Published under Weekly Tastings
September 22, 2013
Does anyone order Champagne anymore without asking for a Brut? Well, yes, they do, and the more one knows, the more one’s enjoyment of Champagne becomes. So-called “Extra-Dry” Champagne is a bit of a misnomer because it really means “a little sweet.” (It has more residual sugar than a Brut.) But a truly balanced Champagne is, when properly made, a wine where its sweetness will just be a taste element, and the wine will still provide refreshment. Pol Roger makes an excellent Demi-Sec, which they call “Rich.” I was reminded just how good this can be at the lovely brunch that Vin Rouge serves on Sundays. The Champagne pleased us all and, perhaps most importantly, its style was perfect to accompany cheesy omelettes, salmon-infused scrambled eggs and French onion Soup. A new discovery for this just delectable stuff.
- Champagne, Pol Roger Rich, Demi-Sec $70 srp
Beautiful golden hue. A generous doughy, honeyed nose with soft lemon impressions. The palate is effortless with stone fruit flavors and underlying acidity that keeps it not only lively, but mouth-cleansing – even after salty pommes frites! Delightful in every respect and with a long, clear finish. (An equal blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinor Meunier) Drink now-2015.
Quimera is a higher-end red wine blend from the prestigious Achaval-Ferrer Estate in Lujan de Cujo, Argentina. Grown at 3,600 feet, this blend of five Bordeaux grape varieties presents a beautifully rendered wine that seduces your palate rather than leading an all out assault. As its name implies, this is a multifaceted creation with imagination writ large on its banner.
- 2010 Quimera, Achaval-Ferrer, Mendoza $56 srp
Alluring nose radiates warmth, splendid ripeness and an overarching “sheen” of dark cherry, raspberry, earth and cedar elements. Flavors are still firm and gripping with its persistent fruit gliding towards a long finish. Medium-bodied with a refreshing lift harmonizing its darker edges. This is a tenor, hitting high notes brilliantly but perhaps wanting in the deeper tones. (A blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.) Open two hours before drinking tonight. Will improve through 2018.
Published under Weekly Tastings
March 24, 2013
I recently tasted a hodge podge of wines from Italy to New Zealand. Here are some of the most fascinating–and worthy of your coin.
Contratto is the first name in the history of Italian sparkling wine. The project began in 1867 when a 100-foot-deep cellar was carved into the limestone hills of Canelli, located in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Contratto made the first Italian bubbly using the “Champagne” process of second fermentation in the bottle. In recent years, acclaimed wine maker Giorgio Rivetti has acted as consultant, and the new Brut sparkling is indeed an exciting venture.
- 2007 Contratto Brut Millesimato, Oltrepo Pavese $34 srp
A beautiful golden color with pinpoint bubble. Excellent forward bouquet of complex fruit elements and nutmeats. Besides a berry component, there is that wonderful sensation of a toasty brioche that reminds one of the finest Champagnes. Flavors are brisk and fresh with lemony touches on the medium bodied and lingering flavor. This wine spent 4 years resting on its sediment before bottling. (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.) Drink now-2014.
Gil Family Estates are new to me, but what quality and values they represent. Scour the market for these. Old vine Verdelho from the Rueda region of Spain? If you’d like a shockingly good white for your seafood feasts, try this remarkable novelty.
- 2011 Shaya Verdejo Old Vines, Rueda $15.65 srp
Deep straw color. An overt nose of ocean-kissed fruit with minerality coursing through every sniff. There’s a spice box of scents with nutmeg especially prominent. Gorgeous round flavors with low acidity that cling to your palate for dear life. Great complexity makes this a red wine lover’s white. (This somehow reminds me of the long-aged whites of R. Lopez de Heredia) Fabulous buy.
Also from the Gil Family Estates comes a high-octane Tempranillo.
