Ah, March. It’s about damn time! We’ve been waiting for your *bleeping* arrival forever! Winter dormancy drove most of us mad, which is totally appropriate preparation for what’s already here. That’s right, you guessed it! Wine Madness! Oh, there’s a pretty exciting basketball tournament happening too! Here in the northern hemisphere, March is the marvelous month that nature’s most prized plant, the wine vine, starts to come back to life. Much like your lucky game day jersey and socks, grape vines lay dormant in the winter. But March, sweet March, madness is surely underway as the tiny buds, the small part of a vine that lies between the leaf and stem, start to swell and shoots grow to begin the annual growth cycle of the beloved grape. In the southern hemisphere, March is when careful selection and harvesting starts and it doesn’t just have to be on Sunday!
Just like your bracket selections, it isn’t uncommon to stare blankly at entire rows of wine and wonder to self, “Do I really have any clue what I’m getting” or have a ‘hope for the best’ attitude and pray your wine choice isn’t a bigger upset than Oregon crushing Kansas’s elite 8 dreams in 2017. Oh, and trying to find out the grape varietal on certain bottles can be just as challenging as figuring out what actual state that middle-of-nowhere team is from. Just because it says ‘Tempernillo’ doesn’t mean you have any clue what it tastes like so you opt for your safe-zone pinot noir. Well, just like that winning Cinderella team you picked over the Power-house team, with a little knowledge, you can do the same for wine!
For the bold red juice, the power-house is Cabernet Sauvignon aka Cabernet aka Cab. Its dark ruby color gives way to a dry palate with notes of black cherry, black pepper, and green bell pepper. Cabernets grown in hotter climates can have herbaceous flavors more intense than Coach K’s face. Sounds delish, but what about Tannat? This wine, originating in Uruguay, has a beautiful dark purple color, elegant and soft tannins (what makes a wine seem dry), with blackberry fruit notes. It will surely give any cabernet enthusiast something to drink about. If big and bold isn’t your cup of wine, you may find yourself reaching for a bottle of Pinot Noir, the powerhouse of light red wines. This light bodied, fruit forward red grape expresses notes of red cherry, strawberries, and raspberries. Pinots grown in cooler climates can even have earthy undertones. Yum! To make Pinot Noir sit at the edge of its seat, I’d put it up against Beaujolais any day. Beaujolais is a fantastically light and fruit forward red wine with higher acidity and made from the grape varietal Gamay. The wine is called Beaujolais because it comes from a specific appellation in France named, you guessed it, Beaujolais. This wine is a perfect pair with spicy food! Do it, do it now. Eat a flaming hot cheeto and sip on some Beaujolais. You’ll feel fancy AF. For more red wine challenges try Merlot vs. Sangiovese or Malbec vs. Zinfandel (Red).
So you don’t drink reds? You should have said something! I could have told you that the number one power-house white wine is Chardonnay and for good reasons. Like Cabernet, this grape can grow just about anywhere, producing slightly different flavors in each region it calls home. Overall, Chardonnay is a dry white wine with flavors of green apple or pear, high acidity, and tropical fruit notes if grown in regions with a climate hotter than the top-seeded Cavaliers. What could take down a Chardonnay? I got $5 on Italy’s most widely planted grape and most common, Trebbiano. Thought I was going to say Pinot Grigio huh? Nope! Trebbiano is a versatile, food-friendly white wine that is super refreshing, lighter-bodied, with hints of lemon and stone minerality when sipped (pinky’s up is an option). It’s generally dry and crisp. Speaking of Pinot Grigio, this power-house go-to has been a happy hour favorite since your grandma’s grandma drank wine. It’s Tom Izzo’s favorite wine. Just kidding, I definitely don’t know that but I’m sure he’s had it before. Paired perfectly with French fries and hot summer days, Pinot Grigio is crisp and has flavors ranging from dry and minerally to sweeter and fruit forward. Want to try something new? My money is on Chenin Blanc, South Africa’s jewel. In the Loire Valley in France, Chenin Blanc can also go by ‘Vouvray’. It is versatile in style and sweetness and has the ability to adapt to a variety of all tastes. Chenin Blanc can range in flavors from yellow apple and pear to lime or lemon verbena. It’s crisp with a higher acidity. The only thing you’ll regret about wine is not grabbing another bottle while you had the chance. For white wine, challenges try Riesling vs. Gewurztraminer or Sauvignon Blanc vs. Gruner Veltliner.
I wish you all the best this season of March Madness. Drink enough wine and you won’t be upset when Michigan State sweeps up everything this year. Just remember, if you take the Wine Madness challenge, take a picture of the wine, take notes, and tag us here at NBS to tell us which wines came out on top. Happy bracketing! Go Green. Cheers!