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Daily Glass: Memorable Wines

March 1, 2015 15 comments

IMG_1496 Wine = Memories. Well, okay, we need to correct that statement. Great Wines = Memories, now that is better. Of course we remember the wines we drink, and this is how the opinions are formed and this is how the wine list in the restaurant doesn’t look that intimidating anymore. But this should be characterized more as a general knowledge, not specifically as “memories”. Great wines, on the other hand (I’m not going to define the term “great wine” – this is highly personal, you define it for yourself), become memory anchors. We remember when, why and how, we remember who we shared it with, and we can retrieve those memories on the moment’s notice. That is what “great wine” can do to you.

Case in point – a great evening with friends, which had all three elements at its perfection – the wine, the food and the company. An evening, when the time flies so fast, you don’t understand how late it is already. And the wines – stunning, each one in its own right. We started with Gosset Grand Réserve Brut Champagne – a non-vintage Champagne from one of the old and classic producers. I have to honestly admit that I was never impressed with other Gosset wines in the past, but this Grand Réserve, poured from the magnum, was outstanding – round, creamy, yeasty just enough, with a touch of apple and fresh bread on the palate – an excellent start of the evening.

Then the awe inspiring, almost 50 years old 1967 Gaja Barbaresco was gently uncorked. It was not simple, as cork did crumble – but this is nothing which strainer and decanter can’t fix. The first whiff – nothing smells off, which is a great sign of relief. While we put the wine aside to let it breathe a bit, we reached out for another white – 2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC.

This is a rare French white wine made from 100% Romorantin grape. I remember a few years back trying this wine at a 10 years of age – and I remember been simply blown away by the exuberant beauty of this seemingly unassuming wine (new vintages retail  at around $15 – the QPR is through the roof on this). The nose of that 2007 was amazing, with fresh white fruit, guava, mango, honeysuckle, lemon and lemon zest. On the palate, behind the first wave of Riesling-like appearance with touch of sweetness and tropical fruit notes, there were layers and layers of acidity and minerality. After about 10 minutes of breathing time, the wine was almost bone dry, very crisp and refreshing. I still have 3 bottles of the 2007, and now the trick will be to keep my hands away from them, as they still benefit from time.

Time to get back to that 1967 Barbaresco. We were somewhat waiting for the main course to start drinking it, and I was concerned that as it happens with many older wines, this wine might also succumb to the neverland if not consumed within that short window of time. Silly me. The wine kept going and opening for the next 2 hours. It had all those sweet plums, sapidity of the onion peel, minerality, all weaved around a well defined structure with perfect acidity and perfect balance. The “wows’ kept flowing until there was nothing left in the decanter  – this was definitely a treat. And a perfect memory anchor, an experience which stays forever.

Our next wine was also very interesting and delicious in its own right, by fate or the accident made from the exact same grape as the Barbaresco, the Nebbiolo –2004 Ar.Pe.Pe Rocce Rosse Riserva, Valtellina Superiore Sassella DOCG, Italy. Valtellina red wines are typically made in the way similar to Amarone – with the grapes drying out after the harvest for about 120 days, and only then pressed and vinified. The Sassella Rocce Rosse from Ar.Pe.Pe stands apart, with Nebbiola grapes (locally known as Chiavennasca) left on the vine to raisin, and then pressed. Fresh, succulent plums and cherries on the nose and palate, together with effervescent lightness and firm structure (this might not make sense right away, but this is the way I perceive it), which I always find in Ar Pe Pe wines. Again, a delicious red.

Our last wine was 2003 Sella & Mosca Anghelu Ruju Rosso Passito Riserva Alghero DOC, Sardinia, Italy – very unique and interesting fortified wine, made out of partially sun-dried Grenache, locally known as Cannonau. This wine was mostly resembling the Port, with a hint of dried fruit on the nose, supported by perfectly balanced, soft body of plums and sweet oak, with perfect amount of sugar to make it a light dessert wine, but not an overbearing sweet monster.

