It is that time of year again – all you hear from all the sides is counting up and down. Top 10s, Top 100s, 10 best of this and 5 best of that, umpteen days until Christmas and only so many days before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, let’s join in and do some counting here as well.
Starting with the closest one, tomorrow (or today, depending on when you will read this post) Wine Spectator will announce its number one wine of the year. Every year Wine Spectator publishes a list of top 100 wines of the year (paid subscribers can access those lists going all the way back to 1988). For now, top 9 wines of 2011 out of the 10 are already announced, and you can find that list on the Wine Spectator web site (the list is open to public until November 27th). Looking at the list, you can find there wines from California, Italy, France, Washington and Portugal, with ratings from 94 to 96 points and prices ranging from $35 to $90. We only have to wait until tomorrow to find out what the Wine Spectator Wine Of the Year 2011will be.
Moving on to the next countdown, there are only 2 days left until the release of Beaujolais Noveau – first wine of 2011 vintage officially released in France in Beaujolais region . Yes, this holiday didn’t exist until 1985, and you can call it just a marketing ploy – nevertheless, it became a modern tradition which is celebrated with midnight releases, parties, food, wine and all appropriate extravaganza. If we look at the trend of last 3-4 years, we actually have something to look forward to – the quality of the Beaujolais Noveau had being steadily increasing, with 2009 being really good, and last year’s, 2010 being even better than the one before. Stop by your neighborhood wine shop, talk to your friends, check your social media outlets – you will definitely find a place to celebrate wine’s new beginnings in style. If you live close to Stamford, CT, I can recommend the place already – stop by Cost Less Wines on Thursday for the taste of Beaujolais Noveau 2011.
Talking about events, here is last, but definitely not least – there are only 3 days left until PJ Wine Grand Tasting. This coming Friday, November 18th at Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City you will have an opportunity (it might be once in a life time opportunity) to try Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug, 2006 Cheval Blanc, 2000 Chateau d’Yquem, 1990 Mouton-Rothschild, 1985 Chateau Haut-Brion, 1952 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva and many other incredible wines, all in one evening. It is still not too late to get your tickets, and you can use discount code Talk-a-Vino to get $10 off your ticket price (here is the link for you to click).
Lastly, I want to report some counting up – I added three more new grapes, thanks to the 2008 Monasterio de Corias Ocho Meses Tinto wine from Spain. The new grapes are Albarin Negro, Carrasquin and Verdejo Negro. The wine was very interesting, with pronounced acidity, limited fruit expression, good minerality and roasted tomatoes on the nose, very food friendly (Drinkability: 7+).
To conclude, I’m curios where you think the Wine Spectator Top Wine of the Year will be from. I’m torn between Oregon and Spain. Oregon is simply because I believe Oregon makes great wines and should be represented in the top 10. At the same time, Spanish wines are getting rapidly growing acceptance, and they are also great in my opinion, so it will be only fair if top wine of the year will be from Spain. Well, we are not going to wait for a long time. If you have any predictions, please share them here. Cheers!
Let’s talk about aging. No, that’s not what you think – not people aging and not the world problems with the aging populations. Let’s talk about aging of the wine. By the way, it appears that second time in the row I’m taking upon popular subject – in previous post we were comparing the wine glasses (post can be found here), and now the wine aging.
With all due respect (based on this phrase, my friend Kfir would tell you right away that I’m about to blast something), I completely disagree with majority of the popular opinion on the subject of wine aging. Open a wine book, read a wine blog, or ask a question on Quora, and for the most part you will get an answer that 95% of the wines are not supposed to be aged and should be consumed within a year or two from the release date.
Based on my personal experience, I disagree with this viewpoint. I can’t put a percentage or a quantity on it, but I believe that well in excess of half of the wines produced in the world (not by the volume, but by the variety of the actual wines) can age very well for 5 to 10 years – and “age well” means “to improve with age”. My biggest problem with aging of the wines is … space. If you want to drink aged wine, you either need a lot of space, or you need [typically] lots of money, as most of the aged wines increase in price. If you have cool and dark area with constant humidity, you can buy wines as they are released. store them and enjoy them later as they evolve and mature. Otherwise, you need to have money and reputable source of the aged wines (improper storage conditions will ruin any wine in no time). Once you solved your space problem, the rest is easy.
