I have a confession to make. I'm not all that good at the whole blind tasting thing. I don't think it's because I'm incapable of peforming olfactory dissection on a glass of wine. Rather, I think it's because I gravitate towards weird wine. I spend more time with my friends Touriga Nacional and St. Laurent than I do with the better known grape trio of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Shiraz? Hmm. I'm closer to Nero D'Avola. Now don't get me wrong; I don't think that these lesser known grapes are necessarily better in any way. I'm simply more of a wine-less-gulped/road-less-traveled kind of guy.
When I took a sip of 'Ohitza,' a red wine from France's Basque country, I shouted, "Tannat!" As far as I know, 'Tannat!' isn't Basque for 'Eureka!' Rather, Tannat is a prominent grape in many wines of southwestern France. However, it's not as if Tannat is all that difficult to identify. This grape produces wines with distinctive tannins that impart a leathery-dusty mouthfeel and burnt orange flavor (a pleasant burnt orange flavor, mind you).
- From the Irouleguy appellation of France's Basque country
- A blend of Tannat, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes
- Deep, dark, inky indigo with a cola-colored rim
- Scents of mint, licorice, earth, cooked raspberry and a little funk (perhaps some brett and I'm OK with that)
- In the mouth, Ohitza is leathery with burnt orange-bitter tannins, smoke, fruit and earth flavors. It waves a long slow goodbye as the tannins gradually lose their grip
This wine demands something slightly gnarly on the food front like roasted venison or lamb. I had it with garlicky-oniony beef (in gourmet burger form) and it was superb at beating back the purple onion attack.