As with brachetto, I cannot lay claim to deep experience with fer servadou, which is often called fer. In fact, the Nicolas Carmarans wine, Maximus, from a biodynamic vineyard on granite soils, is the only one I’ve had, and few other producers make fer wines in the United States. (It’s also apparently known as braucol in Gaillac, a region not far from Aveyon.) Anyway, I’m going to try and find more. Meanwhile, fer may take its place alongside mauzac, négrette, and prunelard, other native grapes from southwestern France that are intriguing enough to warrant further investigation.
Hybrid grapes rarely get respect. But here’s a grape that’s a blend of Vitis vinifera, the species responsible for nearly all of Europe’s best-loved wine grapes, Vitis labrusca, a species native to the Americas, and at least six other varieties. No one has done more convincing work on hybrids than Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber of La Garagista in Vermont, whose wines are clear examples of their potential. One of my favorite Garagista wines, Loups-Garoux, is made entirely from Frontenac. I recently opened a 2017 that was fresh and vibrant, with wild, exotic fruit flavors and stony undertones. I wonder what it will look like in five years. Luckily I still have a few bottles.
Greece offers many red grapes that are little known outside of their growing areas. An exception is xinomavro, the Greek red color most likely to make long-lived, complex wines. But others are well worth checking out, such as limniona, mavrotragano and mavrodaphne. But I want to mention here mandilaria, which is often dismissed, even in Greece, as all dark colors and tannins with little character. But what if it was made differently? Last year I drank Great Mother Red from Stilianou in Crete, which, like the Bairrada producers and baga, handles mandillaries with the lightest of hands. The result was a fascinating light red or dark rosé, which was earthy and slightly fruity.
This is one of Italy’s great success stories. According to Ian D’Agata’s excellent “Native Wine Grapes of Italy”, this white grape, which had largely disappeared by the mid-20th century, was revived by a number of producers looking for better alternatives between native grapes to the more popular but mediocre varieties. that were planted for their productivity. Now grown mainly in the Marches and Abruzzo, pecorino is tart, energetic and spicy, pairing well with dishes such as linguine in mussel sauce. Better producers are Antica Tenuta Pietramore, Tiberio and Cataldi Madonna from Abruzzo.
If trebbiano d’Abruzzese sounds familiar, it’s because “trebbiano” is a name applied to several Italian white grapes. Most are plain, but mundane, but not Trebbiano d’Abruzzese, a grape that is lively, richly structured, floral and salty. Producers in Abruzzo will tell you that trebbiano d’Abruzzese is in fact rare. Particularly confusingly, the wine, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, can be made with trebbiano Toscano, a lesser grape, or with the genuine item, trebbiano d’Abruzzese. The key is to look for reliable producers such as Tiberio, Francesco Cirelli, Amorotti and, if you can afford them, Valentini and Emidio Pepe.