It seems that the weeks are flying – I know that I prefer them at the crawling pace, but – not much I can do, right? Okay, let’s start with the answer to the Wine Quiz #35, What is missing. The wine quiz was dedicated to Tempranillo as we will celebrate tomorrow (November 8th) an International Tempranillo Day, and it was asking to fill the gaps in the group of numbers which were related to Tempranillo.
Of course it was obvious that the chain of numbers represented years. And both VinoinLove and thedrunkencyclist figured out that the years represented the best vintages of Rioja – however, they both only got one of the “best vintages” correctly. The 2001 was a great vintage, absolutely, but the vintage of the last century was 1964, not 1970. Here is the reference to the best Rioja vintages from the Vibrant Rioja web site, so you can check all the great vintages for yourself. We don’t have a winner this time, but hey, there is always a next time…
Now, I need your help with something. If you read the Meritage post from the last Wednesday, I mentioned that I’m fighting the writer’s block and trying to write a post for the wine blogging competition. So I managed to overcome the block and wrote the post (here is the link) – and if you like it, I need your vote! You can vote for it here - just scroll down to the bottom of the page and find the link to my blog there. Thank you!
Now, let’s proceed with “interesting stuff” part of the Metritage. First, the next three Thursdays, we will be celebrating different holidays – of course, they are drastically different in scale, but nevertheless, they all fall on Thursday. Tomorrow, November 8th, we are celebrating International Tempranillo Day. It is very easy to take part in the festivities – just find a bottle of Tempranillo wine (Rioja or Ribera del Duero from Spain, or may be some Texas wine?), pull the cork and enjoy (and if you really like it, write a blog post about it or tweet about it, or leave the comment in this blog).
The next Thursday, November 15th, is Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 Day. This year will actually mark 30th anniversary of the Beaujolais Nouveau celebration – you should definitely look for the festivities around you, and as usual, get a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau (I have to say that the wine had been steadily improving its quality over the past few years) and enjoy!
And then the Thursday after that, November 22 is…what, Thanksgiving is already here? Yep, Turkey day is arriving in mere two weeks. There is always a question of wines for the Thanksgiving celebration, so here is my post from the last year – I’m sure the actual wines will be different this year, but the ideas will be the same.
Last (but may be not least) – do you think wine reviews can get you sued? Here is the post by Steve Heimoff – if anything, it is an interesting read.
That’s all for today, folks – the glass is empty. Cheers!
It is Saturday, people, and therefore it is time for the wine quiz!
Next Thursday, November 8th, will be an International Tempranillo day. As Tempranillo makes some of my all time favorite wines, I think it would be only appropriate to dedicate this quiz to the Spain’s “noble” grape.
When I was thinking about this post, I went over a lot of interesting facts about Tempranillo, and I couldn’t come up with the right question or a set of questions to ask. As I didn’t come up with the straightforward question, I will have to ask you for the straightforward answer (my logic is perfect, isn’t it).
Below is a group of numbers which have a direct relationship to the Tempranillo. You will need to figure out what those numbers mean and tell me what two numbers are missing and why do you think they should be there:
1934, 1948, 1952, 1955, 1958, ?, 1982, 1994, 1995, ? 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011
If you like Tempranillo wines this quiz will not be too difficult.
Have a great weekend and good luck! Cheers!
For today’s wine quiz, let’s talk about grapes, or more precisely, about the grape names. Just to make sure wine consumers are sufficiently confused, one and the same grape is called something completely different in various regions around the world. For instance, the grape which we know as Pinot Noir, is also known as Pinot Nero in Italy, Pinot Franc in the eastern-European countries, Spätburgunder in Germany and Blauburgunder in Austria.
Tempranillo is a grape which is used in production of many wonderful wines all over the world. It is particularly popular in Spain, where it is used to produce magnificent Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines, as well as in Portugal and many other countries. Tempranillo also has one the largest numbers of synonyms compare to the majority of other grapes, which makes it a good subject for today’s quiz.
