Prieuré de Montézargues, “Tavel”, Tavel, Rosé Blend, 2016.

Does lens flare make wine taste better?

Simply to get a good handle on the reputation of Tavel, an appellation in the Rhône Valley, I’ll pull this superb apocryphal story from the Wiki page on it:

. . . he [King Philip IV] was reportedly offered a glass, which he emptied without getting off his horse and afterwards proclaimed Tavel the only good wine in the world.

If that’s not a recommendation right there, I don’t know what king could convince you.

So let’s talk about the bottle!

~~~

Tavel itself, as I mentioned, is in the Rhône Valley, home to such illustrious appellations as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, the perhaps-familiar Giogondas . . . it’s a lovely, and quite hot region.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Can’t find our region in question? Look in the upper left map–it’s the bright spot of turquoise directly west of ‘Carpentras’ in the field of green. Seems small? That’s because it is! All told, the vines of Tavel only take up about 3.5 square miles. Not an excessive amount of wine being made here.

Not only that, but the wine rules involved in the appellation are deliciously complex, as makes sense for one of the older official appellations–Tavel was established in 1936! Among other rules, all Tavel wines must be rosés–and must be made as rosés, rather than the . . . dubious practice of blending red and white wines. Interestingly, one can use both red and white grapes to make a rosé (a rule that applies to all of France) but the resulting wine must be subjected to the rosé process.

Moreover, all wines in Tavel must be blends–no one grape can be more than 60% of a blend. This preserves a certain quality to the wine–which is aided by a diverse cast of grapes. While not every one is represented in equal prominence, Tavel wines can include: syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, clairette, grenache, bourboulenc, carignan, picpoul, and last, obscure-but-storied, calitor.

The reason for such significant blending is that it is unusual to find a ‘pure’ Tavel vineyard–which is to say, many of the vineyards are planted with several varieties, resulting in cross-pollination, and a natural tendency towards gathering all the grapes in the bottle.

Tavel also makes it a point to define both the minimum and maximum alcohol content of wines bearing the appellation’s name–11% ABV and 13.5%, respectively.

Like many rosés, Tavel wines are often drunk quite young–as is the case with ours–but their relative power and acidity make them among the few rosés occasionally worth ageing. It generally softens the fruit and piquancy; an aged Tavel will be soft and lightly floral, gently floating on the palette.

A wine fit for kings, indeed! Let’s check out ours.

~~~

Pertinent Information:

Full name: Prieuré de Montézargues, Tavel, Tavel, Rhône Blend, 2016. Appellation Tavel Contrôlée.
Grape(s): 55% grenache (red and white), 30% cinsault, 13% clairette, 2% other grapes (possibly but not necessarily, syrah, mourvèdre, carignan, bourboulenc).
ABV: 13.5%.
Price (to the nearest $5): $15.

~~~

Tasting Notes

Nose/Color
– Beautiful, deep salmon pink. Just a lovely dark color for a rosé.
– Juicy, ripe fruit on the nose. Lush red fruit, specifically, raspberries and strawberries.

Approach
– A touch of tartness, but quite pleasantly so.

Mid-palette
– Is . . . is that effervescence? I think I might be crazy, but . . .
– Smooth, lush red fruit as on the nose, riposte’d by acid.

Finish
– Sweet (not sickly or syrupy, though) and smooth. Almost a more macerated taste to the fruit. Great acidity.

Thoughts?
For the price, this bottle is a steal. It’s everything I want in a rosé–refreshing, lush, and pretty, but not boring or shallow. While there’s definitely plenty to think about, you don’t have to. And that’s nice, too. I’m going to drink as much of this as I can this summer. And just as a last note, the bottle is gorgeous. Nothing like having something pretty to look at while you sip on some wine.

~~~

That’s all (s)he wrote, folks. See you soon!

Blog Update!

Hey all!

So, it’s been a heck of a month over here at the blog–stepped out of one job, apparently am back at an old one, and most importantly . . . started an internship at Food & Wine!

This is now my commute.

That’s right! I am apparently now a finance-sector bro. Well, not entirely. I’m certainly not working finance, and the Food & Wine offices are not in One World Trade, but rather Two World Trade.

What I am doing is titled, quite simply, ‘Wine Intern’–a post I certainly can’t complain about. Among other things, I’m responsible for the Wine Room (below the fold; it’s kick-ass), assisting with and doing tastings, liaising between the magazine and producers, importers, etc. That’s hardly an exhaustive list, but I’m sure you get the idea! It is simply a superb gig.

The main of the magazine’s 3,000-odd bottles.

It has been a superb introduction thus far; I started earlier this week. While the transition from boutique Brooklyn wine shops to corporate wine publishing has certainly been a transition, I can’t say as it’s not suiting me well. The retail grind was starting to become too much of a . . . grind. I’m not much one for soul-tarnishing experiences.

Wine bottles (cont.).

It is certainly A Moment, I feel. It’s new, and different, and definitely all-around exciting. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

That being said, is it going to change the content of this blog much? Likely not, but also it will likely not be making a direct appearance on the blog very often. I am not a lawyer, but I’m well aware of the litigious nature of corporate America; I’m not about to lose this internship revealing information that the magazine wants to keep close to the chest. I read the acceptable sharing guidelines; they were about ten pages long and a bit dry.

However, whatever I can share, I’ll do my best to bring by! Lord knows, even in just the past few days, I’ve drunk so much interesting wine–and that is not something that’s going to stop anytime soon!

So, until next time, cheers, folks!

Side note, I got leather suspenders about a week and a half ago and I’ve been jazzed about them ever since.

