Archive for October, 2009
This wine review was a tough one for me. I personally love many different styles of red wines. However, one group of reds that I’ve never been able to totally embrace as a whole is Italian Chianti. The reason for my love-hate relationship with this style of wine is that I find many share a dominating and strong characteristic that I like to describe as an astringent, “alcoholly” aftertaste. In other words, a peculiar burning or hot sensation that comes out on the back end of tasting these wines makes me feel as if I just swallowed rubbing alcohol or jet fuel, and leave me feeling like I should be calling 911 to get treated for alcohol poisoning. But being the wine trooper and occasional “flame swallower” that I am, I’m not about to let a few “alcoholly” experiences stop me from finding a nice Chianti to pair with a plate of fava beans.
Which leads me to a rather interesting experience that I recently had with one 2004 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah. This wine had me guessing from the first sip whether or not I was drinking an “agreeable” Italian Chianti or something that just tasted like Chianti that I really liked. Here’s a wine experiment that I’d love for you to try – grab a Chianti Classico from Italy priced under $20. Then grab a bottle of this Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah at under $10. Taste them both blindfolded. I’ll bet that your taste buds think that they’re both from Italy. The 2004 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah tasted like an “Argentinean Chianti Classico” to me, but without the astringent, “alcoholly” aftertaste.
All in all, I really enjoyed the oddity of this Italian tasting, Argentinean-born, red blend of 50% Malbec and 50% Syrah. It had good ripe fruit, integrated very nicely with oak, to give it a full and rounded taste both on the front and backend. It certainly wasn’t at all what I was expecting to taste, and at under $10 bucks a bottle there’s a lot to like about this wine. If you enjoy Italian Chianti, I think that you’ll enjoy the value that this wine brings to the table. Give it a shot one night with a plate of traditional spaghetti and meatballs (or even some fava beans) and taste for yourself.
3 Stars out of 4.
I, like so many other people, have truly enjoyed watching many of the cinematic masterpieces that Mr. Francis Ford Coppola has directed, produced or written over the years. Some might argue that movies like the Godfather Trilogy, The Outsiders, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Apocalypse Now are some of the greatest films ever made.
Sadly however, it only took two sips of the 2006 Rosso blended red table wine for my taste buds to admit that this public offering was not going to be one of Mr. Coppola’s finer pieces of work.
The 2006 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso is comprised of 48% Zinfandel, 27% Syrah, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. It delivers a rather disappointing and mediocre script of cherry-vanilla flavors. To my palate, this wine seemed to lack solid fruit concentration and gusto to take it from being a snore to making it yet another Francis Ford Coppola hit.
Oddly enough, I did however find this wine to be more enjoyable on the second night when I paired it with a thick juicy piece of steak. And based on how it tasted with the steak, I’d imagine that this red would probably deliver a decent performance with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
In the end though, the 2006 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso was a dud for me. It just didn’t “make me an offer that I couldn’t refuse” to award it a higher WineLife365 rating than 2 stars out of 4 – even after two nights of convincing.
The economy may not be too rosy these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking wine. It just means that you need to make wiser buying decisions!
I’ve assembled my current Top 10 House Wine Favorites that I guarantee will put a smile on your face and a few more greenbacks back in your wallet.
1.) 2008 Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet HB (France) – A perennial house favorite of mine. This wine retails in most parts of the world for about $8.99 a bottle. It just might be the most versatile inexpensive white wine on the planet.
2.) 2008 Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay Vin De Pays (France) – The French are truly remarkable Chardonnay makers in my opinion. How they can tame the unruly beast known as Chardonnay and bottle this delicious and elegant tasting wine for $7.99 is beyond me.
3.) 2008 Domaine Des Cassagnoles Vin De Pays (France) – There are many great wine secrets in France – Gascony, which is located in southwest France is one of them. This white wine is utterly superb for $8 a bottle.
4.) 2008 Inca Torrontes / Chardonnay (Argentina) – This white wine is not for everyone, but this interesting 80/20 blend is fresh, current, and flat out dynamite with Tex-Mex and/or spicy foods. The best part is that this adventure into the great unknown will only set you back $8 bucks – Ca-Ching!
5.) 2009 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) – It doesn’t seem to matter what the vintage is for this wine. The folks at Cono Sur have been making outstanding inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Riesling, for years and lots of wine drinkers are taking notice. At $7.99 a bottle, it’s a phenomenal value!
6.) 2007 Altovinum Evodia Old Vines Garnacha (Spain) – My gift to you – You will be scratching your head for days wondering how this spicy number is only priced at $9.00.
7.) 2007 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz / Cabernet (Australia) What more can I say, besides that Penfolds makes outstanding red wines whether it’s their cheap stuff like this one or their “ultra – premium” Grange. Remarkably consistent year in and year out, this $8.99 Aussie standout is a ridiculous no-brainer.
8.) 2007 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (USA) – I had to flip a coin between McManis and Columbia Crest Vineyards in Washington State. Both McManis and Columbia Crest make terrific value reds, but the McManis line-up packs a bit more punch for $10 bucks.
