Spit Happens #61 – Wines of New Mexico (sort of)

Wines of New Mexico: While I was in Albuquerque New Mexico in October 2019 I visited an interesting winery. It feels like New Mexico is on the verge of something but I can’t put my finger on it. Gruet in Santa Fe is a long established producer that makes good to excellent sparkling wines. St Clair in Deming has some decent red wines and great QPR whites but now a player named VARA is on the scene. I think they are on the right track but time will tell as they release their new wines.

They make a fortified slightly sweet apertif product called Vina Cardinal made from a grape called Listán Prieto ( AKA the Mission grape) . This grape variety was first planted in North America in 1629 by a Franciscan Friar named Garcia de Zuniga and a Capuchin Monk named Antonio de Arteaga . This is the oldest continuously grown grape in North America. For Vina Cardinal the grapes are grown in New Mexico and the wine is fortified to 17% alcohol and has a slight amount of residual sugar. Think of a blend of Pineau de Charentes and Dubonnet.

Just the palest hue of pink and a pickled sweet watermelon rind mouthfeel. I think it would be brilliant with something old school like a melon wrapped with prosciutto starter course. The first releases of wines have not happened so they have been bringing in wines from Spain and bottling them in NM and label them Product of the United States.

The tasting I had included a 2018 Viura ( super fresh and clean) a 2018 Albarino ( nice and briny ) as well as a Tempranillo Lot #014 and a Garnacha #014 ( perhaps the lot numbers relate to the vintage ?) . The reds were a bit on the tired side so I poured them both together, and the sum was greater than its parts. We bought the Viura and I’m looking forward to trying it with some seafood pasta.

Wines of New Mexico

After a bit more research it looks like the plan is to release locally grown wines in the future . Also they have a dynamic young chef turning out some excellent food to match the calibre of the wines. The duck confit with juniper and coriander was very nice with the reds and the Papas Bravas (fried potatoes with smoked tomato aioli ) were superb with the whites if a bit spicy for my tastes. Check out VARA Wines in Albuquerque at 315 Alameda Boulevard NE Zipcode 87113 phone 505 898 6280 www.varawines.com.

Spit Happens #61 - Wines of New Mexico (sort of)

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What is the strongest red wine?

The “strongest” red wine can be characterized in various ways, including alcohol content, flavor intensity, or tannin levels. Wines such as Zinfandel, Shiraz, and some Cabernet Sauvignons are often noted for their high alcohol content, which can exceed 15% ABV, making them strong in terms of alcohol level. In terms of flavor intensity, robust wines like Barolo, Bordeaux blends, and Shiraz/Syrah stand out with their rich and pronounced profiles.

When considering tannin levels, varieties like Nebbiolo, Tannat, and Petit Sirah are known for their significant tannic strength, contributing to a strong, astringent mouthfeel. It’s important to remember that a wine’s strength in one aspect doesn’t necessarily reflect its overall character; a wine can be high in alcohol yet not particularly full-flavored or tannic.

What does wine taste like?

The taste of wine is a complex and varied experience, greatly influenced by factors such as grape variety, terroir, winemaking techniques, and aging. Red wines typically feature flavors of red and dark fruits like cherries, blackberries, and plums, complemented by notes of spices, tobacco, and earth, with tannins contributing to a dry, astringent feel.

White wines, on the other hand, are often characterized by lighter, fresher flavors of citrus fruits, apples, pears, and sometimes tropical fruits, along with floral and mineral nuances. Rosé wines blend the fruitiness of red wines with the lightness of whites, showcasing red fruit flavors like strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.

Dessert wines are distinguished by their sweetness, with rich flavors of honey, caramel, and dried fruits, often accompanied by nutty or spicy undertones. Sparkling wines add another dimension with their effervescence, enhancing a variety of fruit flavors and crisp acidity. The aging process can further alter a wine’s taste, with some developing deeper, more intricate profiles over time. However, wine tasting is a highly subjective experience, with individual preferences and palates playing a significant role in how a wine is perceived.


David Lancelot