Giogondas la Cave, “L’Hallali”, Rhône Blend; Giogondas, France; 2015.

Hey all. Long time no see.

Not much to say–just that there’s no time like the present!

‘Behold the field in which I grow my grapes … lay thine eyes upon it, and see that it is ‘fested with foxes.’

Man, Gigondas! Whenever I think I have a decent grasp on some region–in this case, the Rhône Valley–some small Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée will pop up and surprise me!

Just as a minor tangent, the name of this wine, L’Hallali, is the traditional call made on a simple brass instrument (searching for more specific details is unfortunately pushing the limits of my French vocabulary) before and after a hunt–thus the horn and dogs on the label!

~~~

Gigondas, as I mentioned, is a small AOC in the Rhône Valley. It’s often considered a smaller brother of the terribly prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a similar climate and selection of grapes. However, it is distinguished from Chât-du-Pape and the rest of the southern Rhône by the Dentelles de Montmirail–literally, ‘The Lace of Montmirail’. These mountains serve to split Gigondas into two distinct regions–one noticeably warmer than the other. In the warmer climate especially, this tends to lend the primary grape, grenache, a notable heft and muscularity. This also correlates with a relatively high ABV–in which our Hallali is no exception, sitting pretty at 14.5%!

Height of the vineyards also makes a difference on the wines produced in Gigondas. And while it’s not Mendoza and their Andes, grapes are grown as high as 600m, introducing a literally rarefied air to some Gigondas wines.

This wine is a fairly standard mix of Rhône grapes–though substituting the traditional carignan for the pair of mourvèdre and cinsault. This lands it at a quad-blend of grenache (they specify noir, though it’s more often that I see the blanc explicitly specified), syrah, and the aforementioned mourvèdre and cinsault.

~~~

Some pertinent info:

Full Name: Gigondas la Cave, L’Hallali, Gigondas, 2015. Appellation Gigondas Protégée.
Grape(s): Grenache noir (75%), syrah (25%), mourvèdre (5%), cinsault (5%) [sic].
ABV: 14.5%.
Price (to the nearest $5): $20.

~~~

Tasting Notes

Nose/Color
– Lush cherry color. Lighter than expected.
– Bright red fruit on the nose. A touch of herbaceousness.

Approach
– Tart, bright fruit. Savory herbs?

Mid-palette
– Tart, but smooth fruit. Soft mouth-feel.

Finish
–Darker, fermented fruit. Returning to that herbaceousness. Lingering acidity and fruit.

Finishing the bottle several days later
– Same general profile, though the pepper notes are more pronounced, especially on the finish. The fruit has calmed down a bit.

~~~

Overall, this is a really lovely bottle. I’d love to see what it looks like with a few years on it; as it stands, a highly-drinkable, powerful wine. While 14.5% is a bit high for causal drinking, it nevertheless remains relatively subdued; no boozy notes here. Nice color, nice region, nice wine. Can’t complain!

~~~

Wikipedia contributors. “Gigondas AOC.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 Dec. 2017. Web. 8 May. 2018.

 

 

Thrifty Thursday: “Goats Do Roam” (what a name!); Viognier Blend; Fairview; 2015.

You’d better believe there are gonna be pictures of goats all throughout this post, because the producer calls them their ‘fuzzy mascots’ and they’re amazing.

Okay, so it’s not often that I find myself laughing out loud in a liquor store, but when I do, it’s because a producer has found a spectacular pun. This one also ties to their history, which is even better.

To pull from Fairview’s (the producer) website:

… Charles’s young son Jason accidentally left the gate open to the paddock, and so the little group happily roamed among the vineyards, showing rare discernment by selecting some of the ripest berries from the vines – their adventures being the inspiration behind our Goats Do Roam range.

And of course, as the site description says, I love myself a good pun (plus winemakers not taking themselves too seriously!). Seeing Côtes du Rhône so perfectly mimicked (in name, if not necessarily in wine) is just brilliant. Absolutely adore it.

~~~

A picture of the actual wine, before I forget. More goats coming right up.

The wine itself is a classic blend–viognier, roussane, and grenache blanc. I say classic, because the latter two are often the only thing that prevents viognier from becoming wickedly overpowered (and have been paired for centuries in the Rhône valley). An overview:

Viognier:
Voted, ‘most likely to be described using sexy terms’ in high school, viognier is a, “Headily aromatic variety making particularly full bodied whites” (GGG), that is now found in vineyards across the globe–despite going nearly extinct in 1960. Its aromas are also often described in savory-sweet ways, such as, “… apricots, honeysuckle, May blossom, gingerbread …” (ibid.).
The book also describes viognier as ‘increasingly fashionable’ in South Africa. Additionally, in one of the first mentions in the GGG that I’ve seen, Fairview is mentioned by name as producing, “credible varietal wines”! Admittedly, this isn’t a varietal wine, but still!

Roussane:
Roussane, like viognier, hails from the northern Rhône Valley (remember when I said this was a classic blend? There’s a reason!). It’s often blended with a close sibling, marsanne, though marsanne tends to be more prevalent as it’s easier to grow.
In another first, I saw the book having trouble placing the aroma of roussane:
… often with a refreshing perfume akin to herbal tea (verbena?) reminiscent of spring blossom, and tends to have higher acidity …
It’s found in fairly limited quantities in South Africa, but Paarl (where Fairview is located) has a chunk of the plantings.

