This fortnight’s wine is a rosé that takes something of a different path. DMZ is made by the DeMorgenzon winery in the Western Cape area of South Africa. Although labeled as being a “Cabernet Rosé”, a little digging on the web revealed that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (no Cabernet Franc). This in itself is a bit unusual. Cabernet Sauvignon is not that popular of a grape for making rosé. Based on appearance and flavor I think this wine has had longer skin contact than most rosés. As a result, the wine is bigger and bolder than most rosés but retains the thirst quenching character that makes rosés so appealing in the summer. This one can handle bold and spicy dishes like barbecue that are popular now. Retailing at between $10 -$15 it is a good value too. Enjoy.
Here in the northern hemisphere it is officially summer. It sure feels like it too. In these days of central heating and air conditioning you can comfortably drink just about any wine any time of year. Some wines better suit some seasons though.
So what makes for a good summer wine. Well first it has to be a good wine. No amount of beach vacation or pretty views is going to make a bad wine good. They may have you paying less attention to how bad they are. Getting past that here are some of the qualities I look for. I like summer wines to be lower in alcohol. Alcohol promotes a warming sensation. In white wines I prefer crisper wines to big oaky ones. In red wines I like them to be more on the acidic side. I don’t mind some tannins but a prefer a red that doesn’t leave me thirsty.
Rosés are great for summer drinking.
Malbec is a red grape that probably originated around Bordeaux and is still a minor variety there. In France it is a major player in Cahors in the south-west of France but it is in Argentina that it found its most popular home.
Malbec makes deeply colored wines with fairly high levels of tannin which in good examples is matched by darker fruit flavors such as plum and blackberry. Woodsy and cedar notes can also be tasted in some Malbec. Aromas can be a bit subdued compared to the flavors.
Argentine Malbec are most often found as single variety wines but there are some nice examples that are blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah.
I have rarely tasted a bad Argentine Malbec and the can often be good values as nice ones can be had for under $15. Stepping up to just over $20 can yield some very nice wines. French Cahors are frequently overly tannic. Chasing after the international market that knows Malbec from Argentina has caused some makers of Cahors to make poorly balanced fruit bombs. There are some good Cahors but they tend to need at least five years of age before they reach a nice drinkable balance.
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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.