Below you can see a number of grape names which are synonyms with Tempranillo – all except one. Can you identify which one is it?
Have fun! Cheers!
Once again, we got together with the group of friends to play a fun game of blind wine tasting. This time the subject was Spain (in the past we had a lot of fun blind tasting Pinot Noir and Sparkling wines – you can read the posts here and here).
Why Spain? Spanish wines are getting a lot of recognition among wine lovers of all walks. On average, they deliver the best quality for the price (QPR) among most of other wine regions, and in the end end of the day they simply taste great and deliver lots of pleasure. So the theme was set, the bottles wrapped (every participant have to bring a bottle wrapped in paper bag) and opened, and the numbers are randomly assigned to the bottles.
We had total of six wines, all red. The idea would be may be to identify the grape (an added bonus, of course), but mainly to see a consensus as to which wine would be the most favorite of the group – blind tasting has a great leveling effect – you are not intimidated by the price or a label, so you can stay true to your taste buds. Just to set the stage as to what are the most popular Spanish grapes, I prepared the following cheat sheet, which I’m including here in its entirety:
Off we went, so for what it worth, here are my notes as I took them during tasting – no corrections afterwards:
1 brick dust on the nose, good acidity, pepper – tempranillo
2 young wine, good fruit, open – mencia, monastrell?
3 earthy, tame fruit, age, good fruit, dark color, great acidity, pomegranate, smokiness
4 feels like it is corked, but I hope it is not. Fruit at the bottom. Final verdict – corked.
5 beautiful, most balanced, good fruit, plums- Grenache?
6 classic Rioja, cherries, acidity, best of tasting.
So, reading the descriptions, what do you think those wines are? This is always not an easy guess, as your mind is racing trying to pinpoint taste, texture and any other sensations you are experiencing at the moment against your mental database of the wines you tasted (that database is either resisting and says “nothing found” or goes all the way and says “it is similar to all 10 of these”).
And here are the actual wines:
1. 2004 Bodegas Muga Rioja Selection Especiale
2. 2009 D. Ventura Vina Caneiro Ribeira Sacra DO
3. 2005 Arrayan Syrah, Mentrida DO
4. 2004 Bodegas Ondarre Rioja
5. 2009 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso, Ribero del Duero
6. 1994 Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva
Now for the popularity vote, here is how it works. Everybody can vote for up to two wines (but don’t have to). If there will be one wine which will receive a majority of the votes, it will be declared a winner. If two bottles will receive the same number of votes, we would vote again for the one favorite out of the two.
Can you guess which wine won? If you guessed “Bodegas Campillo” (as the very least judging by the label to the left), you are correct. It won by the unanimous vote – everybody liked it. Distant second was Arrayan Syrah (half of the group voted for it). Bodegas Campillo was classic and pure Rioja, with all the clean flavors of cherries and cedar box, great acidity and very fresh, not even a hint of 17 years of age. Arrayan Syrah was probably the most unusual and unexpected wine in the group – beautiful, balanced, and very pleasant to drink. But just to give due respect to all 6 wines we tasted, all except the corked bottle were very good wines, worthy of being in the competition.
If you feel encouraged to try blind tasting on your own, I would suggest to avoid doing it for the whole country. Single region or a single grape (or a stable blend, such as GSM or Bordeaux) would work much better to showcase the range of possibilities. But other than this remark, I think blind tasting is the best way to learn about your wine preferences, to have great experience and to have fun! If you got blind tasting experiences of your own – please share them here! Cheers!
Celebrate Two Noble Grapes in One Day – What Are You Drinking Tonight? #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay
I’m honestly puzzled, but somehow September 1st had being declared an international #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay – it feels like there are not enough days in the calendar to properly celebrate all the grapes? Anyway, it is what it is, right? And the celebration is on, which means … oh boy… you have a reason to have a glass (or two or …) of wine tonight!