Grenache blanc:
Unsurprisingly, a variant of garnacha, here going by its French name. There’s not much to say; it’s a full-bodied white, similar to its red sibling. Here used to provide structure and underlay the power of viognier.

~~~

Baaaa-d boys.

The Western Cape (where Paarl, and by extension, Fairview, is located) is broadly considered to have a Mediterranean climate–which is to say, cool, wet winters, and warm, dry summers. Not bad for vines, by any stretch. Microclimes abound, though.

~~~

It’s a towerful of goats, what more could you want?

Okay, on to the actual wine!

Pertinent info:

Full name: Fairview, Goats Do Roam, Western Cape, 2015.
Grape(s): Viognier (61%), roussane (20%), grenache blanc (19%).
ABV: 13.5%.
Price (to the nearest $5): $10.
Vinter: Charles Back.
Winemaker: Anthony de Jager.

~~~

Tasting Notes

Nose & Color
– Even-bodied pale straw yellow.
– Clean, savory nose. Like wheat fields on the coast.

Approach
– Smooth, so clean and lovely. Just a hint of yellow fruit and honey coming forward.

Mid-palette
– Silky. That’s the viognier speaking. Reminiscent of a chard, honestly.

Finish
– Long, lingering, with sufficient acid to balance out the roundness of the blend. Excellent.

Thoughts?
What I’d like a viognier blend to be. Full-bodied without being overwhelming, some fruit–can’t complain!

~~~

We’ve had some excellent bottles at these price points. I may start heading further down just to see if there’s something that I don’t like. Though I do know I have a doozy coming up soon …

Thanks for reading–may your glass be ever full!

~~~

Bibliogoatgraphy?

Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.

Field Report: Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.; Burgundy 2016 Tasting, February 2nd

Who doesn’t love a classy logo?

First (real) field report is here! I was fortunate enough to be able to swing by Wildman and Sons‘ Burgundy tasting earlier today–and try a great number of wines that I will likely be unable to afford a bottle of for several years.

~~~

As usual, thanks to Wikipedia for the map.

Quick review of Burgundy (very very terse, honestly–I’m quickly realizing that there are very very few regions in wine that are straightforward or simple): almost exclusively chardonnay and pinot noir. There is a third grape, aligoté, but that’s mostly used in the southern region for easy-drinking quaffing wines of no particular distinction. And, also, I suppose technically, Beaujolais, but that is separated from the rest of Burgundy by both grape (gamay) and fermentation process (carbonic maceration), so while technically Beaujolais is Burgundian wine, it’s rare for it to be described as such on the bottle.

The region is almost as far north as Champagne (in fact, the chardonnay-only section of Burgundy, Chablis, is about twenty miles away), meaning a difficult, unpredictable climate prevails. This means that different vintages from Burgundy can vary wildly–grapes and vines having been subject to lesser or greater degrees of alarming things such as storms, heatwaves, hail …
The seasonal weather is a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters.

Burgundy, as a whole, is broadly considered to be the most ‘terroir-conscious’ of the wine regions of France–”… in a thoroughly holistic way, they reflect the individual site and unique environment–from sun and soil to shade and slope–in which the vines grew. In fact, the very idea of terroir is a kind of mental construct that, at least in Burgundy, is inescapable” (MacNeil, 188). Even though the region itself is not large at all, the sheer variety that of wines produced there is staggered–as is the number of separate AOCs, with almost 150 different sections, all with different requirements for the Appellation. Furthermore, those are separated even more finely at higher levels; with the village-level distinctions (called lieux-dits, or, roughly, ‘called places’), the number of ‘AOCs’ jumps to upwards of 500. Yee-ha.
Moreover, these AOCs are categroized by tier–in ascending order: Burgundy Red and White (wine made anywhere in Burgundy), Village Wine (wine made exclusively from grapes surrounding a given village), Premier Cru (wines from a specific vineyard), and finally, Grand Cru, which is wine made from the best vines in the best vineyards of Burgundy. Staggeringly good, staggeringly expensive (for reference, a 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru is running around $1,000 a bottle).

