February 23, 2011

The Grape Escape: Wines with unfortunate names: Schistes

So, you ask, what the shizz is this? Relax and get your mind out of the sewer. “Schistes,” the attention-grabbing moniker on the label of this week’s featured wine, is named after a rock.

“The schists,” Wikipedia dryly informs us, are “metamorphic rocks ... The individual mineral grains, drawn out into flaky scales by heat and pressure, can be seen by the naked eye. ... The individual mineral grains split off easily into flakes or slabs.”

Here’s why we should care: Schist-laden soil naturally absorbs and holds the sun’s daylight heat, then acts as a warming oven for the grapes by night, giving back the heat and fostering ripening in cool European climates where a long growing season is not always assured.

Geology, in short, matters in making fine wine, even when it comes with a funny name like “Schistes.” The robust red wine featured today is grown in schisty soil high in the Pyrenees, where France meets Spain at the rocky Mediterranean coast. Schist imparts a subtle minerality to the wine that you can sniff out if you’ve trained your nose to go looking for it.

Most of us, though, when we pour this food-friendly French fluid, will be more likely to hear the Kingston Trio sing, Raspberries, strawberries, the good wines we brew ...

It was $20 at Old Town Wine and Spirits, 1529 Bardstown Road, 451-8591, www.oldtownwine.com.

Coume del Mas 2006 “Schistes” Collioure

This dark purple wine exudes an appealing scent of Chambord raspberry liqueur. On the palate, it’s all about mixed red and blackberries and plums and a hint of subtle stony minerality, structured with tart fresh-fruit acidity and a puckery tannic edge that calls for rare beef.