Here is an interesting article on alleged arsenic contamination of inexpensive California wines. I have a background in environmental contamination and am somewhat skeptical. There is nothing I know of in the wine making process that is likely to add inorganic arsenic. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/21/arsenic-california-wine-lawsuit/?#article-copy
I have been neglecting the blog as life has gotten in the way. Well I am back at it. I have initiated a series on our Facebook page called “Tip of the Glass”. These are very short little tips to help the wine novice. Like us on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/TheWinePopulistcom/194773743898660 to read them.
I don’t think this belongs in a “A Wine For The Fortnight” segment as it is not that easy to find. Rather this is about the joy of buying a wine, laying it down and enjoying it at maturity. Sagrantino is the signature grape of the area around the town of Montefalco in Umbria, Italy. Traditionally it was made as a sweet wine using the passito method of drying grapes to concentrate them. It was re-born as a powerful tannic dry wine in the 1970’s. Don’t get me wrong the sweet wine can be fantastic but most people know the dry.
Some producers are now making wines that are fairly approachable when young but the best need eight to ten years to mature and can easily last for twenty. We bought this wine back in 2008 and it has been sleeping in our cellar ever since. Sunday we had a fantastic T-bone from a local farmer in Vermont. Don’t let people tell you that grass fed beef is tough. This was melt in your mouth tender. I served it with some fried potatoes and a green salad, and of course the Sagrantino. Everything came together making it more than worth the effort to resist opening it over the last six years.
Traditionally people think of rosés as summer wines. I enjoy them year round but have to admit they have a special affinity for summer and summer foods. What prompted this post is an observation that the range of rosés available has greatly expanded in the last few years. It was not long ago that the usual selection would include white zinfandel and a couple of Grenache based wines from Provence.
The last time I was in my local wine store I noticed rosés from not only the US and France, but from Italy, Spain, and South Africa. I wasn’t even looking for rosés. The grape varieties used have greatly increased also. There are some nice ones based on Pinot Noir from California, Alsace and the Loire, in France, and even from Germany. Cabernet Franc, which is becoming one of my favorite grapes is used to make excellent rosés as is Italy’s Sangiovese.
A few Years ago I wondered why rosés were not taken more seriously in the wine world. Well it looks like that is changing. Enjoy.
Zinfandel is in many ways a quintessential American grape. Although it did not originate here, no vinus vinafera, (or fine wine grapes) did, it found its home here and has prospered. There are several competing theories as to where it originated but the best guess is somewhere in the middle-east, probably Syria. Don’t be surprised, well into the eighteenth century the middle-east was a major supplier of wine to Europe. Many predominantly muslim countries have historically made wine. Either they didn’t take religious injunctions against alcohol seriously or they didn’t mind selling it to others.
A grape variety called Black Zinfandel was mentioned in the U.S. as early as 1830. By the 1850’s it had reached California where by the end of the nineteenth century it was the most widely planted wine grape.
Zinfandel is used to make a wide variety of wines, everything from a very light rose (“White Zinfandel”) to big dark tannic red wines that drink best after years of aging. Most everyday Zinfandels are fairly big wines with a lot of jammy fruit flavors. They can have interesting spicy and peppery flavor as well. When the fruit is not balanced by alcohol, tannin’s or acidity they can seem sweet and cloying. Better ones make use of the naturally high tannin content in the grape skin.
Zinfandel is sometimes blended with grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I have even tasted blends with Zinfandel and Sangiovese. However, it is most often vinified as a single varietal. This is particularly true of the “Old Vine Zinfandels”. Most wines made from grapes grown on older vines exhibit more character and structure than those from younger vines. This is even more so with Zinfandel. Given that some Zinfandel vineyards are over one-hundred years old, wine maker have tried to distinguish their wines made from older vines. There is however no standard for calling a vine an “old vine”. You have to trust the vineyard.
A quick note on related grapes: Since Zinfandel is not known to exist outside the U.S. (except when brought from the U.S.) there has been some effort to find its roots (pun intended). A lot of fuss has been made claiming that the Italian grape Primitivo is the same as Zinfandel. Some Croatian varieties have also been touted as the “original Zinfandel”. Particular attention has been given to genetic studies of Primitivo made in the early 1990’s. DNA testing has gotten a lot better since then and the same methods used at that time could not distinguish between Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc (closely related but very different varieties). I suspect that Primitivo is closely related to Zinfandel. When it is grown side by side with Zinfandel they have yielded distinctly different wines.
I enjoy Zinfandel most often in the fall or winter when its alcohol and big fruit flavors can be a good match to Thanksgiving turkey and roast game. Enjoy.
The Central Italian town of Montefalco is famous for its Sagrantino grape and the resulting single varietal wine, Sagrantino di Montefalco. Wine makers in this corner of Umbria have another red wine trick up their sleeves, Montefalco Rosso, made with a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino. Wine Makers may use up to 30% other grapes. In this case, Merlot is used. With Sagrantino’s long aging requirements and low yields, the Rosso was designed to be a money maker for the wineries while the Sagrantino carried the banner for quality. For many wineries this is how it is, but some, including Scacciadiavoli, craft wines that can stand on their own. The Scacciadiavoli, Montefalco Rosso, 2009, is a medium bodied very well balanced wine with some dark fruit and earthy notes one would expect from Sagrantino. It also has some of the cherry flavors and bright acidity that Sangiovese can bring to a wine. We had it with lamb chops and it went perfectly. It would match well to other grilled meats like a steak or a veal chop. It was so good we kept drinking it after we finished eating and it still worked nicely as just a glass of wine. At around $16 a bottle it was a home run for value. Enjoy.
From Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402110004.htm
Some people have had problems with the link. You can copy and paste this in the browser: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402110004.htm
Many of you will remember that Elinore Schurr, a local artist here in Long Island City, allowed me to post a photograph of a wine themed painting she had done. It was a great painting and one of the all time most popular posts here at The Wine Populist. She generously has shared another. Enjoy
Sangiovese is a red wine grape that originated in Tuscany. It is the primary grape in Chianti and Vin Nobile D’ Montipulciano and is also the only grape allowed in Brunello. It is the most planted grape variety in Italy. Planting it is increasingly popular in other countries.
Wines made from Sangiovese tend to have a medium bright red color. The flavor and aroma of cherries is a hallmark of the grape. Styles range from bright and acidic thirst quenching wines to some very big and complex ones. It is popular to blend it either with other Italian varieties as in Vin Nobile and many Chianti’s or with Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the latter idea that helped set off the whole “Super Tuscan” movement.
Most Sangiovese based wines are very food friendly, going well with everything from roast chicken to spaghetti with meat sauce. They make excellent wines to go with a snack of salami or cheese such as you get at many wine bars.
In addition to the Tuscan ones, I have enjoyed some very good ones from Umbria and a real liking for Rosso Conero’s from the Marche. There also are some very nice varietal labeled ones being made in the Dry Creek Valley area of Sonoma, California.