Posts Filed Under crowd pleaser wines

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2017 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition Highlights)

San Diego kiss

Kiss kiss! We heart San Diego…

CIWC 2017I was once again fortunate enough to be invited to judge at the annual Critics Challenge International Wine competition, which took place late last month in Stay-Classy San Diego.

CC is always one of the highlights of my professional year; the organizers, volunteers, and fellow judges are all top-notch, and the fact that they’re also great people with whom to hang is just tasty icing on the cake. And then there’s the whole going-somewhere-gorgeous-to-taste-wines aspect, and, well, I suppose In can’t be helped for waxing too poetic at about it.

As in past years, I thought that I would highlight a few of the wines that I considered particularly memorable from the medal-winners. In this case, there were two that received a Platinum award from my judging panel that went on to take Best-in-category awards, and another that didn’t come from my table, but I just wanted to make sure was on your radar because it’s friggin’ tasty…

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Land Of The Almost Lost (Terre del Principe Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 13, 2017 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, Italian Wine, on the road, wine review
Manuela Mancini

Manuela Mancini

Nestled in the sandy clay soils between the Taburno and Matese mountain ranges in Italy’s Campania region, at about 200 meters above sea level, sit a relatively small number thirty year old lost souls.

Well, almost lost souls, anyway.

Specifically, the “esoteric” grape varieties Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia, rescued in part as a passion project of husband and wife team Peppe and Manuela Mancini, the former lawyer and journalist, respectively, that founded Terre del Principe. (which I visited this year as part of a media tour around the Campania Stories event).

That their vineyard is a land of the almost lost (no Sleestaks, of course) is one of the more charming things about a charming couple who are making mostly charming wines.

Peppe Mancini

Peppe Mancini at Terre del Principe

Peppe Mancini, in remembering the Pallagrello wines form his youth, sought out the vines and ended up finding them in this vineyard, which turned out to belong to one of his family members. Until recently, Pallagrello Bianco wasn’t even in the National Register of winemaking grapes. Seemingly, it had fallen out of favor when the Bourbons fell during the unification of Italy (King Ferdinand IV had taken a liking to it), and had never recovered.

Similarly, Casavecchia (taking its name from an “old house” where the vine was found growing in Pontelatone) had been relegated to small-time, rustic production until Mancini helped to spearhead its rediscovery in the 1980s.

Along with cellarmaster Luigi Moio, Peppe makes the wines of Terre del Principe (while Manuela, as she modestly states, “just drinks it.”) in Castel Campagnano tufo cellar that dates back to the 10th century (the well in the 15th Century entrance is now used for lowering French oak barrels into the cellar space), and was likely part of the Longobardo castle’s external warehouses.

Everything about Terre del Principe seems similarly, charmingly small, and modestly adjusted only where absolutely necessary. The vineyards pergola training (a hold-over from the past, to protect the grapes from wild boar) is still in use, though modified slightly to reduce vigor. Production has recently been culled back to 20,000 bottles per year (“It’s higher quality,” notes Manuela, “and less work!”). And the wines, in turn, seem all the better for it…

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“Confusion Will Be My Epitaph” (Vino 2017 NYC Highlights)

VINO2017 NYC tasting 1

Today’s theme is… confusion.

Where to start…

Ok, firstly, earlier this year I attended VINO2017 in NYC, the annual exposition of Italian wine, during which dozens of producers pour there wares. And so naturally, I am only going to talk about three of those dozens of producers.

Secondly, my highlights reel includes a sparkling… Gavi.

Thirdly, one of the producers I am about to mention has the word Grillo in the title, but hails not from Sicily in the south, but from Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the north. And they don’t produce a wine made from Grillo.

Oh, and for some of these wines, I don’t have prices or vintages. But I felt compelled to write about them anyway, because of their deliciousness.

See, it’s all perfectly clear, right?

No? Crap. Ok, look, just run with it an get these wines on your jaded little radar already, okay?…

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We Like Mike (Miguel Torres Chile Recent Releases)

Miguel Torres Chile Vines

Those visiting Miguel Torres Chile‘s charming little restaurant spot, but without bringing a requisite sense of winemaking history along with their appetites, are likely to come away thinking that this  pioneering Spanish wine brand’s foray into Chile consists of some tasty juice and really good food, the end.

In the infamous words of the USA’s 45th president (who, incidentally, was elected to that office the night before I arrived at Miguel Torres Chile during a media tour):

wrong

Admittedly, the wine biz (spectacularly) overuses the concept of context, but Miguel Torres Chile is legitimately a brand that has to be experienced in context for it to make sense.

In 1855, Jaime Torres headed to Cuba and, a mere fifteen years later, returned to Spain stinking rich from time spent in the trade and oil businesses. The Torres family then began a successful wine business in the Penedès, and, in what I am guessing was the manifestation of Torres’ large-scale dreams, built the largest wine vat in the world. Everything went up in smoke during the Spanish Civil War, and it was after rebuilding that things started to get really interesting. The Torres clan eventually went on to pioneer mich of what we’d now consider normal winemaking in Spain, including the planting of international grape varieties, temperature controlled vinification, and the use of French oak barrels.

Fast forward to the present day, and you’ve got fourth generation family member Miguel A. Torres, a chemist by education and an author of several wine books, overseeing much of the family business (including giving approval to the final blends for some of the Chilean wines, to the point where samples sometimes have to be sent to him to taste in Spain)…

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