Posts Filed Under wine review
Wine Blogging Wednesday #41 (hosted this month over at Fork & Bottle) has us pondering the mountainous Northeast corner of Italy, as the wine blogging community explores the white wines of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Too bad we’re not exploring their reds too, since this region grows some totally kick-ass Cabernet blends, having almost completely re-worked its approach to quality winemaking and viticulture since its vineyards were wiped out in the 19th Century by that nasty pet phylloxera (more history available in the excellent Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia).
The wine I chose for WBW (see inset pic from my kitchen counter) was Conte Brandolini D’ADDA Tocai Friulano 2005, from the Grave DOC in Fruili. Surprisingly, I found a decent selection of Friuli whites at the local wine shop here in the Communist-wealth of Pennsylvania. And I got it for $14 (sah-weeeeet! – Wire Chicken NOT included, of course).
But before I review this wine, I need to give you a quick bit of insight into why I can’t stand reviewing wines sometimes…
Outside of contributions to WBW, I don’t normally review wines at this blog. That’s because when I do decide to review a wine, someone with wine street cred that kicks the crap outta mine goes and reviews the exact same wine! In this case, it was the awesome Mary Ewing-Mulligan. I know what you might be asking yourself: “Self, I wonder if that’s the same Mary Ewing Mulligan who co-wrote the hugely successful Wine For Dummies, is president of the International Wine Center, and was the first woman in the U.S. to become a Master of Wine?“
Yeah, that Mary Ewing Mulligan. She also happened to discuss this wine in person with the Italian Count who produces it. So I’m not sure how I’m gonna top that.
Mary, if you ever read this post, I formally challenge you to an arm-wrestling contest for a bottle of `82 Mouton Rothschild. But since I know your brother and he’s a great guy, I might let it slide and settle for a lesser vintage…
Anyway, back to Friuli – this is a region of great diversity in its winemaking, and subsequently great diversity – and confusion – in the flavor profiles for its wines. Tocai Friulano is no exception. Depending on who you talk to and what wine books you read, it’s a light-bodied wine and full-bodied wine. It’s a nutty wine. It’s a spicy wine. Or it’s a fruity wine.
The flavor profile isn’t the only thing nutty or fruity about TF. According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, TF’s name is also the stuff of total confusion: It’s known as Sauvigonasse, but many speculate that it has no relation whatsoever to Sauvignon Blanc. “Tocai” suggests some relationship to the famous Tokay of Hungary (made from Furmint grapes), but that connection is so specious that the Italians have agreed with Hungary to eventually drop Tocai from the TF name altogether. And TF bears no relationship at all to Tokay d’Alsace (which is better known as Pinot Grigio, also made in the Friuli region). Confused yet?
One thing that isn’t in dispute is TF’s popularity – it is practically the BudLite of northeast Italy; in other words, it’s ubiquitously planted and consumed in that region.
What’s my take on this wine?
It has a gorgeous pale lemon color. Fairly aromatic, though I was less beguiled by the aroma than Mary was in her review. Citrus and hint of pineapple on the nose. Lots of minerality on the palate (must be the gravelly soil), and some almond there as well. Good body (a bit more than I would have expected at 12.5% alcohol), and very decent, crisp acidity. I enjoyed it a bit more on the second day when it opened up just a tad.
The BudLite of Northeast Italy…? Undeserved, totally, if you’re talking taste. Those who appreciate a nice guilty pleasures will find something to like in this one. Enjoy it with fish – the lighter and whiter, the better – with some mild mango salsa.
Your mileage, as they say, may vary.
If you’re interested in learning more about Italian wines, check out the book Vino Italiano.
I don’t normally review wines on this blog (at least, not so far), but I recently became intrigued by the excellent Wine Blogging Wednesday Community, who post themed monthly reviews of wines.
This month’s theme is being hosted at the Wannabe Wino Blog, and features an ‘underdog’ of a wine – Petite Sirah, also known as Durif.
I live and operate near Philadelphia, which is the ultimate underdog / bum rap city. It was once described as “the city for people too scared to live in New York, and too dumb to live in Boston.”
