Happy Wine Wednesday everyone! Today we are diving into Rhône 101 by touching on one of the often underestimated, but not to be missed, varietals; Counoise.
Counoise is an obscure grape grown primarily in the Rhône Valley. It's a moderately vigorous vine that produces large, thin-skinned, reddish-purple berries and prefers stony hillside soils with intense sun exposure.
Counoise's precise origins are unknown - it is believed to have been brought to France from Spain by a papal officer as a gift to the Pope in the 14th Century. It is still found most frequently in the blends of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (it's also a component of Roses from the Provence region), though small plantings may now be found in California and Washington.
As a blending grape, Counoise brings a rich, spicy character with flavors of anise, strawberry and blueberry. Moderate in alcohol with good fruit and aromatics, it makes an ideal complement to the lushness of Grenache and structure of Mourvedre.
In years when the grapes show good intensity, Counoise has been bottled as a single-varietal wine. Producers in Washington State and California (notably Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles) have released Counoise' distinguished by notes of earth and spice, intense floral fruit, light body, vibrant acidity and soft tannins. These wines are usually best enjoyed young (within 2-4 years).
Some of Counoise' challenges include a late ripening date (it often cannot be harvested until late October in California) and tendency to oxidize during fermentation.
Fresh and bright, with a tendency to low alcohol and tannins, Counoise grapes bring rich and spicy notes, with earthy flavors of anise, strawberry and blueberry.
Try it at the girl & the fig!
Frick, 2016 Owl Hill Vineyard Counoise, Dry Creek Valley