Fortius Wines

Fortius is an international partnership between an American importer/distributor and, as Fortius says online (www.fortiusbrands.com), “partners from around the world.” Most of those partners are small wine cooperatives and even smaller wineries.

Fortius has been in business in the United States for several years. Quite recently, however, they’ve embarked on what turns out to be an exciting new project: organic wines known as Sun+Moon. There are presently five wines under this label, all from La Mancha in Spain, of which four (i. e., not the Sauvignon Blanc) have been tested for this article.

The labels themselves are extremely attractive and subtly different for each wine: the moon in what appears to be the embrace of the sun. Splendid packaging.

More importantly, fascinating wine.

And unusual wine, at least for me.  Unusual not in the varietals but in the wines themselves.

What I found typical of two was a sort of pleasant simplicity upon first smelling and tasting each, the Chardonnay and the red blend of half Cabernet Sauvignon, half Syrah. Those two wines in particular seemed, at first, unassuming, easy to drink, the kind of unchallenging wines that most people seem to desire, the sort of wines that we’re often advised to serve as aperitifs, for sipping by themselves, before food is served.

Well, even before food was served, simplicity gave way to elegance and a certain amount of depth, no doubt the result of aeration and even a brief amount of time in and of itself.

This was very interesting to me–wines that seemed rather “small” became vastly more complex.  Not “bigger,” necessarily, but more grand, and certainly more worthy than I judged them upon an initial impression.

I’ve met people like that:  quiet, unassuming, shy, even withdrawn, who, upon further acquaintance, become nearly invaluable, sometimes enlightening.

The Rosé and the Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Wine were more immediately forthcoming.

The former displayed an incipience (no pun intended), which is what I love in a rosé (and I was writing in praise of rosés years before their present popularity). Also an acidity that I knew would hold up to pretty much whatever food it was served with. I read only after I’d tasted it several times that it is 100 percent Tempranillo, which is my favorite Spanish grape.

The grape in the Sparkling Wine, however, was what one is tempted to call “the unusual” Airén, except, as I had known, Airén is probably (still) the most planted grape in all of Spain and is also found all over the world.

Airén is known as a workhorse grape, helpful in some blends and also used in Spain to make brandy. Having drunk the wine, all I can say now is, “Bring on the Airén!” This wine, yes, like most sparkling wines, will prove a perfect aperitif, its plentiful, small bubbles delighting the tongue with their slightly off-dry, assertive attack. But held in the mouth, until the bubbles have dissipated (which is worth trying with any sparkling wine, to try to get to its essence), the wine shows a nice body, an unsuspected richness of texture and taste.

The Sparkling Wine is the only of these Sun+Moon wines with its own name: Cueva, which Fortius informs us is a “relatively new D. O. [denominación de origen] from La Mancha.”

Most importantly, what I discovered about all these wines (except for the Cueva) is that they showed best, by far, with food. The Cueva might have as well, but it was drunk merely and most enjoyably by itself before dinner, two nights in a row.

The other three wines, especially the Chardonnay and the red blend, came fully into their own with food.

And by food, I mean many kinds of food. As is my custom when testing wines (except for sparkling wines), I taste the wine every day for almost a week and sometimes more than a week. And with different food. I am almost never disappointed with this approach. It is the rare (young) wine that doesn’t improve almost every day for at least a week. (In warm weather, reds are refrigerated until within an hour or two of being tested.)

So, over the course of what is now eight days, these wines have been drunk with meals of roast chicken, baked salmon, chili with ground beef, Korean beef ribs, pork ribs in a hickory barbecue sauce, and I can’t remember what else (but there’s always something else around here).

The Chardonnay went perfectly with the first two above. The remarkable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah went with everything. It emerged as my favorite of these wines, which I would never have expected, since those two grapes are not native to Spain (nor is Chardonnay) and are rarely blended there (as they are widely in Australia, most notably by Penfolds). The Sun+Moon red blend became almost profound as the days passed, rich, full, interesting with a kind of mystery (as in, “How did they do this?”).

You can’t give someone you love, as they say, the sun and the moon. But you can give anyone a Sun+Moon wine.

Including yourself.

But do try to share. To share a bottle of wine is to share not only the sun and the moon but also our precious, generous Earth.