August host Scarlett Carrasco Polanco was inspired by her own migration — moving from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx with her family — to seek out wines made from grapes that have traveled thousands of miles from their origins. That translated to two albariños, one made in its native Spain and one made in South Africa, and two syrahs, one from the legendary Rhône Valley in France and another from Southern Australia’s McLaren Vale region (where it’s known as shiraz). But how do these "grape migrations" really work?
"A lot of grapes that have traveled far [from the first place they were cultivated and grown] end up doing really well," explains Scarlett. "I think there's more examples of successful migrations compared to failures; riesling is a great example." The only wine that you can't exactly make outside its birthplace? Sherry. "It’s just so specific to its terroir," says Scarlett.
And speaking of terroir, you’ve probably heard someone say that terroir means "a sense of place." For Scarlett, she likes to explain it as "the culmination of climate, soil, and culture — culture meaning the attitudes toward land management; it’s a lot less about winemaking practices, and more about the inherent traits of the winegrowing land."
When looking at the wines in our August boxes, Scarlett’s recommendation is that we enjoy them wines as a comparative, taking in the similarities and differences within a family of grapes. Hopefully too it will spark us to discover wine that’s made in every corner of the world. These are the wines that made us wonder how a wine can be from one place, and of another:
- Lagar de Besada Albariño —"For me, albariño is always really aromatic and fruity. There are a ton of fruits present in this high-acid wine, but cantaloupe or any melon and persimmon are really standing out. This comes to us from Rias Baixas which has a cool, maritime climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. There’s heavy rainfall each year, which is great because albariño is thick-skinned and thus able to resist fungal diseases that are typical of damp climates."
- Flower Girl Albariño — "Seeing an albariño from South Africa really shocked me, but I think the proximity to the sea and all that ocean spray has a lot to do with why it’s doing so well outside Spain! Plus the climate is moderate to warm but there is sufficient rainfall in the winters. I pick up on so many fruits in this, though grapefruit pith really stands out. There’s a refreshingness and crispness about it that reminds me so much of Vichy Catalan mineral water."
- Anne Pichon ‘Sauvage’ Syrah — "So many berries and red and black fruits. It might sound odd but there’s also a lot of bitter chocolate and like graphite from a pencil that I’m picking up on. Oh and black peppercorn! This syrah hails from the Southern Rhône Valley which has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm, dry summers. The soil is mineral-rich clay and red soils with a mixture of sand — a really excellent combination for the root development of the vines."
- Wits End Shiraz — "Again, there are just so many berries in this wine for me. It’s coupled with black plum, dried currants, dried violets, vanilla, cedar, figs, smoke, and marjoram, which is like a sweeter version of thyme. The McLaren Valley in Southern Australia is generally warm with tempering afternoon breezes from the nearby ocean — so not totally unlike the Southern Rhône. Here, there’s a lot of soil diversity but in general you can expect yellow and red clay, sand, and gravel."
Want to explore more syrah and albariño? Buy more bottles of this month's wine.