In short, all this to say: even though all I tasted today were chardonnays and pinot noirs, every bottle was distinct; that’s just how Burgundy is.

~~~

I was going to add two more, but then I realized they didn’t add anything to the post. Also, yes, I see you, dude on the right.

The tasting itself was pretty enjoyable. One of the best things about them is that you get the opportunity to sip, at least, some wines you’ll likely never get a full glass of. While proper tasting behavior is to spit every sip you take, I couldn’t help but swallow more than a few times–I’ve long held it’s really the only way to get a full experience of the wine. And when you’re tasting ten Grand Crus … well, gosh, it’s almost disrespectful of the wine itself.

The event was hosted in the Park Avenue Winter restaurant, which after reviewing their menu (looks delicious!), I realize is also out of my price range for the foreseeable future. However, they also had a quote on their sidebar: “Copious amounts of wine with dinner is always in season”, and damn, if that doesn’t sound like a restaurant that I’d love to go to. As hosting places go for wine tastings, this seems pretty standard; though I would note that it seemed a touch snug at times simply due to the floor plan.

Now, I don’t necessarily consider myself an expert on wine if I’m surrounded by people who have been doing wine for longer than I’ve been alive, but I know … more than average. I also reviewed The Wine Bible chapter on Burgundy, so I wouldn’t be totally out of my depth. There was a lot to review; it honestly felt a bit like a test. However, that’s not to say that people were actually asking me questions about my qualifications–that’s a lovely thing about many wine tastings; once you get through the door, everyone is assumed to be roughly as qualified as the next until proven otherwise. “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt” jumps to mind.
Moreover, given that I am not the oldest-looking fella around, and that most of the wine-tasting demographic seems to be in the 30+ range, I do stick out just a little. I can often tell that the people pouring (who can be anyone from workers with the importer, to employees of the producer, to les vignerons themselves) seem a little bit dubious about my presence there, and will fail to explain things as much as they do to older-looking folk.
C’est la vie, I guess.~~~I wish I could give a more authoritative run-down of the wines I tried; I mostly was walking through various producers and trying their entire table–which is an excellent method of understanding that producer’s style.
Among the producers I tried:

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils–Chablis, so all chardonnay. Exceptional wines–my favorite was the Chablis Grand Cru “Clos des Hospices Dans Les Clos” Monopole. monopole here means a single vineyard that is owned by the same producer, namely, Christian Moreau Père et Fils. Simply due to the fractured ownership of Burgundy (something that, hah, stems back to the original cultivation of vines in the regions by what I can only assume were quite tipsy monks), this is relatively uncommon. Grand cru, as you’ll remember, is the highest tier in Burgundy. For a case of six, this is likely going to run you $600-$700.

Domaine Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet–Couldn’t find a link to a site of theirs; but, regardless, they make wine in the Côte-de-Nuits, the most well-regarded section of Burgundy. Incidentally, my favorite was also theirs–Gevrey Chambertin “Mes Favorites” Vielles Vignes. I’m still unclear about what qualifies vines as ‘old’ but certainly this was a delicious example.

Stéphane Aviron–I am already familiar with their Beaujolais-Villages (minor note, ‘Beaujolais-Villages’ is the second tier of Beaujolais, the most basic being simply ‘Beaujolais’ right beneath it). That Beaujolais was and remains lovely, and his entire range showed an impressive depth. I was particularly struck by his Chénas Vielles Vignes, which was particularly spicy. I was informed that the red granite in Chénas tends to lend the grapes a characteristic spiciness, even in pinot.

I tried several others, though their names escape me now (even with the list in front of me). I was struck in particular by some of the producers’ tendency to stand behind the table and speak to each other in French while paying minimal attention to those in front of them. Like I said, likely a function of my age; nevertheless, it did not serve as a recommendation for the wine to me.

~~~

Overall, the tasting was a really fun experience. I wish I had more time; even though one’s palette can get exhausted after a while, it’s always nice to be able to touch on as many producers as one can.I really appreciated this tasting for hammering home just how specific and important terroir can be. As I was saying above, Burgundy may be among the most meticulous about their designations of AOCs, but I think it really shows in the sheer variety of wines I tasted today. If you step back and say, ‘okay, it was one region, two grapes–how different could these wines be?’–well, the answer is shockingly different. While some are certainly comparable, none was as similar to the next as to be called indistinguishable. Such an excellent real-world demonstration of the concept of terroir.

A superb outing for the day, I’d say. Many thanks to Frederick Wildman and Sons for hosting.

~~~

Bibliography

Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.

Wikipedia contributors. “Burgundy wine.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Dec. 2017. Web. 8 Feb. 2018.

Thrifty Thursday: “Cinta”; Montepulciano; Collegiata Collimoro; 2015.

Good evening, all! Hope your week is wrapping up nicely. Got a fun bottle this evening.

I’m such a sucker for metallic gold accents on labels.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo for $10! Gee willikers! It’s pretty good, too. Some background?

Montepulciano, the grape, is a classic, classic Italian wine grape. From the most humble vino de tavola to some of Italy’s most renowned wines, montepulciano is a flexible, charasmatic grape. Here’s what the Great Grape Grimoire has to say about it:

Productive, deeply colored, firmly structured and widely planted.
Montepulciano’s most well-known and often best-value manifestation is as the main or sole variety in Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC.
The best wines are deeply colored, with ripe, robust tannins, making them an ideal blending component with softer wines.

Ours is certainly no exception–but a little bit about Montepulciano, the region, first:

… usually an appealingly rustic wine, solidly built, with a soft texture, and good, thick fruit flavors in the middle.

Actually, that’s all the relevant info I can pull from The Wine Bible this time around. It’s the middle of Italy, so quite warm–lots of sun for the grapes to grow, and soil that is not particularly poor, which contributes to robust growth and happy vines. It helps that Abruzzo (the name of the larger region) is an approchable wilderness–the rustic-ness often attributed to montepulciano is partially due to that. Not to mention it is draw-droppingly gorgeous:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Poecus–this is a view of the Abruzzian town Chieti.

The wine itself, as the GGG and Wine Bible mentioned, is charmingly rustic. Some pertinent info:

Full name: Collegiata Collimoro, Cinta, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, 2015.
Grape(s): Montepulciano (100%).
ABV: 13%.
Price (to the nearest $5): $10.

~~~

Tasting Notes

Nose/Color
– Vibrant maroon with just a hint of purple.
– Spices, plums, dark fruit. A touch of earthiness.

Approach
– Pretty subtle. A bit tart.

Mid-palette
– Strong, supple tannins. Dark berries becoming more pronounced. Blueberry/raspberry notes!

Finish
– Nicely acidic with balanced (but very present) tannins. Relatively long finish, with echoes of the fruit.

Thoughts?
– Lovely, charming. Impressively drinkable for the price. Very much can’t complain!

~~~

The great thing about Montepulciano d’Abruzzos and montepulcianos in general is that they are generally a solid bet in terms of quality at a decidedly inexpensive price point. That’s not to say that you’d be wasting money if you bought one at $20, more that in the inexpensive versions tend towards ‘better than average’, in my experience. Always a safe starting point in the store.

I’m very happy with this bottle, and the label of said bottle–now all that’s left to do is enjoy the wine!

~~~

Bibliography

Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.

Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.

