Posts Filed Under on the road
“I’m going to be honest with you, that smells like pure gasoline.”
We’re not talking about Sex Panther here, people – but we are talking about something that is quite pungent… in a good way…
Riesling. Specifically, a factor that many consider to mark some of the best aged Riesling wines on the planet: an aroma reminiscent of petrol, or vinyl, or rubber. It’s a marker that I’ve encountered in many a fine aged Riesling, including one that has come from arguably the best vintage of the 20th century from arguably world’s best producer of the stuff.
During my recent jaunt to Australia, the group of East Coast Sommeliers with whom I was traveling was treated to an in-vineyard pruning lesson followed by an in-office Clare Valley Riesling Masterclass, headed by Taylor Wines’ Chief Winemaker Adam Eggins. [ Editor’s note: if you enjoy the wines of Taylors (known as Wakefield in the U.S.), then you should silently hope that none of the grapes for future vintages hail from the vines that we mauled that day ]. Like most good Aussies, Eggins is quick-witted, opinionated, and not afraid to hide those opinions even when actually he’s trying to hide them. But even Eggins didn’t quite reveal his hand when he shared with us a French report on the Riesling/petrol phenomenon (shared below, emphasis mine):
“With time, Riesling wines tend to acquire a petrol note (goût petrol in French) which is sometimes described with associations to kerosene, lubricant or rubber. While an integral part of the aroma profile of mature Riesling and sought after by many experienced drinkers, it may be off-putting to those unaccustomed to it, and those who primarily seek young and fruity aromas in their wine. …the German Wine Institute has gone so far as to omit the mentioning of “petrol” as a possible aroma on their German-language Wine Aroma Wheel, which is supposed to be specially adapted to German wines, and despite the fact that professor Ann C. Noble had included petrol in her original version of the wheel.”
Another way of saying that, is that Riesling’s petrol aroma is a fault.
But is it, really?
The answer, I think, is an emphatic NO…
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The conclusion of the recent 2012 Drink Local Wine Conference in Denver was a “taste-off” competition of sorts in which twenty-plus Colorado wine producers each poured two of their offerings, with the media and attendees voting on which of those offerings were the “best” on hand (technically, one producer wasn’t pouring wine, in terms of grape wine, but showcased their Mead – Redstone Meadery, who took the “people’s choice” award for their intriguing Nectar Of The Hops).
As a competition, it was fun but given the levity and structure of the proceedings, it shouldn’t be taken as a be-all, end-all statement on CO wine hierarchy (we are talking about a competition with a quarter of the state’s producers, only pouring two wines each); but gems are gems no matter how or where you happen to uncover them.
I will get to my thoughts on the gems – the winners on the wine side of that taste-off – in just a minute (or three), but first I want to tell you about the clearest winner of the Taste-Off:
While I maintain my stance (firmly, I should add) that the region is a “nascent” producer in that Colorado has not fully cracked the code of what grapes to plant where to consistently produce world-class wines, and while the quality levels between (and even among the offerings within each of the) producers is still way too broad (there’s plenty of mediocre wine to be had), I can also tell you emphatically that there seems to be no ceiling for Colorado wine’s quality potential.
Colorado is already making world-class wines – it just happens to be in tiny quantities and can’t be made consistently enough (quite a bit of that being due to extreme vintage variation brought on by the intensity of its continental, high-elevation climate). And while you’re certainly likely to find some real clunkers in CO (its bad wines are epic in their terribleness), the best ones really are gems worth wading through the muck to unearth; in some cases – particularly in the case of one of the DLW Taste-Off winners – CO wine has already arrived…
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As you know… I live in Tuscaaaaaaaaaaaaaany…
Oh, wait, that’s some other guy who critiques wines and makes videos.
Let’s try this again… As some of you know, I was in Colorado recently, touring the Western Slopes wine regions of Grand Valley and (the really high elevation of) West Elks, and finishing up by attending Drink Local Wine 2012 in Denver, courtesy of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
During DLW 2012, one of the panels, titled “Local Food, Local Wine, and Why They Don’t Like Each Other” (manned by Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post and co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com; Rene Chazottes from Pacific Club in Newport Beach; Evan Faber of Salt in Boulder; and Jensen Cummings from the stellar Row 14 in downtown Denver), explored the sometimes rocky relationship between local wines and local restaurants – namely exploring the open question (I’m paraphrasing here):
“Why don’t more local restaurants stock local wines, when they almost always stock local produce without much hesitation?”
This was a discussion I found timely and poignant, seeing only a day earlier how tightly Western Slopes business like the rugged-turned-luxury (and stellar) Smith Fork Ranch incorporate their local wine producers into their wine lists and menus.
Answers varied, but there was no shortage of heated debate about whether or not local restaurants should or should not be stacking the deck in favor of local wines. To understand why this isn’t such a no-brainer, I think we need to first look at local restaurants as not actually being that local…
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