How easy is that? How can we know if that bottle of wine will age well – read: improve with age? There are way too many factors affecting aging of the wine, and being able to predict age-worthiness of the wine (age-worthiness means that wine will evolve and taste better in the future) is more art than science. As an example, Matt Kramer, one of my favorite wine writers identifies age worthy wines using characteristic of the mouth-feel, a mid-palate weight of wine in the mouth. Here is my take on the subject. First, yes, of course, some of the wines are meant to be aged – for instance, Beaujolais Noveau is released in November and should be consumed by May of next year. Outside of the wines which are designated by winemakers as “do not age”, majority has some aging potential. I believe the biggest dependecy here is on the winemaker and what she or he want to acheieve with particular wine – if wine is well made, there is a good chance that it will also age well.
Some wines are helped by their “DNA” – under which I mean from what grape and where in the world the wine is made (of course good/bad year matters too). California Cabernet Sauvignon expected to [typically] reach maturity at around 13 years. Bordeaux easily age for 30-50 years. Syrah-based wines, whether from Australia or France, can live for 50 years. Many 50-years old Riojas are fresh and vibrant as being just made. But “DNA” alone is not enough – wine should be well made in order to age well.
If you are still reading this post, I guess you might be tired by now by this prolonged escapade into the wine aging, and you might be wondering why, why is all that wine aging might be important? Well, I can’t answer this question. At least not before you will find the wine with a little age on it, which will blow you away. Yes, it is an acquired taste. But once you will actually acquire that “mature wine”taste, this is what you are going to crave, I guarantee you.
Let me share some recent and exciting discoveries. Let’s start with 1995 Flora Springs Chardonnay Napa Valley. This wine is made out of 100% Chardonnay. While nose was not very expressive, the level of complexity of this wine is unimaginable. Yes, considering dark golden color, this wine might well be past prime, and without that “acquired taste” for the aged white wine, you might be even upset after the first sip. This wine was exhibiting notes of vanilla which almost moved up to some sort of the almond paste, still showing some acidity. Next are savory notes, almost to the level of saltiness, which was increasing the complexity even further. The wine was in a very stable shape as it tasted the same on the second day as well. Will this wine evolve further? Who knows – but I would be very happy to taste this wine again in five or may be ten years. Drinkability: 8
Next wine is 1992 Domaine de Thalabert Crozes Hermitage from France. Crozes Hermitage wines are made primarily out of Syrah, typically with very small addition of Marsanne and Rousanne grapes. As we mentioned before, Syrah wines age quite well, and this was an excellent example of the well aged Syrah wine. This wine was very playful and soft, with lots of red fruit on the nose and on the palate, very good acidity and good level of tannins. This wine probably will continue evolving for the next five to ten years, and again I will be glad to help you share the bottle later on – if you will have one. Drinkability: 8-
Going back to California, 2001 Lolonis Petite Sirah Redwood Valley. In short – outstanding. This 10 years old wine was completely fresh and beautiful. It is made from organically grown Petite Sirah grape. The wine showed perfect dark fruit, good acidity, full body, excellent tannins and perfect overall balance. This wine might be evolving for the next 10-20 years – again, the trick will be to find it.
Last, but not least, 1991 Justin Cabernet Franc, San Luis Obispo County. This was the “wow” wine, that exact mind-blowing one. First, while I like Cabernet Franc wines, I had no idea they can age so well. I can literally guarantee that in the blind tasting format, very very few people would be able to guess the age of this wine. Deep garnet color, not a hint of age (no brownish overtones at all). Perfect fresh fruit, soft and luscious, perfect balance of tannins and acidity. This wine was the oldest in the tasting, and it was definitely best of tasting. Considering how good is was now, I can’t even guess how much time it has left – but I would be very glad to find a few more bottles to be “wowed” again in the future. Drinkability: 9-
One note before we conclude – this was a rare case of someone doing all the hard work, and me enjoying the results – I got all wines from Benchmark Wine Company and each one of them had been less that $20.
Don’t know if got the desire to seek well aged wines – I hope you will one day. For now, I can only wish upon myself, my family, all my friends and all of you, my readers, to age as beautifully as this Justin Cabernet Franc does. Cheers!
Let’s say in you are in a wine store. Bottles, bottles are everywhere. Sometimes you know exactly what you want. Sometimes you don’t – and this is when it becomes challenging. How do you know if that bottle of wine is any good? Price is really not an indicator of quality. You can’t try the wine ( at least in majority of cases). Yes, you can ask for the advice – then it really depends what store you are at (some of the store advices should be avoided at all costs). So, what do you do? Of course using your iPhone is always an option, but this is not where I’m going right now. One possible solution is to look at the back label, which all the wines in US have to have. Look for the name of the importer. And if it says “Michael Skurnik” or “Kermit Lynch”, you should smile, because you just learned that chances of this bottle of wine being good just increased dramatically.
Why, you are asking? Michael Skurnik Wines is so called “importer” (they are also a wholesaler, but this information is typically not advertised on the label). It means that Michael Skurnik Wines company (MSW) works with thousands and thousands of wineries and other wine merchants all over the world to find the wines which will pass through their rigorous selection process and will be represented by Michael Skurnik Wines.
The wines chosen to be carried in the portfolio might not be all your favorite – but they all will be quality well made wines. It means that MSW folks are doing all the hard work of selecting the best wines for you, and all you need to do is to enjoy the fruits of labor.
Few times a year wine importers and wholesalers organize special wine tasting events to present their portfolio to the trade. I was lucky to attend Michael Skurnik Wines Spring Grand Tasting, and I would like to share some of my personal highlights.
First and foremost, my personal “Best of tasting” is Peter Michael wines. Four 2009 Chardonnays were presented in the tasting (“Mon Plaisir”, “La Carriere”, “Belle Cote” and “Ma Belle-Fille”) – tremendous, all four are the best Chardonnays I ever tasted. Finesse and absolute balance – vanilla, toasted oak and butter all being present, but in absolute harmony with bright acidity, fruit and silky smooth tannins. I would put drinkability for all four at 9+. Just so you know, these are the cult wines, which affects the pricing and availability. These wines are available only through the mailing list or through select merchants – you might be able to find them at Wades Wines and Benchmark Wine Company.
The next highlight was amazing line of Barolos. Mix of 2005, 2006, 2007 Barolos from Azella, Manzone, Renato Corino, Marengo, Altare, Clerico, Cavalotto – one was better than another, all beautiful and powerful wines. Anyone of the names I mentioned are worth seeking.
While the Barolos were great, they had a group of contenders, which were literally as good. Wines of Aldo Rainoldi come from the area in Lombardy region called Valtellina. These wines are produced from the same grape as all Barolos – Nebbiolo, with all the vineyards located at the very high altitude of 600+ meters (1800+ feet). I tried four different Aldo Rainoldi wines – 2007 Sassella, 2005 Crespino, 2006 Inferno Reserva and 2007 Sfursat Classico – all being truly outstanding and very comparable with great Barolos, but at the half price as the least.
In addition to all the wines in the tasting (about 700), there were some stronger spirits as well. One of the surprises was Calvados I tried. Calvados is a brandy which is made out of apples in the Calvados region of Normandy in France. Typically, I can drink it, but it is not something I would be seeking out. However, two of the Calvados presented at the tasting – Camut Calvados 6 years old and Camut Calvados Resreve 12 years old were simply incredible. Soft, smooth, elegant, great aroma of fresh apples, very delicate balance. They will not be easy to find, but I would highly recommend you will make an effort. You can try your luck at D&M, and believe me, you will not be disappointed.
That’s all, folks. There were many many more great wines, but you got to stop somewhere, right? Until the next time – cheers!
You might be as surprised as I was, walking into my local wine store (Cost Less Wines and Liquors, of course) an finding Petit Verdot from Jumilla region in Spain! Let me explain the “surprise” element. Petit Verdot is very rarely used as a single grape to produce a wine. To be more precise, it is primarily is blending grape, used in Bordeaux wines to fortify the structure. It is typically added in the 10% or less quantities. I have to note that in the past 5-10 years, the grape became more popular for single grape bottling, especially in the New World, places like Australia, Chile and United States. Actually, Petit Verdot from Jamesport vineyard on Long Island I tried last year was amazing ( you can read the post here), but it was equally priced at $100 per bottle. But again, this is new world, and Spain is really not in the New World when it comes to wine (fine, may be it is, depending on the region – but this should be a subject for another post).
Then comes another part of the surprise – Petit Verdot is really not a typical grape for Jumilla region. Typically, wines from Jumilla are made out of grape called Monastrell. A lot of Monastrell wines ( inexpensive, needless to say) have a grapey taste to them and many of them don’t belong to the group of “my favorites”. Of course, there are wines like El Nido by Bodegas El Nido (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre, 97 rating by Robert Parker), which are totally different, but even those are rare for the area. Still, 100% Petit Verdot?
Please meet 2007 Nudo, Single Vineyard Petit Verdot from Jumilla DO, Spain. It is 100% Petit Verdot, aged for 6 month in French oak. Very balanced, beautiful fruit expression complemented by the notes of tobacco and hint of leather. It is not as concentrated as that Jamesport Petit Verdot was, but still very nice and pleasant wine to drink. At $12.99 – it is your great winning every day wine, hands down. Drinkability: 8-
Pleasant surprises are the best – as the wine world delivers better and better wines, be on a lookout for more great unusual wines from unusual places. Cheers!
Value Wines – it was a fun project. Of course the subject of value wines is endless – there are many blogs fully dedicated to the value wines. However, for me it was a project – here is group of wines, all wines are under $12, let’s see how this group will fare.
I believe the results of this project are in line with the general notion of great improvement in the quality of wines across all regions in the world (I’m sure you read about it in many places). Only one wine out of 15 was really not drinkable, couple of wines were at the border of decency, but majority was quite drinkable with few wines being simply excellent (don’t forget – we are talking about value wines under $12, not first growth Bordeaux).
I’m glad to say that the last wine I tried in the project was one of those excellent wines. 2005 Telha d’Ouro Vinho Regional Estremadura ($6.99), blend of two Portuguese noble grapes – 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Touriga Franca. The wine exhibited blackberries and soft plum on the nose. More ripe plums on the palate together with tobacco and hint of pepper. Tannins were hiding at the beginning ( wine had to breathe for about 30 minutes), then opened very powerfully (may be even over-powering). Presence of good acidity makes this wine nicely balanced. It also shows long finish. All in all, excellent wine and deserves drinkability rating of 8.
I also want to mention that I really love back labels on the Portuguese wines. A lot of wines sold in us have a government warning on the back label, plus sometimes a note explaining how much love went into that particular bottle of wine. Sometimes you can find useful information, but this rather an exception than a norm. When it comes to Portuguese wines, they practically always have a great back label which provides a lot of useful and interesting information, such as grape composition, type of soil, how the wine was fermented, suggested serving temperature and so on ( you can see for yourself). Don’t know about you, but this is type of information I’m typically interested in.
That’s all for this project. I will be glad to see your comments regarding your own value wine experiences, and I wish you all lots of good wine discoveries. Cheers!
So far I would say that the outcome of the project is very encouraging – a lot of good, very drinkable wines from all regions mentioned above, all priced very well. The wine from Oregon, 2009 Primarius Pinot Noir, however, I would have to call the biggest surprise of the project. Why so? It is not surprising that we can find good and inexpensive wines coming from Portugal, for instance – wine region is grossly ignored and underrated ( this is changing, though), so the winemakers have to price their wines accordingly. Oregon wines, on another side, are well known worldwide as source of the Pinot Noirs, rivaling those of Burgundy – and so far my experience with any Oregon Pinot Noir under $15 had being largely negative (wimpy and diluted wines).
All in all, Primarius Pinot Noir ($11.99) was very good wine – smokiness and finesse of the classic Pinot Noir, layered and restrained fruit and very good balance – I think this is great wine for the price (and even in general). I will put Drinkability at 7+.
Next wine comes from Italy – 2009 Tedeschi Valpolicella Classico ($10.98), and it has both good and bad sides. For the bad side – the wine never came together in a glass. It tasted as all the taste elements – fruitiness, acidity, tannins and alcohol were pulling in the different directions. The wine is drinkable, but not really enjoyable – by itself. I would guess this is a food wine – paired together with some homemade marinara sauce over fresh pasta, it should taste ( and fare) quite differently. For now, I will put Drinkability at 6+. For the good side, I’m adding 3 new grapes with this wine – Rossignola, Negrara and Dindarella, so the total count increases to 312.
Three more wines from Portugal – 2009 Caves Vale do Rodo, Douro DOC ($6.98), 2003 Primavera Douro DOC Reserva ($6.98) and 2007 Monte Da Cal Vinho Regional Alentejano ($6.47). All three are very nice and simple wines, easy to drink and pleasant – and great value for the money. I will put Drinkability at 7 for all three.
This concludes Value Wines project update for today. Few more wines are left to try in the current batch – as usual, report will be coming soon.
Few more wines to report on in the Value Wines project. First, 2007 Rengo Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso ($11.98). Valpolicella Ripasso is a little brother (or a sister, take your liking) of Amarone wines, which are my favorite red wines (when they are done right). Ripasso wines made from the second pass of the grapes already used to produce Amarone wines, hence the name “second pass”. So if anything, you should expect that Ripasso wine will resemble the Amarone wine itself. And it actually does in case of this Rengo Ripasso. This wine needs a bit of time for breathing, and then it resembles Amarone with sweet raisiny nose, and then soft fruit and very balanced tannins and acidity. This wine also has medium finish and it is easy to drink. Drinkability: 8-.
The next wine is from France – 2009 Barc Vallee Borgueil Les Castines ($9.98). Borgueil wines are made out of Cabernet Franc grape. It is not easy to find a good Cabernet Franc wine, especially in this project’s price range. This wine was very nice and gentle, with good earthiness on the palate, good balance, good acidity. This wine is definitely food friendly and should work well with many dishes. It will also drink well over the next 3-4 years. Drinkability: 7+ .
The next wine in the series is called Caves Bonifacio from Portugal ($3.98). I typically avoid writing bad reviews – unfortunately, this particular wine was so bad, it tasted ” chemically engineered”, very unnatural. So it made it for the first bad bottle in the series (first out of 9). I will not even rate Drinkability here as the wine was undrinkable (had to go down the drain). Hopefully the next bottle will be better.
One more update not related to the value wines project. As you might know, I reached my goal of trying wines with 300 grapes for the Treble status in Wine Century club. However, the journey of discovery continues. I just had an opportunity to try another 8 new grapes, and I have another 5 to add shortly. Therefore, I’m continuing the journey without setting the goal of becoming Quattro member, and I changed the “treble status” section to the “grape count”, which will reflect the current state of this process. Will I make it to the quattro level? Who knows – but I will definitely have fun trying.
And one last note – few days ago, I was able to try some truly amazing wines – so be on a lookout for the interesting updates.
Continuing the value wines explorations, the next wine is 2007 E. Guigal Cotes do Rhone ($10.99 at the same Bottle King). E.Guigal is a very good producer making great wines in both Northern and Southern Rhone. While I keep dreaming of La Landonne (1985 vintage – Wine Spectator 100 points, many wines are rated at 99), regular E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone wines are typically quite good as well.
