Travel the World Through Wine
Explore the rich reds of France and the delightful Pinotage of South Africa.
Like everyone in the world, I’ve been desperately missing travel during these pandemic months. To soothe my soul while confined to my home in New York, I devised a travel game for myself, reliving bygone trips whenever I uncork a far-flung bottle of wine.
Beginning with a South African pinotage, I am brought back to my honeymoon. A time when I traveled from the Karoo desert into the coastal Winelands outside Cape Town. I savored my first bottle from Stellenbosch, which includes some of the finest examples of South Africa’s signature Pinotage grape (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault). I am also transported back to the Cape’s sea-breeze kissed vineyards with a bright, aromatic Kanonkop Pinotage ($47), an elegant silky L’Avenir Pinotage ($48), or a rich and savory Ashbourne Pinotage ($58).
With heavenly wines sourced from New Zealand, I was able to time travel to Marlborough. When I first visited, the wine region was just emerging as the New World’s champion for sauvignon blanc. As I open a bottle of vibrant tropical fruit-flavored Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($19), I envision the soaring mountains flanking the vineyards. Moving north, I am in Hawke’s Bay with a bottle of Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir ($45).
My heart is often in the Southern Hemisphere as I long for travel these days. And so, I’m off to the Mendoza region of Argentina. I was there for the first time at the start of the Malbec craze in the mid- 2000s. A bottle of Bodegas Caro “Caro” ($65) conjures a more recent trip there. Made in partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the legendary Catena family of Mendoza, it has a beautiful balance of blueberry, fig, and pepper notes. As does a rich glass of spicy elegant Terrazas de los Andes Grand Malbec ($65). Its grapes are grown in three high-altitude vineyards, the highest at 4,000 feet.
And I’ve been fondly recalling so many European jaunts. As I think of a recent week in Sicily, I am excited to open a minerally bottle of Tenuta Tascante Ghiaia Nera Etna Rosso DOC ($21). The vino is produced from nerello mascalese along the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna. I also adore Mt. Etna’s indigenous white grape, carricante, which makes me pop open a bottle of Tenuta di Fessina “Erse” Etna Bianco ($25). With white flowers, flint, herbaceous aromas and an irresistible saline finish, the taste is simply divine.
And Italy has so many evocative wine regions to experience through a great glass of wine. So, I open a bottle of Enrico Serafino Monclivio Barolo DOCG ($46). The intense bouquet of blackberry, licorice, leather and tobacco, reminds me of the green hills in Piedmont.
Eventually, of course, my nightly travel through wine takes me back to my beloved France. I visit the St. Joseph corner of the Rhône Valley one night through a bottle of Ferraton Père & Fils St-Joseph Lieu-Dit Bonneveau ($51). This is a rich red with intense black fruit, a touch of menthol and fine minerality.
I head to the southern Rhône through the spectacular wines of M. Chapoutier, whose properties are farmed biodynamically. Their grenache-dominant Châteauneuf-du- Pape La Bernardine ($60) is lovely with the tasty blackcurrant, cherry notes and amazing finesse. And I thrill to discover their Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine Blanc ($75). The vino is a rare white blend which is like ambrosia with its aromas of citrus and lily blossoms.
As I am writing this fantasy travelogue, I am already thinking of my first post-pandemic trip: back to Épernay in Champagne, where I just might stay for more than a few weeks.
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Fantasy Travels Through the Prism.
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