To celebrate Cabernet Day, all you need to do is to open a bottle of your favorite (or better yet, the one you never had) Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc wine (and of course Cabernet blend will do quite well too), and then tell the world how great it was (if you will only tell your neighbor, that will also count). With abundance of choices from Bordeaux, California, New York, Washington, Australia, Canada, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Israel and pretty much everywhere else, you will have no problems finding a good bottle of Cabernet to enjoy. And instead of giving you any particular recommendations, I would like to simply reflect on some of the past experiences:
Next, we definitely should acknowledge Tempranillo, a noble grape of Spain. While this grape is slowly trickling into other winemaking regions, it is a true star in Spain, where it shines in Rioja and Ribero del Duero regions, making some of the most beautiful (and age-worthy) wines in the world. You can also find it producing good results in Portugal, however, under the names of Aragonez and Tinta Roriz. Again, no particular recommendations as to what wine to open, just some reflections here for you:
Whatever bottle you will end up opening, the routine is not new – all you need to do is to enjoy it. And if you will be kind enough to leave a comment here, I will be glad to enjoy it together with you. Cheers!
As you know by now, PJ Wine is one of my favorite wine stores (you can find some of my impressions here). It is not just due to the great selection of wines, with Rioja being a superstar. It is also based on the fact that PJ Wine is a great source of education and experience (double-winner – education is free most of the time). Store runs great seminar program, where (if you are fast enough to get on the list) you can experience many great wines of the world.
Few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to get into the seminar about wines of Sierra Cantabria and Teso La Monja (the event was sold out in a matter of hours). Both Sierra Cantabria and Teso La Monja wines are produced by Eguren family (you can find complete information here), and of course you already figured out that both are produced in Spain.
Sierra Cantabria wines come from Rioja. In addition to producing full line up of traditional Rioja wines ( Crianza/Reserva/Gran Reserva), of course made out of Tempranillo ( for more information about Rioja wines you can click here), Sierra Cantabria also produced the series called Collection Privada, with each wine being made only in exceptional years. Currently, it includes wines made in 1996 ( first ever vintage for Sierra Cantabria), 1999 and 2000. Tasting the Collection Privada wines, the first one from 1996 was very nice, with good bouquet of spices, acidic and bright. There were only 300 cases produced in 1996, so this wine is not easy to find. While 1996 was drinking well already, both 1999 and 2000 were simply not ready and needed more time in the cellar. These wines are produced from 55-60 years old vines, and made with the focus on quality, not quantity.
Second group of wines presented at the seminar were also made by the same Eguren family, but come from another region in Spain called Toro. Teso la Monja is the latest project for the winemaker Marcos Eguren. Toro wines are made out of the grape called Tinta de Toro. If you would look in Wikipedia, you would see that Toro is designated as another name for Tempranillo. In reality, it is actually a clone of the Tempranillo grape, which has it’s own characteristics and is different from Tempranillo itself – same as famous Brunello, made out of Sangiovese Grosso grapes, tastes totally different from regular Sangiovese-based wines, Chianti.
Three wines from Teso la Monja had being represented in the tasting. First was 2007 Teso La Monja Almirez Toro – the wine had nice balance and lots of dark fruit – blackberries, black currant and spicy oak. Next wine was 2007 Teso la Monja Victorino Toro – beautiful, round with plums and blackberries, showing nice minerality. This wine is produced from 65+ year old vines and aged for about 18 month in oak.
Last but not least in the tasting was 2007 Teso la Monja Alabaster Toro. This wine was simply outstanding. Very dense, very big , with lots of fruit and in the need of time. Just to give you an example of care which goes into the making of this wine – the grapes are de-stemmed by hand, and then pressed with the feet. This wine definitely needs time before it will show off in its true beauty. The only challenge with this wine is related to the fact that at $156, it is not a bargain, and essentially QPR is becoming more of an issue, at least for me. Of course, if we will compare Alabaster with El Nido or Vega Sicilia wines, QPR might be on par – nevertheless, I think some time is needed before Alabaster has enough recognition to demand such a price.