9.) 2007 Bianchi “Elsa” Malbec (Argentina) – I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little down on Malbec as a whole in recent years. Carmenere from Chile’s Maipo Valley has really captured my attention. However, this Malbec is just as good or better than any Chilean Carmenere that I’ve tasted in the $10-12 dollar range, but this particular Malbec will only set you back $8 bucks.
10.) 2007 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha (Spain) – This red wine, my friends, is one of the greatest red wines on the planet – at any price level. This has been my “go to” wine so far in 2009. It’s an amazing red that many industry insiders have known about for years. Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle and see for yourself why the so-called experts rave about it. One disclaimer however, this wine does break my $10 threshold. Unfortunately, you’ll have to ante up a whole .99 cents more to taste the brilliance of this Spaniard. But I guarantee you that the extra .99 cents that you fork over for this beauty will be far better than anything off of the McDonald’s $1.00 menu – trust me!
One final note, don’t get too hung up on the vintages that I’ve listed above; these 10 wines consistently hit it out of the park year after year!
On the heels of my first ever “Germans are the Best” taste challenge. I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at how Germany actually classifies its white wines.
In Germany, a single wine estate will in most cases, make several different individual wines – mainly utilizing the native Riesling grape. These wines can run the spectrum of being off-dry to tasting rich and very sweet. For this reason, German wines are classified by law based upon the ripeness or “sweetness” level during a given harvest. All German white wines can be broken down into three categories:
Light and Off-Dry – These wines will have low alcohol content, be light in body with some degree of residual sugar to give it a clean and refreshing taste.
Dry and Full-Bodied – These wines produce higher alcohol content (somewhere between 11 and 13%), the body of the wine will begin to get heavier and the wine will also be more assertive and aromatic.
Rich & Sweet – These German wines will display the highest alcohol content because the berries are left to wither on the vine to the point of becoming raisins. These raisin–like berries are then individually selected and hand-picked to produce some of Germany’s finest dessert style wines.
Taking this ripeness level concept one step further, Germany designed a wine classification system which would further break down its white wines into specific categories of ripeness.
When shopping for a German white wine – which in most cases will be a Riesling wine, you’ll see one of these German wine terms listed below on the bottle label. These terms are meant to be a road map to help guide you towards a German wine that will either be light and somewhat dry or to a wine that is super rich and sweet. Here are the options you’ll encounter when considering the purchase of a German white wine:
“Tafelwein” or Landwein” – This just means “German table wine”.
“QBA” – When a German label lists “QBA”, its telling you that this particular wine is a basic level “quality wine”. It will possess a degree of sweetness, but look for this wine to be more on the drier and lighter side.
“QmP” – this German wine term literally means, “Quality wines with distinction”. This classification is meant to tell shoppers that this German wine is of “superior quality”. These superior quality wines are broken down into 6 “Prädikats” or wine classifications to provide consumers clues as to what style of wine a particular German wine might taste like.
“Kabinett” When a German wine labels lists the word “ Kabinett”, it’s trying to tell you that this particular wine will be light bodied with some degree of residual sugar to give it a touch of sweetness. “Kabinetts” are best drunk alone or with light seafood and shellfish.
“Spatlese” When you see this term on a German wine label, it means that this particular wine may be either dry or sweet (Consult your wine retailer to ask if they’ve tried the “Spatlese” you’re considering to find out if its on the drier or sweeter side). Good food choices for the sweeter ones are spicy dishes.
“Auslese” This means that the grapes used to make these wines were very ripe and a fraction of them were almost “raisin-like” before they were hand-picked off of the vine. Again, a German wine label that indicates “Auslese” may be either dry or sweet. I would recommend talking to the wine clerk to ask if they’ve tasted the wine that you’re considering. “Auslese” will however be a richer, more complex style of German white wine.
“BA” or “Beerenauslese” This wine term is meant to tell you that the particular wine that you’re looking at is a rich, sweet, dessert-style of wine where there hand-picked berries (“Beeren”) were left on the vine until they achieved a rainsin like state.
“TBA” or “Trockenbeerenauslese” This German wine term means “very rich and sweet”. Just think of honey when you see this on a German wine label.
“Eiswein” This German wine term literally means “Ice wine”. German Eiswein is a super sweet and rich dessert – style wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine until they have shriveled up like raisins. These berries are hand-picked in the winter and pressed into wine while still frozen. Many Eisweins will even tell you when they were harvested. Look for “St. Nikolauswein” which means harvested on December 6th or “Christwein” which means harvested on December 24th or “Dreikonigswein” which means harvested on January 6th.
As a final word of caution, all German white wines classified from “Table wine” to “Auslese” can be dry to bordering on sweet. Try asking the wine clerk for assistance if you’re not sure whether or not the German white wine that you’re considering leans towards one or the other.
For more information about the German Prädikat System and other interesting stuff about the Riesling grape, visit the Riesling Rules website and request a free copy of the Riesling Rules book. This paperback book is chock full of terrific Riesling information and helpful information.