Friday, January 13, 2006

A sense of place inside the bottle

It was a brown bag tasting, meaning a blind one with no less than 19 bottles.
It was the perfect occasion for my fellow tasters to sneak in a Croatian wine made with Private Mali from Dalmatia, a varietal called Bonarda from Argentina, a Cahors (Malbec from France), a Pinotage and a Primitivo Puglia.
Those bottles left us puzzled because we couldn't figure out where they were from and somehow left us wondering about the storage. The Croatian wine raised the most doubt on this topic. As much eclectic as they were, those bottles revealed great wines retailing for less than $12 with a sense of place.

The Primitivo Puglia, A Mano 2003 was rich, thick with chocolate and vanilla and enough acidity. I thought it was a Shiraz from Northern Rhone because of the intensity and the acidity but the flavor profile was no match. Around $9.

The other good deal was Sur 2005 made from Bonarda in Argentina retailing for $12. The wine was rich and complex and gave some hints of Grenache. I put it in South Rhone.

Bellevue Estate Morkel 2001 was a delicious Pinotage with hints of figs and leather. One more time I fell for Grenache that I move to Spain. The problem is that the flavor profile of this indigenous variety is very elusive.

Sequoia Grove 2001, a California cab was showing well. The Reserva retails for $40 and the regular for $20. Most tasters identified California Cabernet thanks to a softer, creamier texture and shy acidity and tannins. It was more about winemaking than wine growing.

Chorey les Beaune, Domaine Leroy ($46 at Sherry Lehmann !!!!) was nothing short of phenomenal. Served number 15 after the pasta with tomato sauce, this grandfather pulled himself together to deliver a round of tertiary aromas unexpected by this late hour. Tobacco, coffee beans and leather were hinting the palate in sequences. The great flavor of Burgundy had spoken and most of us were still listening.

So the shock was to discover this wine with a pale ruby, no sense of place nor varietal characteristic, pushing its alcohol down your throat. It was an average Joe carrying a gun. It was Mark Sinsky 2001, a Pinot Noir from South California. The bottle had few fans pinching my indignation. “How can you like a Pinot so anonymous and so potent?”. Yes, the exact opposite of the Leroy. Yes I loved the Leroy and I did explain. The main argument for the Sinsky was a self fulfilling theory that you know what you like and you like what you know. A thin justification loaded with convictions.

It's not what you like, it's how you understand and appreciate a wine. You may not like Dali but you need to understand what makes the painting so great. Or else why bother through a 19 bottle blind tasting or spend hours at the Met?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Value in Cote du Rhone

Sure you remember this wonderful year 2001 in Cotes du Rhone.
2003 bring backs the goods. The wine still has a lot of depth with meaty and earthy flavors. But what the 2003 Guigal Cote du Rhone adds is a cleaner finish with thinner tannins, much more delicate than the somewhat heavy finish of 2001.
And the good news is the price, about $10. Ready to drink now. Enjoy.