Poor Dad. We celebrate him every year for all the work he does. But how do we do it? We buy him ties to wear to work, power tools to fix stuff around the house and maybe a lawn mower to remind him of the yard that needs it. And to top it off, we buy steaks for him to grill. This year, let's put the cufflinks, mitre saws, and weed-whackers back on the shelf and get Dad something that appeals both to his masculinity and hedonism. Wine.
Not just any wine will do for our intrepid fathers. We have to find wine that feels and tastes manly, that requires some work to appreciate. So here are the biggest, manliest, burliest wines to give Dad this Father's Day.
Originally developed in France by 19th-century botanist Francois Durif, who humbly named it after himself hence the synonym durif, Petite Sirah is the offspring of the more famous Syrah and Peloursin. The petite part is due to the small berries this variety produces, which, in the beginning was thought to prevent its susceptibility to powdery mildew but was subsequently found to increase its susceptibility to bunch rot which is why it is rarely grown in France. However, during The Great Depression, petite sirah's thick skin and hardiness made it a perfect grape for transporting from California to those in the East making wine in their basements for "sacramental" reasons. Now petite sirah enjoys widespread vineyard planting in California. It produces a rich, extremely full bodied wine with mouth gripping tannins, especially when young. This is steak wine through and through. Think boysenberries, wild blackberries, and licorice hung on a massively tannic frame that will remind dad of his very strong and no doubt virile palate while he's chewing through that bone-in rib eye that you made him grill up.
Southern Italy is home to many of our favorite Italian traditions, like Neapolitan pizza, gelato, and the mafia. Here's a wine that fits right into your dad's infatuation with Italian mobsters. While you're watching that new gift box set of The Godfather movies, enhance it with the wine that may or may not have been poured while creating the tenets of the Cosa Nostra. Aglianico is a corruption of the Latin word "ellenica" for Greek, which is originally where the grape came from. In the glass, though, it's pure gangster. Massive fruit, massive tannin, and high enough acidity to pair with the beautiful eggplant grown by your nonna and made into that Calabrian delicacy Ciambotta, stewed eggplant and tomato. Three sips in and your dad will start swallowing his vowels like he's standing on the Atlantic City boardwalk debating whether to throw that snitch over the rail.
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Madiran, maw-de-rawn, say it slowly and savor the rustic, hard syllables that make up the ancient French homeland of the tannat grape. Widely known as the most tannic grape on the planet, tannat produces hearty, rustic wines with extreme concentration, tannin and a rustic sensibility that can only be deemed burly. Tannat has enjoyed some time in South America, namely Uruguay where it is the national grape. Just like your dad, tannat is tenacious, gripping, and utterly unforgiving in its wine production. It's able to age for years, like your dad, ending any illusion of a timely inheritance. Tannat is a man's man of a wine.
I hope you'll heed my advice and give dad what he really wants this Father's Day, a power drill for his palate.
When I'm not writing this column, or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB.