Is Great Malbec Born, Or Made? (Taste Testing – And Being Tested – At Argentina’s Familia Zuccardi)

Vinted on May 26, 2011 binned in on the road, overachiever wines

Visit Familia Zuccardi, in the Maipú region of Mendoza in Argentina, and any (or all) of three things are likely to happen:

  1. You get stuffed like a veal calf, mostly on splayed goat, beef, and half-a-dozen different preparations of sausages, all done up Argentine Barbeque style.
  2. You fall somewhat under the kind-old-uncle spell of Director José Alberto Zuccardi, or are simply worn down by his seemingly endless wellspring of good cheer and all-around positive vibes.
  3. You realize that there’s good reason why books like Opus Vino call Zuccardi’s “Q” line “the portfolio stand-out.”  If you’re not too stuffed on splayed goat and sausage to pay attention, that is.

Also, you might get tested on your Malbec blending skills (more info. on that – and on whether or not I passed – after the jump).

Despite a 2 million case / year production, Zuccardi still lives up to the “Familia” tag, particularly when they’re stuffing you at lunch and educating you on the proper method of sharing Yerba Mate tea Argentina style. And it’s still a family-run outfit: José’s father planted their first vines in 1963, mostly to show off an alternative use for the construction irrigation system he designed, but he “fell in love with winemaking” (funny how that happens), as José explained it to me (José’s been on board since `76, and his children are now involved in various aspects of the business).

Family ties do not a great wine guarantee, however.  Defining Zuccardi’s “Q” as a “great” Malbec is, of course, a debatable matter, but after tasting through a not-insubstantial amount of Malbecs during my March jaunt through South America, let’s just say that I’m pretty confident telling you that it’s unlikely the “Q” would be considered anything other than at least “damn good” even by those who find Argentina’s signature dark Malbec wines to be a bit too… brutish for their personal tastes.

To understand what I mean by that, I need to take you behind the scenes at Zuccardi, where I got a crash-course (before the barbeque-stuffing) in whether or not Malbec really can show terroir…

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Sedimental Journeys, Touchscreen Style (The Wine Mag Hits The iPad)

Vinted on May 25, 2011 binned in going pro, wine 2.0, wine publications

 

Nomad Editions Uncorked might not be the first iPad-designed electronic wine magazine to hit the virtual iStore shelves (that distinction belongs to the relatively-expensive-when-it-comes-to-these-things $4-a-pop publication By The Grape, whose first issue seems obsessively preoccupied with Jancis Robinson), but as far as I’m aware it’s the first one to mention dog’s sniffing each other’s butts.

I contributed an article to Uncorked’s “Sedimental Journies” section for the May 6, 2011 preview issue of Uncorked, titled “Sippin’ And Sniffin’ With Fido (Wine tips from a true connoisseur: your mutt)” which you can now check out for free (I didn’t write that title, by the way – you can tell because it doesn’t explicitly mention doggie butt-sniffing).  You can subscribe via iTunes for $0.99 a month, which seems a reasonable price to me (but hey, look who’s talking, I don’t even own an iPad).  I think what’s supposed to happen now is that you read the article, then write to the editor to tell him how talented and good-looking I am (and we’re both comfortable enough with each other that we can lie that way, right?)…

The publication of Uncorked comes at a timely moment for me, since I am currently in the processes of helping to rehabilitate Brunello, our recently-rescued, ridiculously-oversized, pitifully-anxious Cane Corso / Doberman mix. Anyway, for those of you playing along at home, things on the rehab front are going… well, okay

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Want Some Wine With That Booze? (The “Parker Effect” And Rising CA Wine Alcohol Levels)

Vinted on May 24, 2011 binned in California wine, commentary, wine news, winemaking

The Center for Wine Economics released a report of a recent study on the sugar levels of wine grapes in California, titled “Too Much of a Good Thing?  Causes and Consequences of Increases in Sugar Content of California Wine Grapes.”  Not sure how new this news is, but it was new to me so I’m yappin’ about it!

While that title of the report doesn’t sound particularly fascinating, the report’s conclusions are – if you’re a wine geek, that is, and if you’re a fan of California fine wine and have ever wondered why alcohol levels seem to be kind of high in the premium vino coming out of that state.  According to the report, it’s not just your imagination – wine grapes in CA have indeed been getting riper over the last twenty years, which translates into higher booze levels, with white grapes bearing the brunt of the increase:

“The data show that the average alcohol percentage increased by 0.30 percent, with a larger increase for white wine (0.38 percent) than for red wine (0.25 percent).  This increase in alcohol percentage is consistent with an increase in the sugar content of the grapes used to make that wine of 0.55 degrees Brix, on average.”

That sugar measurement might look small, but according to the report it’s a “substantial” increase, and it’s that rise in sugar levels that is making CA wines a bit more… busty than they’ve been in the past (I imagine if you were used to drinking CA wine from 20 years ago, drank too much, passed out and pulled a Rip Van Winkle, upon waking up in 2011 you’d be forgiven for thinking that during your extended slumber your fave CA Cab had undergone the vinous equivalent of a boob job).  What this study does that is so fascinating is this: it puts data and critical thinking behind something that many CA wine drinkers may have already suspected… CA fine wines are getting boozier, and it might be the result of the fine wine market

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