Thursday, November 8, 2012

Turbocharged Corolla

Red Rhone wines pretty much run the gamut.

It gets hot in the south of France, so juicy, complex 14-15% abv wines are not uncommon. These big wines, like Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape, are what make many critics lose their minds. Some of the wines are stellar, but some have left me wondering if the critics had also lost their taste buds.

On the other side of the spectrum, the northern Rhone puts out generally lighter, less alcoholic but still amazingly complex and delicious wines. As an example, one of the best wines I have had, ever, was a Cote-Rotie I bought to help celebrate my wife's birthday. Compared to the south, fewer wines are made, even fewer are exported, still fewer are written about. Sadly, this review is not about a northern Rhone beauty.

Instead, it is about a mild-mannered, 13.5% abv southern Rhone beauty, with lively-if-light fruit, a slightly spicy bite and a great backbone of tannin and acidity.

One thing this wine lacks is pedigree. Another way of saying that is, beware of an inexpensive wine that says "reserve" on the label in big letters. Thats kinda like a Corolla that says "turbocharged." Meaning, even if it is true, you probably don't want to experience the result. In fact I almost did not buy this wine because of that red lettering. Glad I gave in to impulse.

Another thing it lacks is finish. Meaning, after the initial 2 seconds of mild sensory pleasure, its gone. bye bye! You'll have to take another sip, or at least stick your nose back in the glass, to keep it rolling.

This wine is a solid and enjoyable example of Rhone terroir. It could probably compete with many $15+ bottles. In fact, I'm going to slip it in alongside a Cote-Rotie the next time I host a tasting.

"Famille Perrin" Cotes du Rhone (France) 2010 
varietal: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre
cost: $9
verdict: Try!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gracias. No? Si!

Is curiosity a virtue or a vice? That is, in some sense, a defining question of this blog. I already know plenty of excellent $12 wines, so why don't I just stick with those?

I guess I can't contain my curiosity. Or perhaps I don't want to. Case in point: a wine from Navarra made from a varietal called Graciano? Must. Try.

I had to look it up. Graciano is an indigenous varietal but is rarely grown anymore. Most folks in Navarra and Rioja are growing Tempranillo or Garnacha. Why did Graciano fall out of favor? Apparently it offers low yields and is prone to mold (so, economically, its a bitch). The joke is: "Graciano? Gracias. No." But its tasty, and coming into vogue by virtue of that plus the appeal of being relatively unknown.

"Vina Zorzal" D.O. Navarra (Spain) 2009 
varietal: Appears to be 100% Graciano
cost: $15
verdict: Try!

My impressions are favorable. The wine is less tannic than most of the Tempranillo wines I have tried from this region. It has soft fruit, slightly minty nose and a smoothness that some may discern as borderline flabby (or a bit low on acidity). A quick digression is that I understand flabby to refer to an imbalance in which the acidity does not keep pace with the alcohol and tannins and fruit. Others, such as Parker, appears to imbue all sorts of additional character into the descriptor, attributes that I would describe as simply "high alcohol" or over-ripe to the point of "cooked." Anyway. The wine is a "joven" style meaning it is young, with little or no oak aging. 13% abv.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back to the occupation

Back in 2009 I started blogging to keep track of wines I had tried. After a few months, I realized that I could remember all the details that were interesting to me about all those wines.. so why bother writing it down?

Well, yesterday I bought a bottle of $12 Ribera from one of my favorite wine merchants. Its a total wash, tastes like an oak chip soaked in vanilla extract. Tempranillo? It might as well be any varietal. And yet the write-up from the wine merchant was rather glowing (ok, naievete, I know, they are merchants..)

So here I am, new forum, old habit, new motivation: Help other wine lovers avoid the burn of buying $12 cooking wine. I've bought waaay too much.. and though I no longer feel rage when I get burned, I can't shake that wistful exhalation that proclaims a bottle filled with erstwhile promise to be, in reality, filled with swill.

So lets sort out the ground rule of this blog: modest means, big dreams. I am not the 1%, but I am saving up for a Porsche. And yet I love wine. This fixes me rather squarely in the ~$12 bottle category. Occasional deviations could be expected.. like, um, that bottle of Terrasse du Diable I could not say no to a few weeks back.

And without further ado, the review:

"La Planta" D.O. Ribera del Duero (Spain) 2009
varietal: Tempranillo
cost: $12
verdict: Avoid

If you love wine, do not buy this bottle. If wine is something you drink only when you go to a party, or when you throw a party.. well, you might like this. It has a warm, toasty mouth feel, sort of like dark rum. At 13.8% abv, it will not scald your esophagous. But forget about aromatics or the flavor of the vigne..