You may think this is taking populism to far but I liked this one. So how did it happen? I recently attended a tasting of affordable Bordeaux wines. Most were reasonably well made but unexciting. There were a few good ones though and one of them was a box wine, Chateau Tassin, 2009, from Wineberry Importers.
It is a typical Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. It had a nice level of acidity but had typical Merlot smoothness, some good berry and black current flavors from the Cabernet Sauvignon, and some spiciness from the Cabernet Franc. Was it a wine to lay down and bring out for special occasions? No, but it would make an excellent house red and would work well for a party too. Being a box wine you would not have to worry about oxidation. Just have a glass when you want.
This wine has not yet been released but it should be any day now. Other Wineberry box wines cost around $40 for three liters. Enjoy.
OK, I know it’s been a lot more than a fortnight since the last wine review. This one may have been worth waiting for.
Arneis is a white grape from Piedmont in Italy. Piedmont is a region most known for its red wines such as Barolo, Barbera etc. The Roero is a range of hills a bit north of the most famous areas where Barolo and Barbaresco are made. Barbera and Dolcetto are the most well know grapes from the area.
Until about twenty years ago virtually no one made wine from Arneis. The gape plants were used somewhat like a canary in coal mine. They were more susceptible to pests and diseases than the red grape plants of the area. If the Arneis had problems, the farmer knew to keep an eye on the other plants and could take prophylactic measures.
Starting in the 1980’s, and really taking off at the start of the oughts, the grape found favor. This makes sense as good white wines are not common in the area. Arneis breaks from the typical mold of Italian whites, which are high acid and low on aroma. It also tends to have a bigger body than your typical Italian white.
This is the first wine I have had from Pace and it was a nice example, with flavors of pear and a bit of peach backed by a good structure and a long mineral finish. The aroma was mildly floral and reminded me of orange flowers and honeysuckle. While not as acidic as many Italian whites, it still is very food friendly. It would work well with most poultry dishes and any but the lightest of seafoods. My wife observed that it was a white wine you could serve to people who don’t usually like whites and they would still enjoy it. At just under $20 a bottle, it was about average for an Arneis. Enjoy.
Several articles (including this one http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/31/drink-it-while-you-can-study-points-to-looming-global-wine-shortage/) have been touting a report of an upcoming wine shortage. According to the study, demand out stripped supply last year by 300 million cases.
Funny I have not noticed wine rationing or odd even day policies on when you could by wine. Wine prices have gone up slightly in the past few years but no more than most things. Its true that demand for the very top end Bordeaux and Burgundy wines have gotten astronomical, but for the every day wine drinker the picture is pretty rosy. So let others panic and enjoy a glass of wine.
Varietal wines are simply wines that are named for the grape principal grape variety used to make it. Some varietal wines are made 100% from the grape named on the label. Varietal wines made in the US must be made from at least 75% of the named grapes. Regulations in other places range from 100% on down to nothing.
There is nothing wrong with blending grape varieties. Many of the world’s greatest wine are made from blends. While some grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir work very well on their own, they both blend well and others such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache tend to be better blended. There are of course always exceptions.
Varietal names became popular in the US in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The consumption of bottled wines was exploding bringing many new people to the pleasure of a good glass of wine. Varietal names made things easier. Rather than having to know a huge number of wines named for their place of origin, one could just ask for a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon. These two varietal wines became so ubiquitous that some wines list had what they called “ABC” wines, anything but Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Predictably, the fashion for varietal wines faded. In part this was a reaction to the exploitation of the big names, like Chardonnay, by less quality oriented producers. Also wine drinkers and some producers were becoming more sophisticated, discovering the multitude of grape varieties as well as the benefits of a good blend. Things seem to be a good balance now with a large number of quality varietal wines being available in a wide range of prices as well as producers who put out fine blends. Enjoy.
An experience I had a few weeks ago made me think about aging less expensive wines. We were on vacation in Montreal. On our last day we went out for brunch. We were both having fish dishes so we chose a half bottle of white to go with our meal. The wine was listed as Domaine de la Bongran, Vire Clesse, 2002. That’s right, 2002.
Vire Clesse is in the Macon region of Burgundy. Macon is known for making good solid, less expensive white Burgundy from the Chardonnay grape. While White Burgundy’s from the Cote Du Or are frequently aged, though no so commonly for eleven years, almost all wines from the Macon are consumed fairly young. Many sources say they should be drunk before they turn five. It is so unusual to see an eleven year old Macon that I asked our server if the wine list had a typo and if it was actually a 2012. She thought it was but checked. When she told us that no it was a 2002, we considered selecting something else but curiosity got the better of us.
Boy am I glad it did. It was fantastic, better than the very reputable (and expensive) Burgundy we had earlier that week when celebrating our anniversary. So kudus to the wine maker and I will keep an eye out for their wines in the future.
It’s always great to enjoy an unexpected treat. What prompted me to write about it was that there are probably a lot of good wines that can be even much better if they get a chance to age. They don’t have to be the top wines available. So, if you have the opportunity, and a way to properly store your wine, why not put down a couple of extra bottles that you enjoy. They may become something more. If they don’t, the investment was probably small and you will have learned something. If they turn great, for a small investment, you can enjoy a rare pleasure while congratulating yourself on how smart you are.
Due to internet problems with Time Warner, The Wine Populist may be offline until we get a more reliable service provider.
This weekend we had a fantastic cheese that I bought at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market in Vermont. It was a wash rind cow’s milk cheese called “Cuvette” made by Spoonwood Cabin of Jacksonville, Vermont. When I bought the cheese, I said that I thought it would go well with a red Burgundy. The cheese maker agreed but added that he loved it with Champagne. When I discussed the choice with my wife, she suggested we try both.
Since a red would go best with what we had for the rest of the meal (grilled pork chops with wild trumpet mushrooms and panzenella (an Italian bread salad) we started with a Beaune Cent Vignes, Premier Cru, 1995, from Chateau De Meursault. This wine is one of the few left from when we could afford really good Burgundies. It was magnificent with the pork chops and good, but not as good, with the cheese. The cheese was so big in flavor and frankly so rich that it accented the wines acidity and tannins more than its earthiness and fruit flavors. It wasn’t a bad match, just not what I had hoped for.
So on to the Champagne; here I was again surprised. I had thought the cheese would overwhelm the more delicate Champagne. We were drinking the Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, NV. It was a perfect match. For from overwhelming the wine, the cheese brought out the wines fruit flavors and a bit of its yeast. The wine’s acidity showed of the richness of the cheese while stopping it from being cloying. The cheese maker had suggested sprinkling a little Champagne on the cheese. We tried it and that brought out the sweetness of the milk used in the cheese.
So we had a fantastic meal and I learned a few things about food and wine pairings. That’s a nice way to learn.
Friends can be a great source for new wines. On Sunday I tasted two brought over by our friends Alex and Dania to have with dinner. The first was a very nice inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from Rumania, Jidvei, Tarnave Region, Sauvignon Blan,c 2011. I find Sauvignon Blanc’s to be reliably good inexpensive white wines. Their crisp citrus flavors and acidic balance make them good summer wines. There aren’t many bad ones out there. This one when a bit further. It had a bit more body than most wines in its price range (under US $10). It also had a fairly long mineral after taste that I find appealing.
My experience with wines from Rumania is not very large and frankly has been a mixed bag. This one is on my list and look forward to trying other wines from the producer.
An interesting article on attempts to reduce wine counterfeiting. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/22/wine-producers-go-hi-tech-to-protect-against-fraud/