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August 30, 2023

Four Wines for Unwinding

I might be slightly more relaxed than Chowder here.

We all have our favorite ways to unwind. For some, it might be a late summer hike to observe the first changes of Autumn, while others prefer hiding from the heat, eating something simple, and spending a quiet night at home. August used to be the month that all our producers took their vacations, but with warmer Spring weather and hotter Summer temperatures, many are now rushing to begin harvest, which we will report on in the coming months. So here are our Four Wines for Unwinding with some suggestions, no matter if you’re recreating outdoors or inside, along with some pairing suggestions.

Burgans Albariño – The Quintessential Companion

For an impromptu get-together, while making a simple dinner at home, or just because you need a glass of white wine, Burgans can be dressed up for a party or dressed down for some much-needed downtime. A simple pasta with late summer cherry tomatoes and pesto is what I usually prepare when I open a bottle, and if I’m feeling really fancy, I add some shrimp, prawns, or clams as they would do in Galicia.

Essential info: If your downtime includes surfing YouTube, might we suggest this primer on Albariño? It includes all the essential facts that make this variety unique worldwide and would explain its popularity. If you’ve ever wondered why the label looks so Celtic, the corner of Spain shares the same rich Celtic culture that stretches along the western edge of Europe, which includes Scotland, Ireland, Wales, The Isle of Mann, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. You can hear this influence in the local folk music, legends, and standing stones that make the culture of this part of Spain, like its signature grape, genuinely unique.

Dressed up: Apart from the simple pasta mentioned above, Burgans is a refreshing white to enjoy with any kind of shellfish or seafood you can imagine. It also has enough peach and nectarine flavors to pair with grilled fish or chicken topped with a fruit salsa.

Dressed down: Sometimes, after a long day, you just want the food to come to you. Should a delivery of sushi, Thai curry, or fried chicken be on its way, a bottle of Burgans should be chilling for its arrival.

Evodia – The Quintessential Garnacha

While many people are more familiar with this variety’s French name, Grenache, its birthplace was the heartland of the ancient Kingdom of Aragon, the exact place where the Garnacha for Evodia is grown. While there are countless cheap Garnachas from Spain, and I deliberately use the word cheap in all its positive and negative connotations here, none have the pedigree of Evodia. Old vines, high elevation, and a hands-off approach in the cellar combine to make a nakedly pure expression of Garnacha that is aromatic and lively with a core of dense fruit, smooth tannins, and a mineral finish.

Essential info: Evodia is made in collaboration with our friends at Bodegas San Alejandro, and the blend each vintage is painstakingly assembled by Eric Solomon, Yolanda Diaz, and winemaker Juan Vicente Alcañiz entirely from mountain-grown Garnacha raised in concrete tanks and eggs for a purity of expression, with a tiny bit in French oak to add some subtle spice. Evodia was named by Daphne Glorian, which is Greek for fragrance, fitting for this remarkably floral expression of Garnacha.

Dressed up: A quick and easy flatbread with tomatoes, olive oil, Spanish Chorizo, and mozzarella or burgers on the grill is the perfect way to enjoy a bottle of Evodia. It also makes an ideal plus one for any casual dinner with friends.

Dressed down: If you’re staying in and keeping your head down with Pizza Night, Evodia’s got you covered. If you’re ambitious enough, you might also have some friends over for Game Night. In that case, make sure you have an extra bottle or two.

Bastide Miraflors – The Quintessential Collaboration

Wine Importers like Eric Solomon get the opportunity to taste a lot of wines in the course of their travels. When Eric visits a producer like Jean-Marc Lafage, they get to explore a wide variety of wines from various vineyards and a range of different grape varieties planted in diverse soils. While the Roussillon is a tiny corner of Mediterranean France, being hemmed between wild uplands and the beach with mountain ranges to the north and south has resulted in a dizzying array of microclimates and soils. Want freshness? Go towards the Mediterranean. Richly poised and aromatic expressions? Head to the foothills of the Pyrenees. Concentration and power? Head north to the Agly Valley. More moderate alcohol from late-ripening vineyards? Head to the western backcountry. Bastide Miraflors began when Eric tasted some Syrah grown close to the Mediterranean Sea that captured the brambly fruit and exotic spices that have made this variety so popular. Later, he tasted some Grenache from the Agly Valley, and remembering the Syrah Jean-Marc presented earlier, he suggested that these two were the perfect combination, and Bastide Miraflors was born.

Essential info: Bastide Miraflors is a custom cuvée made in collaboration between Eric Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage. It is also a collaboration between a maritime terroir and a warm, rocky slate terroir. Finally, it is a meeting of two classic Mediterranean varieties – Syrah & Grenache. To push this analogy to the very edge, we’d suggest Bastide Miraflors is the ideal wine for any collaboration you might enjoy, either with those closest to you or with your sofa.

Dressed up: To make it a full Catalan experience – as the Roussillon is proudly French while remaining fundamentally Catalan in language and culture – impress your family with the homey and satisfying Boles de Picolat. Meatball and bean stew might not sound dressed up, but the Roussillon is a casual place that’s more about family and friends than fancy soirées.

Dressed down: At the end of a challenging day or trying week, a glass of brooding and dark-fruited wine might initially match your somber mood, but Bastide Miraflors’ hints of exotic spices, white pepper, and violets will gradually lift your spirits and make it all seem better. Let’s not overthink things, so just hop on the delivery app and get whatever you want. It’s cheat night, after all, right?

Louis de Grenelle Corail – The Quintessential Party-in-a-Bottle

August comes with many transitions – the start of a new school year, the change in seasons, and a brief respite before a series of holidays in a mad rush to the end of the year. Perhaps you no longer have to juggle your kids being out of school, or the social demands of summer are easing into a balance between me-time and everyone-else-but-me-time. Whether you choose to celebrate or indulge yourself, there’s nothing better than some dry, pink bubbles to have your back. Corail is our most popular and dependable sparkling wine, and for good reason. Its mineral freshness, a hint of freshly picked strawberries, and a touch of fresh herbs would be satisfying enough, but add some sparkle from a traditional second fermentation in the bottle, and then you have everything required to celebrate, indulge, and unwind.

Essential info: A lot of sparkling wine is made in the Loire, but the vast majority comes from a few enormous and faceless conglomerates. Louis de Grenelle is different as it is one of a few family-owned Sparkling Houses left in Saumur with their own vineyards in addition to fruit they purchase from neighbors. Everything is made in-house, so they have complete control over the journey from the grape to the finished bottle of sparkling wine. If that isn’t enough, the siblings who run their family business are just as gregarious and charming as their wines.

Dressed up: What is more dressed up than a bottle of pink bubbles in a classic package? When in doubt about a food pairing at European Cellars, we always default to a bottle of bubbles. If occasionally some Corail should find its way into a Champagne cocktail, who are we to judge since we may have done it once or twice ourselves.

Dressed down: While probably not ideal for Pizza night, pretty much anything other takeout or delivery option could be improved with a bottle of Corail. It also pairs well with the streaming show everyone is bothering you to see or a nice long soak in your tub. If you’re truly lucky, why not fire up the jacuzzi?

by Steven Spanbauer