ago. This wine captures the grape’s aromatic complexity with woody spice, juniper, raspberry and dark fruit flavours and a lightly smoky finish but isn’t grippy or excessively dry. This wine manages to deliver a really smooth texture. A highly enjoyable wine.
Serving Suggestion: Braised lamb with olives
* Check mynslc.com for availability
Mark DeWolf is the Food & Drinks Editor of Occasions Magazine, a sommelier instructor and owner of By the Glass.