Oenophiles and winos of Metafilter:
February 18, 2014 3:28 PM   Subscribe

I like Chinon wine. What else would I like?

I don't drink a lot of red wine, but it's something I'd like to explore. A little bit ago, at a restaurant with a good wine list, I asked for a recommendation and said that I don't like wines that make my mouth feel leathery, and the wine guy said: (1) stay away from Italy and (2) try this chinon. I tried the chinon, it was GREAT, I want more. However, I haven't been able to find wine from that region anywhere except for a few stores not particularly close to my house. I also am curious to learn more about the Italy remark, ideally without having to endure leathermouth too much.

What types of wine (regions? vineyards?) should I be looking for when I can't fine chinon? What should I avoid?

Also, if you can recommend some good reading about terrior and why certain regions are different, that would be excellent. I've read (and loved) American Terroir, I'd love something like that for just wine.
posted by troika to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
(1) stay away from Italy

That is a great idea if you don't like tannic wines, which is what I think is making your mouth feel leathery. Italian wines that are popular in the United States are highly tannic, which has the benefit of allowing long aging. This isn't universally true of Italian wines - Barbera and Dolcetta based wines tend to be young/less tannic - but they are somewhat difficult to find in the United States, as they are generally lower priced and hence, less profitable to import.

It doesn't help that some Italian wines, particularly Brunello, are known for also tasting like leather/tobacco.

What types of wine (regions? vineyards?) should I be looking for when I can't fine chinon?

A bit more common to find would be other wines from the Loire Valley (Chinon is a region in the Loire Valley). However, the Loire is more known for white wine. More common French suggestions would be Beaujolais/Gamay and Languedoc-Roussillon. The latter is is somewhat difficult, as there is a large amount of subpar wine from the region, but that's improving in recent years. Outside France, you might consider Piemonte (Italy) and red/white Portuguese wines (which I also think are a great bargain).

Without much evidence to support this, you may find you like pinot noir. I would suggest starting in Oregon, which is relatively easy to procure in the USA.

Also, if you can recommend some good reading about terrior and why certain regions are different, that would be excellent.

Three suggestions, in this order of what I think you're looking for: The Road to Burgundy, The New California Wine, Judgment of Paris. This likely gives you an idea of my taste in wine.
posted by saeculorum at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

stay away from Italy

I would modify this by saying stay away from Tuscany. There are plenty of Italian wines that aren't particularly big/dry/tannic.

One sort of weird thing about Italian wines is that most people pretty much shut the book after Tuscan wines. There's a whole country worth of wine, and of course it all doesn't taste the same.

You may also want to avoid the cheapo entry level chianti that a lot of people think of when they think "Italian wine".

Tannins/tannic is probably the keyword you're looking for in terms of what to avoid.

You might also want to look for wines that are called "fruit-forward"* or "light bodied", also maybe "mineral" or words that are like that, like flinty, stone, slate, graphite, pencil shavings, etc.

You could also branch out to other Loire Valley reds, or other wines made from the Cabernet Franc grape.

*Which is not how Chinon is usually described, but it's typically thought of as the opposite of strongly tannic flavors.
posted by Sara C. at 3:53 PM on February 18, 2014

I love the Loire Valley reds! If you like Chinon, try Cabernet Francs, particularly Bourgueil AOC (or anything in the Saumur).
posted by cowboy_sally at 4:03 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

For France, the most tannic reds are going to be coming from the Southwest (e.g. Bordeaux). Thankfully, there's a lot of other country to look at. As has been said, there are a lot of other regions in the Loire that mostly produce the cabernet franc grape in a fairly similar style. Bourgueil, Saumur, Anjou, and a million other small places. Pinot Noir from the Loire also tends to be fruitier than it is tannic, and is produced in regions like Touraine. In general, most Pinot Noirs everywhere will not have a lot of tannins, although some regions will treat them very differently. German Pinot Noirs are different from Burgundy are different from the Loire are different from California are different from Oregon. If you like Chinon, try the ones from cooler climates (which tends to cause less sugar production and thus more acidity), like Germany, Burgundy, and the Loire.

Another grape varietal you might want to try is gamay, which is mostly produced in Beaujolais (south of Burgundy). Not the Beaujolais nouveau (which is produced and bottled in the same year and is boozy grape juice), but that produced in the various cru (city regions), such as Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, etc. It's fruity and typically not tannic at all and very fruit forward, without being sweet or jammy.

For Italian wines, the country is vast and diverse, and it isn't just Tuscany that is tannic. The most exalted Italian reds are probably wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, both of which are made from the very tannic nebbiolo grape. They can be utterly magical, but the best of them need years and years for the tannins to relax into something great. In the south, wines also have heavy tannins. One place where it might not be true is if you can find a good Valpolicella Classico (not Ripasso, where they add extra skins to boost tannins). Unfortunately, these aren't as common as they could be.