- 2010 Entresuelos Tempranillo, Castilla Y Leon $13.80 srp
Black cherry color. A huge pungent nose of pure Tempranillo fruit that includes dark chocolate, graphite and concentrated plum scents. Big yet velvety flavors with excellent length and a bone-dry finish. A blockbuster in its way but also forward and inviting. Grilled beef or a Paella would love this. Drink now-2016.
Familia Zuccardi has been a cutting edge Argentinean winery for decades. Their various “Series” bottlings raise the bar, utilizing numerous grape varieties. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon, most reminiscent of Bordeaux, that caught my tongue.
- 2009 Familia Zuccardi ‘Q’ Cabernet Sauvignon $22 srp
Purple to garnet color. Fresh and vibrant with high-toned cranberry, blackberry and an appealing, overall “dusty” element. A big wine on the palate but beautifully balanced. A serious red with excellent spicy texture and room for improvement in the bottle. (Reminiscent of a Bordeaux St. Julien.) Drink now-2018.
Spy Valley wines, named for a satellite communications station in Marlborough, New Zealand, have been estate-bottled since 2000. Theirs is the kind of Pinot Noir that turns heads and excites even die-hard francophiles.
- 2011 Pinot Noir, Spy Valley Wines, Marlborough $27.70 spr
Deep ruby color. Absolutely lovely purity of fruit with raspberry, beet root and multiple spice impressions. Middle-weight mouth texture with plenty of long, red fruit flavors and a cinnamon kick of refreshing end acidity. Already a treat, this will improve nicely with bottle age. Drink now-2018.
Published under Herald-Sun Newspaper, Past articles
January 1, 2002
A quote from the 1983 edition of “Hugh Johnson’s Modern Encyclopedia of Wine” reads, “There can be little doubt that a politically stable Argentina will one day re-establish itself as one of the world’s most important sources of wine.” In 2002, little has changed. Once the most prosperous of South American nations, Argentina has had four straight years of escalating recession. It has recently defaulted on a staggering debt of $141 billion. This nation of 36 million people has experienced looting, riots, and runs on the banks (which are unable to liquidate the deposits of their customers). There have been five new presidents of Argentina in the past several weeks, and recently the national currency, the peso, has been devalued by 30 percent. These are volatile, treacherous times for this nation and, as the unrest affects all manner of commerce, so the wine industry must also scramble to keep its products afloat and not halt the continuous improvement and desirability of its wine selections.
In comparison, the stability of neighboring Chile has allowed a smooth, purring mechanism to promote its wines and reach new customers. The ability to be aggressive in marketing has been a great strength to Chilean exports.
In an across-the-board comparison of the wines from these two giants, I invariable come down on the side of Argentina. The texture, purity of fruit, and the overall distinctive terroir character is much more pleasurable to my palate. Certainly wines from Erazuriz, Almaviva, and Lapostolle, as well as the bargain Veramonte wines, are gems of Chilean provenance, but many of their exports are thin, insipid, and “so what” in nature. Argentina’s quality over the entire range is seldom disappointing.
Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. The land is graced with a warm, dry climate. Irrigation is used frequently. Ninety percent of the wines are grown in the province of Mendoza, which is located in the Midwestern part of the country. Some cooler, more hilly, and mountainous areas are being explored and planted to try and achieve more intensity in their product. In the meantime, Argentina makes excellent cabernet and chardonnay, but it’s the indigenous and long-planted unusual grapes that make some of the most exciting wines. Malbec, Torrontes and Bonarda are among the lesser known but exciting wine grapes in the hands and the soil of Argentina.
Argentina has had major investors giving millions of dollars to improve and replant its vineyards. Among these entrepreneurs are Allied Domecq, Seagram, Moet et Chandon, Pernod, and the Lurton family of Bordeaux. Whether further investment will continue is highly dependent on how Argentina copes with its terrible financial and political problems. If she can ever be calm, solvent, and organized, I predict the money will pour in. The sky’s limit hasn’t come close to being reached in this perfect land for the grape.