Weekly Wine Wroundup: January 17th-January 31st

[List continues.]
‘Hey, wait, that’s two weeks!’, you say. Yes, well, I forgot my notebook at work last Tuesday so here I am. Fun stuff.

Anyhoo, some lovely wines (and a tasting!) in the past weeks, let’s dive right in.

~~~

Wednesday, January 17th.

All right, starting out with a fun one–a pinot noir the Casablanca Valley in Chile, of all places. Forgot to take a picture, so alas, none here, but some pertinent info? 100% Pinot, 13.5% ABV, full name: Villard, Expressión Reserve, 2016. Wish I could tell you the price, but this bottle had been dropped off by a rep earlier that day; roughly $10 would be my guess.

Color was almost cherry, a bit of pink around the edges. Light body (it’s a pinot, go figure).
The nose was possibly the most bizarre aspect of the bottle. Almost … manure-like? Barnyard, some savory flavor I couldn’t place. I had a customer describe it as ‘wet stuff on soil’, which seemed apt. Really strange, pretty off-putting smell.
The approach was fairly tight, with the earthiness seemingly concentrated. Though there were some spots of bright fruit.
Midpalette was fairly innocuous, thought the fruit was really starting to bloom.
By the time it got to the finish, all the fruit appeared! Tart cherries, some darker stuff, too–blackberries? They were lovely, really sat at the back of your throat. Not the longest finish I’ve ever expereinced, but not bad either.
Final thoughts could basically be summed with, ‘good, but unusual’. I have to be clear, I was really struggling with the front end. ‘manure-like’ is not the ideal adjective to describe a wine with. The finish was good, though, and it was likely the first pinot I’ve had from Chile!

Thursday, January 18th.

An Entre-Deux-Mers from Bordeaux (it’s a white).

My thoughts on that bottle (and the first Thrifty Thursday!) can be found here!

… Saturday, January 20th.

Sparkling wine this time around. This one is coming from the AOC Crémant de Loire, in the Loire Valley, shockingly. As you’ll remember from my bit about sparklers, a crémant is a French sparkling that’s not from Champagne, but still uses the champagne method. The Loire Valley crémants tend to be a touch less clean and brioche-y than champagne proper, but nevertheless possess their own distinct charm.

Full name: Cyrille Seuin, Crémant de Loire Brut Non Dose, Crémant de Loire, 2016. It’s 100% chardonnay (i.e., a blanc de blancs). 12.5% ABV. $25.

Very crisp on the nose. There are actually some of those classic toasty champagne notes, though it’s cut through with lemon. Cool.
Lovely fine bubbles on the approach, relatively subtle flavor.
The bubbles sit nicely on the mid-palette, neither overwhelming or too little.
It finishes a bit boozy, though still quite clean–and the lemon notes do continue to shine.
It’s a perfectly acceptable substitute for champagne on a budget, though I do wish the alcohol was slightly less pronounced on the finish.

Sunday, January 21st.

‘pwee-EE foo-MAY’ (don’t quote me on that), it’s a fun name to say.

You can tell my normal pen ran out of ink (fountain pens, even refillable, run out of ink fast) because my script switches from thicker, unreadable strokes, to thinner, unreadable strokes.

This guy is a white Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, essentially across the river. Since that description is about as specific as ‘The Empty Bottle reviewed a wine’, some specifics:

Full name: Marc Deschamps, Les Porcheronnes, Pouilly-Fumé, 2014. 100% sauvignon blanc. $20.

Pale straw color, with a richness, at the bottom of the glass.
Clean, fresh, floral on the nose. Like honey over apples.
Smooth mineral flavors come through on the mid-palette. The ‘gunflint’ becoming more pronounced.
The finish is well-balanced acidity. Just a subtle hint of yellow fruitiness. Excellcent acidity. ‘Short but sweet’ finish.

‘A broader, more expressive Sancerre’ certainly seems apt. More nuance and breadth of flavor than a clear, straightforward Sancerre. That being said, it nevertheless remains a characteristically French sauvignon blanc.
I think I prefer a Touraine overall, but this is a lovely change of pace.

Monday, January 22nd.

Oh, man! This is cool! I managed to get to a tasting for an all-too-short hour that Monday. The importer was Domaine Select, who import wine and spirits from all over the place–and who I’ve a fair bit of exeprience with, given that both of my shops use them as an importer.

While I’m certainly more familar with their wine selection, I was able to wander over to their spirits side for a quick peek at a few.  Alas, I didn’t have the time to take extensive notes on … anything, but here are some of the things I tasted, in no particular order:

– Cowbell Cellars, Pinot Noir, 2016 (?).
– Jax Cellars, from the Napa Valley. I tried their Single Vineyard Chardonnay, and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Both 2016, I believe.
– Basically the entire selection of Champagne Philippe Gonet. Delicious.
– And this was a cool one–Famille Dupont Pays D’Auge Cask Finish Islay Whiskey. It was a Calvados aged in Islay Whiskey barrels. Enchanting apples, with a hit of peatiness. So delicious.

I gotta say, tastings are wild. Even almost six months in, it’s still kind of surreal that I can just wander in to one, with all of a ‘yeah, I work at a few stores’–and I’m in! While I’m sure there are a few unscrupulous people who pretend to be workers, it’s neat that it essentially works on the honor system.
It was also, you know, good wine, too. I was there with an industry friend who reps for a rum that I sell, and we had a brilliant time working through the wines–and just those few touches of liquor!

Definitely need to make it out to more of those.

Mid-post hump? Here’s a pic of Monty, he definitely doesn’t want what I got.

[I’m thinking I didn’t exactly make the effort to try new wines most of the past new week, so the next wine would be on the Frappato on the 25th.]

… Sunday, January 28th.

Fun grape, often used as an accompaniment to oysters: jacquere. Also a great mouth-feel kind-of name.

This one in particular is: Philippe Ravier, Les Abymes, Vin de Savoie, 2016. 100% Jacquere. 11.5% ABV. $15.

The grapes are grown in the Alps (so not as luxuriously soaked in sun and rain as, say, Bordeaux), but grown on South facing slopes. So what little sun there is to be had in Savoie, these grapes get.

Nose and color are both quite delicate, with a noticeably pale yellow, and perhaps the slightest hints of flowers and … pear?
Approach is delicate and subtle.
Mid-palette is well-balanced and smooth. Polite.
The finish is short, with just a tiny, tiny touch of sweetness (honey-like). Lovely acid.

Quiet, lovely wine. It’s not the most expressive wine I’ve ever drank, but it’s good in the glass, and makes you want to take another bite (that’ll be the acid at work). ‘Polite’ I think is the best descriptor.

… Tuesday, January 31st.

Largely because of one bottle of Etna Bianco I had months ago, I have this perception of white Italian wine as being particularly savory and salty. Turns out, that’s not universally the case (‘However …’), but with this one it definitely is.

Popolo di Indie, Bianco del Popolo, 2016. 100% Cortese. 12.5% ABV. $20.

Even-bodied, full yellow. Savory, fleshy fruit and a touch of sea salt on the nose.
The approach has a touch of subtle plushiness.
The mid-palette is very fleshy, muscular, and full. Saltiness and just a touch of piquancy.
The finish is salty. Savory, plush fruit.

It’s a muscular, characteristic white. Would be absolutely stellar with seafood dishes–a shrimp scampi springs to mind.

