Here is another grape unfamiliar to Westcoasters but common in Missouri and points East. Like the Norton I reviewed last week, I tasted several wines made from the Chambourcin grape during a brief stay in Missouri, and this was my favorite, although once again I lack the experience with this grape to make comprehensive comparisons. While the Norton was bold and powerful, the Chambourcin is softer and more approachable.
Simple red and black raspberry are dominant, with hints of soy, herbs, and a slight muskiness on the nose that is quite pleasant because it remains in the background.
it’s very creamy and fruit forward on the palate, rich, round, and medium bodied, with ample acidity and a short, tart, iron-laced finish that shows almost no tannin. Soft, approachable, and lush but mouthwatering, it lacks finesse but is quite satisfying if you seek something uncomplicated and juicy.
Styles of Chambourcin are all over the map. This one is dry, but I’ve had off-dry, sweet, rosé, and Nouveau-style as well. it is a remarkably versatile grape. Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid bred originally in the 1950’s and is plentiful in France’s Loire Valley as well as in Southeastern U.S. Its main characteristics are big berry fruit, high acidity, low alcohol, and very soft tannins. The high fruit, medium body, and soft tannins make it similar to Pinot Noir for food pairings. So duck, roast chicken, or lamb would pair well.
Fans of vinifera (the species of grape from which the familiar European wines are made) will find Norton and Chambourcin to be vaguely familiar but different enough to be intriguing. If you’re stuck in a vinifera rut, order some of these wines—they are worthy of more attention than they typically receive.
A French-American wine needs some French-American music. Here’s the Savoy Family Band with a good timey Cajun stomp.