Posts Filed Under on the road

Back From The Dead: Casca Wines Battles To Save Ramisco

Vinted on April 11, 2013 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine industry events, wine review

It’s not often that you hear a winemaker say things like this about one of their wines:

“We don’t care if people like it or not; if not, I’ll drink it!”

And yet, that’s exactly what Casa Wines’ Helder Cunha said to me earlier this year in New York City, when I worked my way through a tasting of the 50 Great Wines of Portugal as selected by MW/MS Doug Frost. Cunha was talking about a wine he makes from the grape Ramisco; and he feels passionately about the wine, because its made from a grape that is a “dying variety, even in Portugal.”

It’s a rare grape, even in a country known for its small plantings of nearly-extinct grape varieties, and one of which few wine geeks have ever heard. But Cunha seems determined not to let Ramisco go gently into the dark night.

Casa Wines sources its Ramisco fifteen hectares of a vineyard on Portugal’s west coast, a cool and foggy area known as Colares on the southwestern edge of Lisboa. You could, apparently, just about spit into the ocean from the vineyard. These old vines, literally on the beach, aren’t even head-trained. Cunha knew he wouldn’t get much out of them, but viewed them as special and was determined not to let them get grubbed up even as Ramisco became a footnote in a country known for grape variety footnotes.

“Instead of ripping this up,” he told me, “we said, ‘let’s see what happens’…”

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Righting Wine Award Wrongs (Merced del Estero 2012 Mil Vientos Torrontes)

Vinted on April 4, 2013 binned in on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

Merced del Estero, in the über-sunny San Juan region of Argentina, has been tending vineyards under the care of the familia Rodriguez  for three generations, since 1897.

But it took me just one iteration of the annual

Argentina Wine Awards to help screw them up a little bit.

MdE was one of the producer visit stops for a group of about half of AWA judges that followed the awards judging, seminar and winners’ gala in February. It was also one of the most unassuming – twelve hectares of estate vineyards, west of the Tulum Valley, close enough to the Andes to be impacted by the hot sonda winds, and sitting about 700 meters above sea level (which sounds impressive, but that’s about average for a lot of fine wine grapegrowing in the high elevation dessert of Argentina).

The first thing that you notice about the Rodriguez family vineyards – if you’re a geek like me, I mean – is that many of the vines are trained in pergolas, reaching fairly high off the ground. The second thing you’ll notice is that the Bonarda (planned to be introduced to the MdE lineup this year) on the sunnier, exposed areas of the pergola are practically… raisins.

Which you’d resemble, too, if you were openly exposed to that punishing sun for as long as they are…

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Results Of The 2013 Argentina Wine Awards

Vinted on March 21, 2013 binned in on the road, wine industry events, wine review

Last month, I was away in Mendoza playing Team America as an International judge in the 2013 Argentina Wine Awards. The AWAs were followed by a seminar that centered on the topic of how to reach “next generation” (Millennial) wine consumers. Today, I’m going to focus on the Trophy results of the AWAs – but believe me, a lot more is coming on the seminar and the topic of Millennial wine drinkers (including thoughts on the wines that my co-judges believed appealed to those next gen drinkers) later.

I’ve two main takeaways from the 2013 AWAs, which are organized by Wines of Argentina (who footed the bill for my participation) and Hunt & Cody (a UK-based team consisting of MW Jane Hunt and Tina Cody):

1) I was self-conscious just to be in the same room as the rest of the judges, all of whom I felt outranked me in terms of tasting prowess, winemaking knowledge and industry accomplishments (I feel privileged to have made fast friends with many of them), and

2) If you try to taste thirteen Gold Medal winning Malbecs in only a few minutes and rank them in order of preference so that a Trophy winner can be determined, you will destroy your palate’s ability to taste anything (including coffee, tea, air, water and, I suspect, crude oil) for several minutes afterward.

The entire process of judging was incredibly fun (despite being shut up in a large conference room in the Diplomatic hotel while the sun was raging all Summer-style outside our windows), and enjoyed seeing the different tolerances we all had as tasters. For example, the UK judges putting up with more Brett (having ben schooled on Old World / Western European wines), the Chinese judge having a higher tolerance for oxidation (because so much international wine reaches her only after it’s been impacted by oxygen), the Argentine winemaking judges almost universally accepting high levels of VA (sought after to smooth out the mouthfeel of those tersely tannic Malbecs).

As for yours truly, receiving boatloads of California samples has taken its toll: I clearly had higher tolerances for oak influences and riper fruits. Sigh

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