~~~

Wines that I probably drank but have no distinct memory of because I didn’t write them down.

Petit Canet, syrah/carignan/grenache blend. A bit more aggressive and punchy than that blend usually is, which is a classic Côtes-du-Rhône blend.

That Caves de la Tourangnelle Touraine, which I’ve mentioned several times. It’s kind of my ‘background white’.

Several cans of Underwood–The Bubbles, which is a perfectly agreeable sparkling chardonnay coming out of Oregon. A bit ham-fisted with the ‘we’re better than other wine-makers because we put our wine in cans’, but otherwise mostly harmless.

I tried a Gamay (using carbonic maceration, no less!) from Touraine called Terres Blondes. I was … unimpressed. It was perfectly fine, but I wasn’t stunned by its quality. Very fruit forward (shocker!) and somewhat grapey. Fresh and fruit-foward. Who knows, maybe I just wasn’t feeling it that day.

There was bit of a rushed tone to my post last Thrifty Thursday, due to making a full meal for seven or so people. But I also ordered in (another) bottle of the Chenonceaux, as well as the Moillard chardonnay which I unfortunately failed to take a picture of. Lovely, crisp, mineral chardonnay from France. Great stuff. Also that night was a bottle of the Orenia, a viogner/grenache blanc/roussane blend, which is wonderfully full and round in the mouth.
The picture up at front has a bottle of what may very well be one of my favorite bottles overall in the two stores–Cru Haut Valoir. It’s the classic Rhône blend I mentioned above, but with the subtle addition of mourvèrdre. It adds an entirely new dimension–as does the extra decade in-bottle. A 2005 for $25? Yes, please! Ridicuously good, complex-but-approachable, dangerously drinkable, beautiful stunning label French red wine. Nothing I can complain about. One of the first wines I’ve seriously considered getting a full case of. For the main course, we had the Birichino old-vine cinsault out of California. In a similar vein to the Haut-Valoir, stunning clarity and expression of terroir out of Lodi. A lovely accopaniment to Chicken with Forty Cloves, which is one of my absolute favorite chicken preparations–couple hours of marinanting with garlic and herbs, toss in an earthenware casserole, at 300° for an hour and forty-five or so … jaw-droppingly tender chicken and garlic that spreads like butter. Mmm …

~~~

I think that about wraps it up for this week–keep your eyes up for Thrifty Thursday tomorrow, I’m excited to see what I can find.

As always, may your glass ever be full!

Thrifty Thursday: Feudo di Santa, Frappato, Terre Siciliane, 2016.

I bet a wine frapp tastes TERRIBLE.

Hey folks! Sorry about the relatively quiet stretch, January is generally quiet across the shops.

It wouldn’t be much of a recurring series if I missed out on one the week immediately after its inception, would it? So I figured I’d get this down between the bread-baking and other cooking!

~~~

So, real quick overview of Frappato: it’s a very Sicilian grape, kind of Italy’s answer to gamay. It lacks gamay’s inherent grapey-ness, and shows much more of that characteristic raciness, which is a nice contrast to the often full-feeling gamay. Its fruit profile (which, at least in this bottle, reminds me very much of a brighter pinot noir). Wine Grapes describes it as “Fruity, fresh, and floral …” and it seems to be on the nose.

The region, Silicia, perhaps better known in the States as Sicily, is an island at the southern end of Italy. This wine in particular is from the “Terre Siciliane IGP”, which, as it turns out, is the entire island. IGP, or Indicazione Geografica Protetta, is the lowest level of the Italian AOCs, the two above being Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), respectively. While the wine regions and the classifications of Italy are almost as complicated as Bordeaux’, suffice to say that this wine does not come from any region of particularly great distinction. But that’s okay!

