Good Wines from Surprising Places


Wine from unexpected places has become an obsession around here, between my New York City urban wine post, and Our Man Sietsema’s musings on Mexican wine.

This weekend, I was perusing September Wine and Spirits on the Lower East Side, and came across a trove of wine from surprising places: Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Israel. Actually, those are more hard-to-find than unexpected, since wine has always been a tradition in those countries, but bottles are rarely exported to the US.

Instead, I reached for a bottle of Indian wine. “Oh don’t do that,” groaned my (Indian American) husband. “It’s going to be disgusting.” Undeterred, I bought it, along with a bottle from Morocco.

(Actually, it turns out that India did produce wine in the past, but the practice ground to a halt in the 19th century. In my experience, it’s more common for Indians living in India to drink beer or spirits, if they drink at all.)

Last night, I uncorked Indian-made Grover Vineyards La Reserve ($16.99) from the Nandi Hills in the southern state of Karnataka, very close to Bangalore. The bottle says it’s best with stronger meat, game and “higher level of spice,” so we drank it with a homemade Indian dinner, including spiced lamb kabobs.  I had a back-up bottle of wine on hand in case Grover Vineyards was really going to be vile.

But no! Seriously, you should all bring this wine to Thanksgiving dinner as both a novelty and a very tasty wine. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, but it’s lighter bodied than you might expect and tastes more like a Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc to me. It’s a little bit sharp and acidic, almost like green apples, but it has juicy berry flavors to balance it out, and finishes with a tingle of spice.

It was great with the lamb, but I think it would go very well with turkey.

And what about the Moroccan wine?

Now, this is really, really delicious booze. The Syrocco Zenata by Alain Graillot ($17.99) is made by Graillot, a French guy who, while biking around Morocco, met the owners of Domaine des Ouleb/Thalvin, who have been making wine since the 1920s, growing grapes in the black tirss soil of the Rommani hills.

In consultation with the Domaine des Ouleb, Graillot concocted this 100-percent North African Syrah. It’s compulsively drinkable and completely delicious. The wine is juicy, with a full, lush body; it tastes of plums and cherry, balanced by a dark, earthy quality.

You need a couple of glasses of wine to get through family time, yes? So instead of Beaujolais or a California Pinot Noir, why not bring a more unexpected wine to Thanksgiving this year?

September Wine and Spirits
100 Stanton Street