It’s been a little while since I was a guest on the eminently entertaining and perennially NSFW We Like Drinking podcast, so I was all-in when they asked me to join a cadre of Jeffs (show hosts Jeff Eckles and Jeff Solomon, and former-Philly-wine-guy Jeff Kralik) for their 98th episode.
Now, since this was a virtual drinking session, we of course all brought some libations. And given my recent deep dive into the world of Port, I thought it only fitting to sip (ok, maybe a bit more than sip) some Portuguese elixir during the WLD podcast…
One thing’s for sure about Quinta de la Rosa, they like their wines bold, but fresh, fruity, and decidedly un-cloying, even in the realm of their dessert wines. Such is the case with their 20 Year Tawny Port, aged in both 550L old oak pipes and tonels, which (true to form with their other Port offerings) is vividly brighter in color than most other Tawnies, and decidedly fresh in its palate vibrancy. Don’ get me wrong, we’re still talking about a pecan pie pairing wine, but even in its dried-fig-iness there are fresher fig and plum aromas and flavors peeking out.
Other than a slightly less oxidized profile, you get everything that you’d expect from an aged Tawny: palate richness, powerful alcoholic presence, baking spices, toasted almonds, liqueur and caramel notes. It’s just all delivered in a mouthfeel that has a lot more lift than one might expect, and, I’d bet, would be dangerously easy to imbibe for anyone within arm’s length distance of an open bottle.
Alessio describes his father as “a crazy man,” and certainly he has a rep in the wine world for possessing the quintessentially Italian trait of bucking convention (which is second only to the quintessentially Italian trait of adhering almost blindly to tradition). This is fortunate for anyone who loves eclectic northern Italian white wines, as Inama is now well-known as producing the thinking person’s Soave. Alessio quoted his father as saying “the first step to making a great wine… is to fire the accountant.” It’s hard not to like such a character (unless you’re his accountant). Especially when he also makes Carmenere (more on that in a minute).
Back in the 70s, Soave had its heyday, being one of the most recognizable Italian wine regions, if not its most famous white wine regional brand. As in all such things, insipidness and market hangover ensued, and by the 1990s Soave wasn’t much considered as the world turned to Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay (though Soave remained popular in its home country). It was during the heyday in the`70s that Alessio’s grandfather, Giuseppe, began buying up small, lava basalt hillside lots in the Soave Classico region (today they own about 30 hectares).
Today, Soave is a bit of a bell curve. At one end, you have insipid, forgettable quaffers; in the middle, a large production of capable, often very good, almost always refreshing sippers best enjoyed in the warmest months; on the tail end, a small number of producers who push the region’s Garganega grape to its physiological – and philosophical -limits…
I, along with three or four other people (ok, it’s not that bad, it just feels that bad), profess to love Riesling, so much so that I actually purchase it with my own hard-earned cash. So I’m not the kind of wine writer to turn down a media invite to the Seattle-hosted Riesling Rendezvous event when it rotates back stateside (alternating in other years with Europe and Australia).
This is my second stint attending RR, and between the 2013 incarnation and this one, held in mid-July 2016, I can give you a rough idea of what positive and negative trends have emerged in Riesling-world.
The state of Riesling, in general. The quality of Riesling fine wines, overall, has rarely been as high as it is right now. Emerging Riesling regions, such as Canada and the U.S. Midwest, are really starting to hold their own with the likes Austria, the Finger Lakes, and even Germany.
The standard-bearers. Alsace, Germany, and Austria – probably the holy trinity of Riesling in terms of what we consider as fine wine standards – showed up and showed off big time at RR 2016. More to come on Alsace in particular in a separate post.
Terroir. Seriously. RR 2016 repeated the panel format of RR 2013, when several dry Rieslings were tasted blind by a panel of experts, as well as a room full of wine media, producers, industry folk, and avid consumers. This format was then repeated for off-dry/sweet Rieslings from around the globe. There were many excellent wines in the lineups, but the trouble came whenever the expert panelists (and the the very knowledgeable audience members) attempted to guess where each wine originated.Our success rates? Maybe 30%. And that’s being generous. The majority of the time, winemakers couldn’t successfully identify their own wines.To me, that suggests that a) several dozen people who do wine (and in some cases, Riesling) for a living don’t know what they’re doing, which seems incredibly unlikely, or b) the quality of Riesling winemaking in general is one the rise, causing a bit of non-threatening conformity, which does seem extremely likely, and c) the common notion among wine peeps that Riesling is a lightning rod grape for the expression of terroir has been significantly overstated. Discuss among yourselves…
Following are what I considered several highlights (about 15 wines, if I’m still able to count correctly) from those panel tastings, so start paying close attention, you Riesling warrior acid-freaks…
Judging in that event has become one of my favorite weekends of the year, thanks in no small part to the competition’s excellent staff, its professional organization, the ever-increasing quality of its wine submissions, and (primarily) the caliber and dispositions of the other judges. The judges list (present company excluded) reads like a Who’s Who compendium of the people who totally rock the judging circuit in the wine biz.
As to the usefulness of such competitions, I’m like a broken record on that topic for the last few years: differentiation is important, and wine competition medals potentially differentiate you from the competition. Interestingly, I’m actually quoted on the same topic in the SFIWC 2016 results press release:
“Wine is an extremely competitive product, and being judged by industry tastemakers and receiving a top award here at the San Francisco Wine Competition can help a wine stand out amongst its peers,” says wine writer, blogger and competition judge Joe Roberts.
Which begs the question: did I really use the word “amongst?” I must have, because Jarvis Communications’s Sam Dependahl was using a voice recorded when he asked me for a quote about it. Dang it!…
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