2007 was one of the greatest vintages in Cotes du Rhone, and it is showing through many different wines. This particular 2007 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone wine (87 rating from Wine Spectator) showed off quite well. Dark ruby color, with good nose of red fruit, extremely concentrated on the palate. Even on the second day, the initial layer of soft fruit was intercepted by aggressive cherry pit spice with undertones of pepper, slowly mellowing down to a nice wine.
This wine needs time to fully open up, so it can safely spend a few years in the cellar. At this point, I would give this wine Drinkability rating of 7 – but again , this might improve quite rapidly.
So far we have 2 good wines under $11.99 – and this story will be continued…
It is great when your wine budget is unlimited – no doubts. But this is typically not the case. Are you destined to drink bad and boring wines in such a case? I believe the answer is no – and to test it, I decided to try different wines with only one common characteristic – none of them should cost more than $11.99 for regular size bottle.
Finding good wines in this price range is not easy – there are only some regions which will deliver decent wines in that category. For instance, I wouldn’t look for Californian wines – in that price range I find many wines literally indistinguishable and boring. Same with Chile and Australia. Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of great value wines coming from Chile, Australia or California – but you really have to cross that $12 border line.
Where do you look for value? I believe Portugal, Italy and France can provide what we are looking for, so – here I go. To implement this project, I went to Bottle King store in Glen Rock, New Jersey, which is a part of Bottle King chain of liquor stores. Bottle King has great selection of reasonably priced wines from Portugal, Italy, France and of course many other regions. I got there a number of wines in the $3.98 to $11.99 range, which I will be reporting on in this series.
First wine in the series happened to be 2009 Ciconia, an Agarones/Syrah/Touriga Nacional blend from Alentejano region in Portugal, priced at $6.98. The wine had beautiful dark purple color. On the nose, it had a scent of fresh red berries, with the touch of pepper. On the palate it was nice young wine, a bit jammy at the beginning with red and dark fruit and hint of pepper and leather coming in the second wave. The wine had good acidity and a bit sharpness on the edges, which should mellow out as it will age. Definitely excellent wine for the price. Should be good with food, and should cellar nicely for another 3-4 years (or at least I think so). I will put Drinkability at 7+.
Pretty good for the beginning – I can only hope that the next bottle will be as good or better. Don’t worry, you will be the first to know…
I was planning for a completely different post today. And then I saw a bottle of 2007 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero. It was not possible to resist – I loved 2006, great wine, so getting a first sip of 2007 was extremely appealing.
Power. Fruit. Layers. Tannins. More Tannins. It will be a great wine - but it needs time. When you take a first sip, the wine is literally aggressive – there is tremendous concentration of tannins. This wine supposedly was aged in French and American oak – judging from the “tannin attack” concentrated right in front of the tongue, I would think it was mostly new french oak barrels – of course, this is only my opinion, not a fact.
When the wine has such level of concentration and tannins, it creates an interesting pairing with something sweet, like jam (of course chocolate and red wine is classic pairing). I tried this wine with Sarabeths Strawberry Peach spreadable fruit, and it was delicious. And after about three hours, this wine managed to release itself a bit from the tannins hold, and started showing some fruit – but boy, does it need time… At present, I will give it drinkability of 8.
I also want to share my … I guess, frustration, with many of the wines from 2007 vintage. There is a claim of “greatness” associated with 2007 vintage at least in a few regions – California Cabernet and Rhone wines from 2007 defined across the board as literally “vintage of the century”. I didn’t see similar claim regarding Rioja and Ribero del Duero wines, but 2007 is still regarded as good. And I find striking similarities in the taste of 2007 California cabs, Cote du Rhone and now Ribera del Duero – they all share this initial aggressiveness, which takes hours and sometimes days to mellow out. And at the same time, I find 2006 from exact same regions to have the same power and finesse, but a lot softer and more approachable.
Well, the time will tell. For now, I just need more space in my cellar, to store those 2007s… To Patience – friend and a suitor of wine connoisseur!
Search This Site