All in all, it was a great experience with 6 exciting wines and lots of information – and I can’t thank folks from PJ Wine enough for continuing bringing great events to the wine lovers. And while on the subject of great experience, I can’t help to note that PJ Wine is organizing Spanish Wine Festival, which will take place on Friday, June 17th at 6 PM in Metropolitan Pavilion, 123 West 18th Street in New York City (please click here for more information). This event is not free, but for $99.99 I think it constitutes a great value – you will be able to experience wines of Vega Sicilia (keep in mind that typical bottle of Vega Sicilia costs in excess of $400, plus, it is very difficult to find), El Nido, La Rioja Alta, Clos Mogador and hundreds of others. The Festival will also include food from many good places in New York. I believe Spanish Wine Festival is a great value and shouldn’t be missed.
And as this was the post about Spanish wines, I think we need to finish it appropriately: Salud!
I think it is time to explain mysterious “treble journey” posts, before I will be fully declared “boring crazy wine geek”. Starting from the beginning: about 3 years ago I came across something called Wine Century club. At first I couldn’t even figure out what the name means, and then finally I realized that this is a club for people who declare (completely honor-based) that they have try at least 100 different grapes. At that point, I was into wines already for a while, and due to the fact that I do my best to keep the labels from all the different wines I happened to taste, this task appeared to be somewhat simple. By the end of 2008, I was a proud owner of Wine Century Club certificate. Then in May of 2009, when the club was celebrating it’s 4th year, I found out that there is a new challenge level – doppel. In order to become a doppel member one have to try … you guessed it right – 200 different varieties of the grapes! This was substantially bigger challenge – but challenges make our lives fun, don’t they? And there I went, and mysterious “doppel journey” notes where coming out on twitter for a while (2009 for me was an active twitting year ). While challenging, the mission was accomplished, and I received my next certificate, which I believe was proclaiming doppel members somewhat crazy… Anyway, I was convinced that I’m done with those “journeys” – until another anniversary celebration… yep, in 2010, I found out that club now has 3 “treble” members ( and even one quattro, but that deserves another post, I believe). So yes, a 300 grapes challenge – I just couldn’t resist the urge…. So now you have to keep up with those “treble journey” updates ( even though I do make an honest effort to do them in the fun way)…
Why “journey”? This is how I see it – I’m moving along in the world of wine, looking for something new all the time, looking for any obscure place in search of the most obscure grape – I think calling this process a journey is well justified. Also, it is a real journey, as I’m not doing it alone. Wine is meant for sharing (my honest opinion) so I always make an effort to take my friends along in such a travel – remember, I did mention the fun part already?!
What else makes it fun? I get a chance to work as a detective, to unravel the mystery. Come again, you say? Well, let me explain. A lot of wine labels don’t contain any information about the grapes the wine is made of. For some of the wines such information is easy to find on the web sites. For some of the wines, it is a real challenge – you need to find a web site which is not necessarily in English, find the right wine, and then there is a decent chance that you will find the names of the grapes. You think mission accomplished? Not so fast… Problem is that a lot o grapes have different names in different regions, but it really is the same grape! Of course it is easy to figure out when french grape Grenache is called Garnacha in Spain. But what do you think of Aragonez, Cencibel, Tinta Roriz and Toro? Yep, all are synonyms for Tempranillo, the most planted red grape in the world – therefore, as you can see, there is some fun work to do in order to get to the final destination.
Obviously one can spend a lot of time and effort on this (and don’t forget money!), but I think that end result is ultimately rewarding, as with any true passion. I hope my explanation make sense, and now you will be able to ignore the geek portion, and see the fun side instead – and again I promise to make an effort to bring out the fun.
And until the next treble grape comes along – cheers!