Of course, as always with wine, your best option is to find a good store and go in and ask questions. It's easy to say "drink a nice Morgon!" but it's useless if you can't actually find any. And the details of producer, year, and region matter a lot, so all of the general rules might not apply to any specific bottle. A specialist retailer should have staff that know both the general rules and the details of the wines they have. If the place is any good, a customer with curiosity and openness to try new things will be met with great enthusiasm!
posted by Schismatic at 4:24 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I should admit that when I scoff at the recommendation to avoid Italian wines, it's because I can't afford most of what's been mentioned here, but have traveled extensively in the Veneto and Friulia-Venezia-Giulia regions, which are known for less tannic reds.

Valpolicella is delicious and you should definitely drink it! In fact I would say to try any red wine from Veneto or FVG. You might also look out for Slovenian Teran, though they're really hard to find in the US.
posted by Sara C. at 4:35 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have bad news and good news. The good news is that Chinon is not typically a wine that people like right off, so prices are low. The bad news is that Loire reds are not that common, as you found, and even worse, few wines are made in that exact style. The Loire is a cool climate as far as reds go (some might even call it marginal), so most other reds are riper and less acidic. Definitely look for Beaujolais and Oregon pinot noir, as noted above. Maybe also a Finger Lakes cabernet franc.
posted by wnissen at 4:35 PM on February 18, 2014

This is all good advice, so I won't repeat what's already been said.

As for your last question, this book looks like it might be what you're looking for. I took a class with the same title last semester and it was great.
posted by rensar at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2014

Other Loire reds and cru Beaujolais are good advice. Jura reds. Mencia from Northern Spain. I'd also suggest from Italy you try an entry level nebbiolo - perhaps from The mountains. I personally really like chinon and bourgeuil and like a bunch of sicilan wines - mostly from Etna and Vitoria (COS and Occhipinti)

Also there are a few distributors that specialize in these kinds of wine look for them on the back stripe: Louis/Dresser, Jenny & Fran├žois, Savio Soares. I believe the best wine store for the AFWE is Weyandts.but that's second hand.
posted by JPD at 5:22 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, I didn't see you were in DC! Yes, JPD is totally right, go to Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park! They have tons of Loire and Beaujolais and great staff. Not so much of the importers that JPD mentioned (who are all great) though, because Peter Weygandt is an importer himself and the store is mostly his stuff, but it's the same ilk as the others. I'm not actually sure they sell even a single Bordeaux, despite having maybe 80% of the store devoted to French wine. You could also try some of the Languedoc reds they sell, in particular you might like some of the stuff by Senat.
posted by Schismatic at 5:45 PM on February 18, 2014

You might also like GSM blends (grenache-syrah-mourvedre) from places like the Rhone in France as well as Australia, California, and Oregon/Washington. They tend to be pretty full bodied and fruity (so probably a step up in that regard from Chinon) without too much tannin, but just how tannic a GSM wine is depends on the mourvedre content, so there's some variation among GSM wines. Look for grenache-heavy blends from Spain and maybe California, as well; I'm not too hot on tannic wines, either, but as a grape, grenache has always treated me pretty well.
posted by un petit cadeau at 6:45 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

About everything I would think to recommend has already been mentioned above. But there is more to say.

First, you say you can't find Chinon (or _that_ Chinon, which is a different story) at your local wine stores. It is very much worth finding a really good wine store somewhere in your area, and shopping there, rather than trying to pick up the odd bottle at the corner liquor store. You'll find a much better selection, and probably even save money in the long run. The average liquor store stocks by category - "I could use a couple more Cotes du Rhone" - and buys a case or two at a time, often sticking to major brands or buying whatever's cheapest in the category. A specialist wine shop will sample almost everything before they buy, so their bargains are more likely to really be bargains, and the staff will be able to describe the wines better & match them to what you can tell them of your tastes. One practical approach if you're transportation challenged is to buy a mixed case at a time (usually that's good for at least 10% off) & having it delivered. You live in DC - there are great shops there, find them.

Second, reading about terroir, or, if you will, about wines of place. Several authors come to mind - Matt Kramer (whose Making Sense of Wine is a great intro); Kermit Lynch (who has just re-published Adventures on the Wine Route); and Alice Feiring, who is best known for her advocacy of natural wines but who I think is equally motivated by the search for uniqueness and authenticity of expression in wine. Alice has just launched a wine club, which may be an interesting, if eccentric, way to get introduced to a lot of wines from odd corners of the world.

Finally, a word about all the wines recommended in this discussion. Most of the recommendations make sense to me: Chinon is (usually) medium bodied, with rather high acid & rather low tannins - it gets its balance from tartness rather than bitterness. Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Dolcetto, and almost any wine from the alpine foothills of Italy, share these characteristics, more or less. The exception, to my mind, is the recommendation for Cotes du Rhone and Australian GSM blends. These wines aren't usually overtly bitter, but they are in other ways quite different from the rest of the recommendations - they are generally lower in acid, higher in alcohol, and can taste almost heavy in comparison to the other wines mentioned. This is not to say you won't like them, but they are quite a ways from Chinon in my book. Some American (Californian and Oregon) Pinots can veer in this direction as well.
posted by mr vino at 7:52 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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