Growing up, I spent 9 years at a Catholic school run by nuns of an Irish order called the Sisters of St. Louis (pronounced Loo-ee). St. Patrick’s day was as much about running around and pinching kids and teachers who dared to forget to wear green or who lazily grabbed a green marker and colored a swatch of their skin with it as it was about Sister Patricia.
Sister Patricia was our principle –hearty, stern, and mostly terrifying in only the way that a Catholic Nun can be. St. Patrick’s day also happened to be her “feast day” on which we showered her with appreciation and were, in turn, rewarded with donuts. For me, the coming of St. Patrick’s day usually brings with it a good deal of nostalgia and fond memories and so remains one of very few holidays on which I will willingly dress like I’m colorblind (ie lots of green). However, I realize that it’s a perennial favorite because it provides an excuse for carousing and binge drinking on a week night.
In honor of St. Patrick’s day, I have not only created the cute little graphic you see above (you’re welcome), but I have also decided to bring up the topic of Green Wine.
No, I’m not talking about getting a bottle of white wine and adding a few drops of green food coloring (although that is surely one way to go) a la the ubiquitous pitchers of green beer that will be consumed by people pretending to be Irish all across this great nation of ours (Note: I am actually, in fact, about a quarter Irish).
Instead, I’m talking about wine that has a “green” flavor profile. Though wines that are called “green” are usually being insulted, there are a few exceptions and today I’m going to tell you all about two of them.
Cabernet Franc is an interesting little grape that can count among its achievements its very famous offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is typically grown as a blending grape for Bordeaux-style wines but growers across the wine world have, in the past couple decades, begun to produce single-varietal Cabernet Franc wines that are often noted for their uniquely vegetal quality that can evoke green bell peppers or leaves.
Wildekrans Walker Bay 2005 (South Africa) – $14
- In a blind taste test, it would be hard not to taste Cabernet Franc’s fingerprints all over this wine with its signature rush of wet leaves and an herbal, almost minty, nose that gives way to some easy drinkin’
Chateau de Coulaine Chinon Bonnaventure 2008 (Loire Valley) – $18
- The Loire Valley, and specifically Chinon, has been in the game of producing Cabernet Franc based blends and single-varietals longer than anyone else, so they’ve really got the formula down. Cabernet Franc’s from this area tend to be more refined and less “green” but still have that kick of bell-pepper spice that sets this grape apart.
Shneider Vineyards Cabernet Franc La Bouchet 2005 (North Fork Long Island) – $20
- I’ll be honest – I didn’t know that Long Island produced wine until I moved to New York and I didn’t know they produced anything other than Rose until fairly recently. The North Fork, however, makes for ideal Cabernet Franc conditions, and the wines coming out of the area are serious enough to start garnering some serious attention for New York wines.
Vinho Verde is another interesting grape, this time grown specifically in the Minho region of Portugal. While the name of the wine roughly translates to “green wine”, it’s a reference to the sprightly quality of the wine rather than to its color. These are wines that are meant to be consumed very young – and they’re fun, flirty, and can even be slightly effervescent. With flavor notes that tend to be citrusy (think lime zest) and grassy, these lovely wines are also going to cost you about just as much as a pitcher of green beer but with a higher alcohol content (9% to your typical beer’s 5%) and, chances are, a better taste. And! It’s called green wine! Win.
JM Fonseca Twin Vines 2009 – $7
- Slightly fizzy with lots of green fruit and a splash of lime zest, this wine will wake you right up.
Famega Vinho Verde 2009 – $8
- Very light and on the drier side, this version of Vinho Verde has a mineral tang to go along with its lime inflected flavor. Think Perrier Lime – that gets you tipsy.