Here we are – a perfect set of very memorable wines, compliments of dear friend Stefano (Clicks & Corks/Flora’s Table), and an evening with friends which will stay in memory, anchored by that 1967 Barbaresco. Considering that I’m finishing this post right on the Open That Bottle Night, I hope you increased your memory bank with some spectacular experiences, both of wines and the company – and I will be glad to hear about them. To the great life experiences! Cheers!

 

Champagne Blind Tasting – Don’t Try That At Home?

March 6, 2011 10 comments

The idea was born – blind champagne tasting. It’s going to be fun! Well, blind sparkling wine tasting, to be more precise. The date was set, menu decided upon. Everybody have to bring a bottle of sparkling wine, which is expected to be of reasonable quality. No, it doesn’t have to be from Champagne only, anywhere in the world is good – with some notable exceptions. For instance, sparkling Shiraz was not welcomed.

All precautions had being taken to ensure that tasting will be blind. All bottles placed into the paper bags, and taped on top. We ended up with 9 different sparkling wines (mistake number 1 – too many). The simplest challenge was to have enough glasses as we adamantly resisted the idea of plastic, so we had to split tasting into two groups, 5 and 4 wines – mistake number 2 stemming from mistake number 1 – all wines should have equal time to breathe, even sparkling.

There we went with the tasting. Wine #1, #2, #3… Break after #5 to move glasses, open 4 more bottles, pour and continue. I think the biggest challenge was the fact that differences between sparkling wines (in general) are often very subtle, and it requires highly trained and sophisticated palate to pick them up. For most of us, we would probably stand at least some chance if we would take extended time to assess the quality of the sparkling wine. Typically white or red wine is “in your face” from the moment you smell the wine. Sparkling wine usually is not. Therefore, you need to reflect on each sip of sparkling wine a lot longer to assess its qualities. If you are moving too quickly, those sparkling wines are becoming almost “all the same”.

Anyway, here is the list of sparkling wines we had at the tasting, in the exact order as we tried them:

  1. 2006 Bodegas Carrau Sust Brut Nature Vintage, Uruguay
  2. Franciacorta Bellavista Cuvee Brut, Italy
  3. 2006 Jacques Germanier Blanc de Blancs Brut Millesime Grande Reserve, Switzerland
  4. Champagne Gosset Brut Excellence, France
  5. Champagne Thierry Triolet Brut, France
  6. 2007 Bagrationi Royal Cuvee Brut Vintage, Georgia
  7. 2007 Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cuvee, South Africa
  8. J Cuvee 20 Brut, California
  9. 1998 Champagne Gosset Celebris Brut

Can you guess the winning wine? I would be surprised if you do (no, it was not the one from Uruguay if you went with the most odd choice). Actually, at the first vote we had a tie with 3 wines getting the same number of points, so we had to re-taste that group and then vote again to come up with the winning wine.  And the winner was…wine #6, 2007 Bagrationi Royal Cuvee Brut Vintage from Georgia (yes, we were also very surprised).

This wine was the most interesting of the pack with unusual zesty citrus notes, good acidity and good balance. J Cuvee 20 and 2007 Graham Beck (California and South Africa!) were close runner-ups (they were in the group we had to re-taste), and it is interesting to note that all three were more fruit forward than the other wines in the tasting.

Now, from the prospective of “mistakes” I mentioned before, here are few of my personal disappointments:

Wine #5, Champagne Thierry Triolet Brut, is  a Growers Champagne. I had a pleasure of tasting that wine on the second day, and it opened up a lot more, showing fruit and creaminess. It probably wouldn’t be the winner of the tasting, but I’m sure it would fare better given enough consideration.

Wine #9, 1998 Champagne Gosset Celebris Brut was the only Vintage Champagne in the tasting. It definitely didn’t get enough time to show off all its beauty. By the end of the evening it opened up enough to show off typical yeasty flavors of the vintage champagne, and it became a lot more appealing, at least to my taste.

Oh well, it was definitely a fun exercise! Should you do the champagne blind tasting? May be not. Should you enjoy a glass of champagne instead? Absolutely. Don’t wait for a special occasion, simply celebrate life as it happens. Any day is a good day for a glass of champagne. Cheers!

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