So I (understandably) have a soft spot for underdogs who get a bum rap. And Petite Sirah often gets a bum rap. As an example, Jancis Robinson described it in her reference book Vines Grapes & Wines as “Rigorous though unsubtle.” Not exactly high praise…
Often blended with Zinfandel to provide structure to its more blowsy tendencies, PS has arguably achieved its apex in California, where it has been planted since the late 1800s. You’d imagine that some of the PS vines in CA are pretty old – and you’d be right. These older vines offer lower yields of more concentrated grapes – and therefore more concentrated wines.
So for WBW #40, it’s to CA we go – I opted for Stags Leap Winery’s 2003 Napa Valley Petite Sirah. Technically this one is a blend, 85% PS with 10% Syrah (of the non-petite variety), and even a little bit of Viognier thrown in for good measure.
So… is this wine unsubtle? At 14.2% alcohol, it’s certainly not subtle. And it could stand a bit of decanting – preferably 6 years’ worth performed in a dark basement in the original unopened bottle. There’s no lack of inky darkness to this wine either (it’s a good pick if you ever find yourself on a haute cuisine dinner date with the Creature from the Black Lagoon), and if you don’t like your blackberry and cherry fruit done ‘in-yo-face’ style, then this is probably NOT the wine for you.
Having said all of that, the power of this wine is balanced with quite a bit of elegance – there is a nice surprise of orange and exotic spice (mostly cinnamon) on the nose. In your mouth, the tannins are abundant but not too astringent (think ‘pleasantly chewy’), and the sting of all that alcohol is kept mostly in check by a mix of vanilla and chocolate flavors. I enjoyed mine with roast beef, but matching this sucker with grilled bison would really be the bomb.
My verdict: take the Leap.
PS – I love you… Sort of…
So… what does a 40 year old wine taste like?
This past New Year’s Eve, Ker & I stopped by Cosimo to grab a glass of bubbly with Jason (the Wine Director). After a bit, Jason paused during our conversation at the bar and gave me that look – the look that serious only wine geeks give each other when they have SSS (some serious [email protected]*t.
It’s the “let me show you what we’ve got in the decanter, but don’t tell anyone else, man” look.
They had cracked open a bottle of 1967 Chateau Latour. I’d never had a 40 year old wine before, and Anthony (the venerable Cosimo proprietor) was keen, so Ker & I had a taste. The experience further convinced me of what I’ve been saying for a long time now: Most people shouldn’t age wine.
Now, I am NOT saying that I did not like this wine (I loved it actually); and I’m not saying the wine wasn’t aged / stored perfectly (it was). What I am saying is that most people in the U.S. would fine this wine “interesting” (i.e., “not worth the price tag”).
Why? Because our tastes in this country are like our wars: Big. Bold. In-yo-FACE!
My tasting notes on this wine read like a textbook definition of classic “claret” for the Brits, which is to say that it looks the list of most nuclear family’s kitchen garbage bag contents: cigar, black nuts, pencil shavings, game, “slim jim,” earth (aka ‘dirt’).
I don’t know too many people that would plunk down the serious cash it requires to purchase aged first growth Bordeaux after seeing that list. It wouldn’t be enough to add that this is all normal stuff for a well-aged Bordeaux, or to talk about everything that was sooooo right with this wine (like the delicate tannins and fruit notes on the finish, which was long and strong and lasted until about 4PM the next day I think), or how the integration of all the components showed that this wine aged so beautifully. Most folks in the States simply would not have the patience to wait 40 years for a wine to reach peak maturity anyway – and they might not be happy with the results if they did anyway. Because our tastes are different from that of the Brits.
So who’s right – us, or the Brits?
We’re both right.
The moral of the story: don’t sweat aging / storage of your wine too much. 98% of it will not benefit from aging anyway, and you’ll enjoy it better now while it’s fresh, fruity, and in your face. If you decide you like red wine and want to develop your palate, start experimenting and aging to find out the balance YOU like best between big fruit and lots of tannin vs. the earthy, meaty flavors that will develop with aging.
There’s no right wine answer on aging – apart from your preference. And you’ll only learn your preference after experimenting (not exactly a chore considering all of the great wine to be had out there!).