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02 March 2006

Tannat Savant

RainmanI 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). 

So, as much as I wish I were the Rain Man of blind wine tasting, I'm willing to bet that most folks could readily identify Tannat - it's that distinctive.

OhitzaThe Skinny

Domaine Brana 'Ohitza' 2003 ($15)

  • 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.

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probably closer to Malbec or even carignan... I usually think it is yucky, but an open mind is a happy mind...i'll give it a try again.


What's wrong Bill? Tannat too tough for you?



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