Tannin Salon: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

by A.A.

pimage_112There are lots of Odd Couples in the food world, pairs of foods that should taste revolting together but instead complement each other in perfect harmony against the world’s better judgment. Bacon and chocolate. Peanut butter and mashed potatoes, à la the much-hated Lisa from Top Chef Season 3. Watermelon and gorgonzola salad. Saltines and Cherry Kool-Aid (or maybe that was just my own particular latchkey kid invention.) Perhaps you have your own examples.

The wine world has fewer of these zany match-ups. Blends of varietals are, of course, extremely common – a winemaker adds a little Cab Franc to this red Bordeaux, a little Sémillon to that white one, and usually everything turns out okay, since the grapes are, in some sense, meant to complement each other.

Recently I had the chance to try a wine that combined two of the most polar opposite varietals in existence – Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. The former is usually spicy, robust, and intensely fruit-forward (but not in a bad way, unless the wine is made badly). The latter tends to be more refined – silky, delicate, and subtle, with earthy flavors winning out over bold fruit. This wine, the Necessity Red from Cathedral Ridge Winery, near Hood River, Oregon, was a small experiment; only 200 cases of the stuff were produced. As an experiment, it should have failed. The wine should have sucked. But it didn’t! These two dramatically different grapes worked in perfect harmony, with the Zinfandel lending power and structure, and the Pinot Noir lending complexity.

In a month or two I’m not going to be able to shut up about (or stop drinking) New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, white Bordeaux, and Provençal rosés (ah, the pink lemonade of booze). But for now, a bottle like Necessity Red — the wine-world equivalent of Harold and Maude — is a nice transition.

3 responses to “Tannin Salon: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

  1. OMG I really thought I was the only one who loved the saltine/cherry kool-aid combo.

  2. I have found that the Pacific Northwest wines are far, far underrated. One of my joys of living in Washington is being able to drop into a local wine shop during any trip and picking up a lovely bottle of a local wine. I have yet to be disappointed.

  3. Thank you for the lovely review of Necessity Red, it’s one of my favorite oregon wineblends. Love it! Dig your blog;) Cheers

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