If you’re going to make wine in Wisconsin, after gaining your sanity certification from a licensed psychiatrist, you will have to plant varietals bred to withstand sustained, subzero temperatures. Leon Millot is one of those varietals although it’s integrity is dicey below –10 degrees. It’s a French hybrid grape created in 1911 by crossing a vitis riparia/ vitis rupestris varietal with Goldriesling, a white vinifera variety. It makes a dark, almost purple colored, age worthy red wine that is occasionally still planted in Switzerland but has become popular in Midwestern United States and Canada. It ripens very early which makes it attractive in cold climate regions where fall comes a callin’ in September.
If you’re used to tasting vinifera varietals (the standard varietals we are all familiar with), tasting wine made from cold-hardy, non-vinifera varietals can be challenging, largely because their acidity is off the charts. As we made our way through North Dakota, Minnesota, and the early days in our Wisconsin sojourn, despair was beginning to mount, as most of the red wines were disappointing—until we visited Botham Vineyards. After tasting hundreds of wines I still think this is the best wine in Wisconsin.
The aromas are gorgeous, like plunging your nose into a bed of roses. There are aromas of dried cherry and freshly turned earth, but it’s that smell of spring that captivates. Spare and delicate on the palate, it gently caresses with a slight glycerin mouthfeel at midpalate and then finishes with bright, almost lemony acidity, tactile but fresh as morning air. With fine gossamer tannins, a wine gentle yet stinging as a line in a Dickinson poem, it evokes a brittle, fragile sensibility. Not unlike very delicate Pinot Noir.
Available only in good vintages, it’s very lightly oaked and would be lovely with pork, veal and certainly mushrooms, and paired with the intimate vulnerability of Novo Amor’s Carry You