Pertinent info:

Full name: Feudo di Santa, Frappato, Terre Siciliane IGP, 2016.
Grape(s): Frappato (100%).
ABV: 12.5%.
Price (to the nearest $5): $10.

~~~

Tasting Notes
Note to the notes: these are being done off-the-cuff. Might be a bit different than most my tasting notes.

Nose/Color
– Strawberries! Plus a touch of the herbaceous notes.
– Darker garnet, with just a hint of brick.

Approach
– Just a touch of piquancy.

Mid-palette
– Smooth, and lovely. Getting hints of a spice–perhaps a touch of pepper?

Finish
– Long-lasting and deeply fruity. strawberries and just a touch of cherries. The spice comes back, and just hums at the back of your throat. Really lovely.

~~~

Honestly, I can’t complain. For $10, this is a lovely, and surprisingly interesting bottle. Inexpensive wines, especially from hotter climes, tend to ‘flabby and boring’–this isn’t, and it’s lovely. Charming and easily sippable.

~~~

So, I have been meaning to write more, but the problem with taking your notes in a physical book is that if you leave it in one of your shops, and your next shift at that particular shop is in three days, the writing schedule goes out the window. Sorry about that–we’ll return to our regularly scheduled wining soon!

~~~

Bibliography

Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.

Thrifty Thursday: Château Allégret, Entre-Deux-Mers, 2013.

When someone says, “Bordeaux”, what do you think of? Is it the shockingly well-structured cabernets, or the lush merlots that have the same mouth feel as the word ‘Bordeaux’–or perhaps the ‘iron fist wrapped in velvet’ that its pinot noirs embody?

Regardless of your particular favorite red Bordeaux–and whether or not you can drop $35,000 on a case of Château Pétrus–one does not think of white Bordeaux.

But this is the inaugural post of a weekly series, Thrifty Thursdays! Thrifties are going to focus on wine that can generously be described as ‘inexpensive’; bottles that cost under $10 each, as much I can manage. The purpose is twofold: one, to remind myself that bottles above $30 are not normal for most people, and two, to show how to find good (well, drinkable) wine when the budget is tight!

The bottle in question:

A nice-looking if not terribly innovative label.

The pertinent info:

Full Name: Château Allégret, Entre-Deux-Mers, Entre-Deux-Mers, 2013.
Grape(s): Sémillon (90%), sauvignon blanc (10%).
ABV: 12%.
Price (to the nearest $5): $5. And I want to clarify here, this wasn’t $6.5, or $7. This bottle was five dollars.

That’s the shocking thing about this bottle. Seriously. Five dollars. That’s absolutely fluffernutters. Just guessing here, if the warehouse I bought these from put a 30% markup on, which is fairly low for wine, you’re looking at a $25-30 case of wine. That’s ridiculous.

How can you get a French white for $5, in New York City? That’s actually a great question, and I assume it was because the store got a good deal with their importer. But! There are also historical reasons why white Bordeaux is cheaper than its darker siblings.

~~~

The first thing to know Bordeaux wine is that its classification is incredibly complicated. There are people who can label every cru and sub-cru, who know why Château Palmer is pronounced ‘Pall-MER’, instead of ‘pall-MAY’ (named after a British general under Wellington), and can name the fourteen preeminent châteaus–point is, it’s really complicated and would take an ungodly amount of time to explain. That being said, Entre-Deux-Mers is a large forested AOC between the rivers Garonne and Dordogne. Its soil is largely alluvial, or a mix between sand and dirt. This is not the most ideal soil for growing wine in, and thus the AOC does not have as vaunted reputation as the other more-well-known Bordeaux AOCs.

Incidentally, though Entre-Deux-Mers does make red wine, it is classified as ‘Bordeaux’ or ‘Bordeaux Supérieur’–the most generic, and least specific classification of Bordeaux. Wines labelled Entre-Deux-Mers (such as the one above) are always dry white wines. In fact, you cannot make sweet wine in E-D-M; all white bearing that label must have less four grams of residual sugar per liter (that’s another thing about Bordeaux, to be able to use the name of a given appellation, you must follow extremely strict guidelines for your wine).

I’ll draw a bit on The Wine Bible here:

Although it is a large wine region and a picturesque one, the wines are generally very simple and never as high-quality as the wines of the Médoc, Graves, Pomerol, or St.-Émillon (MacNeil).

That’s a succinct way of putting it. The wines of Entre-Deux-Mers are often simply la plupart du temps inoffensifs.

~~~

This particular wine caught my eye because it was in the ‘bargain’ section–always a chance at finding a diamond in the rough. I tend to stay away from wines that are always cheap, because that means that they are necessarily produced cheaply.
Additionally, I tend to stay away from grapes that I don’t know, or sound like off-brands of more common grapes. For instance, at the store today, I saw several bottles that were made entirely from ‘pinot blanc’. It turns out, per the Great Grape Grimoire, it’s actually a perfectly respectable member of the pinot family, primarily known in Alsace, Germany and Austria (in the latter, it is especially respected as a good grape for trockenbeerenauslesen, the legendary sweet wine). Regardless of me actually doing my research, you’ll see grapes like ugni blanc, which is largely used for flabby, uninteresting jug wines.
One of the many qualities of really well-known grapes such as cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay is that they have a cultural character–’this is what this wine is supposed to taste like’, which discourages winemakers who are making inexpensive wines from experimenting too much. Thus, inexpensive wine tends to be predictable–which I would argue is its best quality. As with the bottle I’m drinking right now, I wasn’t expecting it to be amazingly innovative–and it wasn’t. But that is vastly preferable to a wine that attempts to be interesting and ends up … simply bad. With inexpensive wines, my bar for success is, ‘drinkable and predictable’. That is the ideal space for inexpensive wines to occupy.

~~~

With that said, I’d say this bottle of Entre-Deux-Mers absolutely qualifies. I was actually shocked at how good this wine is. It’s not incredibly complex, but it embodies the character of the grapes, and is more than drinkable.

I would like to reiterate that $5 for a decent bottle of wine is crazy prices pretty much … anywhere. Honestly, especially in the city. That is shockingly cheap for more-than-okay wine.

