WHAT: St. Patrick’s Day is a special holiday for all who are Irish and those who wish they were. I tried to find an Irish wine to review, but I think I would have better luck finding the leprechaun and his pot of gold.
There are some Irish wines, but not many, and the land and climate don’t lend themselves to great wine. (But the Irish will tell you climate change has warmed the island considerably, and there are grapevines growing mostly near Cork.) I thought about reviewing Guinness or Harp or another Irish beer, or an Irish whiskey such as Jameson or Bushmills, but most of you know about those already.
So I went for a wine in a bright green bottle with a lime green screw cap. Even though Dolmaine du Tariquet is a French wine, the bottle looks Irish. It helps that the wine is very good. It is produced in the designated wine-producing zone known as the Cotes de Gascogne in the Armagnac region in southwest France.
The wine also comes from a region more known for a brandy called Bas-Armagnac, which I love, so I thought that was appropriate since Ireland is more known for whiskey than wine.
The wine is a light straw color in the glass, with a refreshing bouquet of floral and citrus aromas. The wine has a crisp, dry mouthfeel, but it is full of lush fruit. On the palate, some tropical fruit flavors pop up, followed by a crisp, mineral finish. The flavors are intense with an exotic feel.
This will be a wonderful wine for sipping after work, or on weekends in the warm days ahead. The wine is only 10.5 percent alcohol, so you can drink more of it without getting too tipsy.
The blend is unusual for many Americans, but typical for the region: 45 percent ugni blanc, 35 percent colombard, 10 percent sauvignon blanc and 10 percent gros manseng.
All the grapes come from the family estate in the heart of Gascony, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees Mountains. Hot days and cold nights join with cool ocean breezes and frequent morning fog to allow the grapes to ripen slowly. The fresh fruit in the grapes is balanced by crisp acidity.
At harvest, grapes are taken directly to vats in isothermal tanks protected by a layer of inert gas to prevent oxidation. Grapes are then poured into one of eight 50-ton pneumatic temperature-controlled presses, followed by skin contact maceration at 59 degrees for 8 to 12 hours before being gently pressed.
After fermentation in stainless steel, the must is transferred to underground cold storage vats and kept at 41 degrees for three to five days. Dry ice and refrigerated vats are used to slow fermentation and cool storage year round ensures freshness.
Drink this wine young and serve it cold.
WINERY: The winery has been owned by the Grassa family for more than 100 years in a region where viticulture dates back to Roman times. Beginning in 1912, Hélène and Pierre Grassa gained fame with their Armagnac, which is still produced today.
In the 1980s, their children, Maïté and Yves, recognized the great grapes growing on the estate could produce quality wines. They were the first in the region to release a still wine from ugni blanc and colombard grapes.
In 1982, Yves Grassa, father to the domaine’s current winemakers Remy and Armin Grassa, then made the bold decision to focus on quality wine production in addition to Armagnac.
A few years later, they heavily planted and created untraditional blends such as sauvignon blanc-chardonnay and chenin blanc-chardonnay. Word quickly spread about the quality of these wines and soon many fine wines were coming from all over the region.
Tariquet remains the largest family-owned white wine estate in one appellation in France. All the grapes are estate grown and the wine is bottled on the estate.
They use sustainable practices, such as using organic manure and reducing use of sulfites. They recycle water waste and have reduced pesticide treatments by 40 percent. All bottles, aluminum caps, paper labels and cardboard packaging are 100 percent recyclable.
Tariquet produces nine white wines and two rosé wines.
GOES WITH: We had this wine with fried rice I made in my wok. Not very Irish, but it was a great meal with this wine. My wife, Teri, loves what she calls these OPMs, or one-pot meals. There’s less to clean up.
Clean-up convenience aside, fried rice is a great dish for cleaning out the refrigerator and for getting a nutritious meal. It was a great pairing for the Domaine du Tariquet.
The crisp acidity of the wine cuts through the salty soy sauce in the rice and the fresh fruit nicely balances all the vegetables in the rice.
The Domaine du Tariquet also would pair well with all kinds of seafood, roasted chicken and light cheeses.
Here’s a recipe for fried rice, although once you start making it, you can adjust contents and portions. I add things like fried egg, and you can put in just about anything you want.
Start with about three cups of cooled, cooked rice. It can be leftovers from an Asian carryout meal, or you can make it ahead.
Beat two eggs and fry them in a large pan to make a thin omelet. Let it cool and cut into small pieces.
Heat cooking oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add chopped fresh ginger and whatever meat you are using, such as chicken, pork, turkey, ham or shrimp. Cook until tender and remove from heat.
Add more oil to cook chopped vegetables, such as carrots, celery, bell peppers, green onions and snow peas. You can also add bean sprouts and water chestnuts. Cook just 2-3 minutes, then add the rice and about 2/3 cup of soy sauce. Add meat, eggs and other ingredients. Add the soy sauce gradually, until the rice becomes brown enough for your taste. Also add a pinch of sugar and about a quarter cup of sherry.
Keep cooking and stirring until vegetables are just tender and rice is hot.