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In France, the first wine of the harvest year, Beaujolais Nouveau, is a cause for celebration and feasts. People wait with baited breath for the release, as it is often the first indication of how good the harvest was in any given year. The release is the same day every year: the third Thursday of November. The style is often described by wine critics as a wine which intended to be enjoyed but not analyzed, and quaffed rather than sipped. (Oops.) As an homage to that tradition, Garage-East has released their second Arizona “New Wine,” although this one is not made from Gamay at all…
The Wine: The 2017 New Wine is, like Beaujolais, made using a process of carbonic maceration. This is a whole berry anaerobic fermentation which tends to emphasize fruit flavors, without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins. In this process, grapes usually loaded into a sealed container that is filled with carbon dioxide; though for this vintage it was an open-top fermenter. Grapes that are gently crushed at the bottom of the container by the weight of their compatriots start to ferment normally, emitting more CO2. All this carbon dioxide causes an enzymatic fermentation to take place inside the uncrushed grapes. This tends to produce a light-bodied, light-colored, fruit forward wine, and this vintage is no exception. But this is where the resemblance to Beaujolais Nouveau ends. The 2017 New Wine Vintage from Garage East is made from a co-fermented blend of 50% Tannat and 50% Counoise, sourced from Cimmaron Vineyard in the Willcox AVA, and was then released in 1-liter cans. (last year, it was made from Aleatico.) The cool thing about this particular blend is that Tannat is one of the last grapes I would expect to use a carbonic fermentation process on, so I was really excited to try this.
The Nose: The nose opens with aromas of stewed boysenberries, prickly pear, lime-candied cranberries, and herbs like rosemary and creosote. Additional notes of strawberries and watermelon jolly rancher. It is bright and fruity!
The Palate: This wine is a light-bodied, fruit forward red with high acidity, and just a tiny bit of tannins. The palate opens with flavors of red vines, prickly pear, strawberry, watermelon, and a bit of smokey creosote, along with just a bit of effervescence. The finish lasts for 45 seconds, with notes of anise, nutmeg, watermelon jolly rancher, flint, while that effervescence dances across the tongue.
The Pairing: Gary and I ended up pairing the 2017 New Wine wine with Thanksgiving; though our Thanksgiving was a bit unorthodox with Turkey Gyros and a Mediterranean theme. That being said, this style is a perfect wine for Thanksgiving turkey, or really, any other holiday meal (like honey-baked ham and the like).
Impressions: Gary chided me for taking notes on this wine and quantifying it, accusing me of quantifying the unquantifiable, and in a sense, he is absolutely right. As mentioned above, wine critics who have a much bigger readership than myself tend to see this as a wine to be enjoyed, rather than analyzed, and this is a correct assessment of this style. It is light, rich, fun, and savory. It is a great wine to be enjoyed with friends, or alone.
The 2017 New Wine from Garage-East is kind of like your genuinely happy, and bubbly close friend. No matter what happens in life, she is always optimistic and can find the silver lining in everything. She wants to see you cheered up from your dour mood. And that’s more or less how this wine operates! Tannat can be so big, broody, and tannic, but here it’s bright, young, and exuberant.
I could also describe this wine (and did, at the Thanksgiving table) as being kind of like a hot date… except I’m actually enjoying it. Thankfully, the folks at Garage-East made a lot more of this vintage than last year’s, so there are still some cans to be had in their tasting room in Gilbert.