~~~

Tasting Notes

Nose
– Quite subtle. Fresh. Very quiet yellow fruit.

Approach
– A bit tart–green apples, perhaps?

Mid-palette
– The tartness evens out–definitely green apple, maybe a hint of pineapple/citrus?

Finish
– Long, tart fruit. Good acid. Very dry and mineral.

Thoughts?
– That is a shockingly good wine for the price. Like, I’m shocked that it’s this good, and not mind-numbingly boring. Capital job.

~~~

I was a bit taken aback at the quality-to-price ratio when I was tasting, thus the tone.

~~~

Seriously. Search your bargain bins. Sometimes it’s just the last few bottles of expensive wine that need to go, but sometimes it’s a bottle that the owner got a great deal on and can drop the price by a solid 25%. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. There’s value at looking at the bargain bin even if you don’t need to buy at that price point. It’s always such a joy to find a good wine at a great price.

~~~

Bibliography

Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.

Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.

Wikipedia contributors. “Entre-Deux-Mers.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Jan. 2018.

Wines of the Wild Wild North

Hey hey! Long time no see. Sorry about the hiatus–I had headed up to Vermont for a week or so, and was mostly collecting cuddles from cats and other fuzzy creatures.

But! Fortunately for us all, there is also wine in Vermont. Here’s a few of them!

Old vine Cinsault varietal from France. Lovely stuff, lush, with notes of cherries and strawberries.
A straightforward French chardonnay. Not exceptionally clean as some I’ve had–and a surprising amount of butteriness, given the origin.
If anyone asks, the Star Wars paper towels are definitely more effective.

This one was cool–the folks and I were at dinner with some old family friends, and they, being extremely experienced wine drinkers (and generous besides) brought out a bottle of this! As you can see, it’s definitely been sitting for a bit, and it was seriously delicious. The age had really given this Cahors (southwest France, known well for its malbecs (which I’m fairly sure this was?)) a nuance and depth to it that was really just incomparable. I didn’t take notes, unforunately, since I was several glasses of the previous few in, but nevertheless–just a joy to drink.

The wine selection at a local grocery store. Surprisingly thorough, though not much broke $20. Huzzah for affordability!
Little bit different of a setting for my bottle/glass pics.

This last one is very cool. We had headed over to the old friend’s house early in the afternoon to begin food prep, and I had a bit of time to kill. They live just outside of Shelburne, Vermont, and Shelburne has (as I discovered) an exceptionally lovely wine shop called Village Wine and Coffee. Always a good combo.

I was lucky enough to make it while the owner, Kevin, was there, and we had a wonderful discussion about the industry, and the differences between NY and VT, and some of the wines he’s had in. This was one–full disclosure, Kevin gave it me because he specifically wanted me to try it! It’s a white blend, grenache blanc (60%) and roussane (40%), from a small AOC in the Rhône valley called Costières de Nîmes. While originally these wines had characteristics more akin to Languedocs (it used to be a part of that very region!), these have embraced the characteristics of the Rhône valley.

These wines are produced by a NYC/French-based winemaker and importer, Michele D’Aprix. They most certainly reflect her self-stated passion for both the wines outside of the norms of Bordeaux, and for making wine that reflects the care and effort put into it.

What I also particularly like is the writing on the back of the label, which I’ll quote a small bit here:

Caz translates to ‘crazy in a good way’, a sentiment I have come to embrace as I branch out from Bordeaux to bring wines from new terroirs …. It totally complimented [sic] the food and good, honest farmers grew the grapes. Maz Caz is fermented in steel and left unoaked. The grapes hail from the tippy-toes of the southwestern Rhône Valley where the attitude and exposistion are truly Mediterranean …. it’s the moment you taste it: with great friends, alongside great food, with no clock ticking. This project seeks to deliver the simple wine: fresh, young, uncorrupted and pure.

Lovely imagery. Hard to say I disagree, and I’m all for informative back labels. Some pertinent info:

Full name: Pentimento Wine, Maz Caz Blanc, Costières de Nîmes, 2016.
Grape(s): Grenache blanc (60%), roussane (40%).
ABV: 12.5%
Price (to the nearest $5): $10.

~~~

Tasting Notes

Nose
– Clean, mineral. Tart yellow fruit. Some apples?

Approach
– Subtle, though I feel as if the tartness is becoming slightly more pronounced.

Mid-palette
– Smooth, with the notes of the roussane becoming more pronounced. Very even.

Finish
– Clean. Dry, but not bone-dry. Good acid.

Thoughts?
– It’s a steal at $10. Costières is a cool region. Great description on the back of the bottle–and cred for actually crediting the artist.

~~~

All in all, a really lovely trip. Both for wine, but also, y’know, to see all the lovely people in Vermont. I will forever love that state.

Pictures of me and cuddly things past the fold.

~~~

My parents’ cat, Zoë. Completely ridiculous creature, totally shameless and terribly soft.
Out of their three (three!) barn cats, this one loved being on shoulders. I love cats on shoulders.
The border collie, Duchess. Incredibly mellow for a Collie. Here seen trying to convince me to give her a slice of the roast.

~~~

That’s all, folks. Good to be back.