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Daily Glass: Wine Happenings – Georgian Wines, New French Discoveries, Australia Grand Experience and more

April 14, 2013 10 comments

Every week (or almost every week) I think that I should start writing a summary post similar to what Jeff at therunkenccyclist does so well – once a week he produces a summary of the wines he had during the past week (here is an example of his recent post), which I think is a great way to round up your experiences.

My “Daily Glass” designation was supposed to be [almost] a daily summary for me, but as you know, things don’t always work in life as we think they should. Nevertheless, the week which is ending today was very “wine eventful” hence I’m sharing those wine happenings with you.

Let me start from 2005 Domaine Lafage El Maset Cotes du Roussillon. I got it at Last Bottle Wines during their last “madness” sale. At $8, you really have nothing to lose, right? Wine arrived about 3 weeks ago, looking good – inviting label, heavy bottle, good punt at the bottom – overall looks quite solid. Before opened the bottle, I went to look for information online – and I didn’t find much except a number of notes on Cellar Tracker, all looking very peculiar. Looks like people  had very sporadic luck with this wine, with only one bottle out of three being drinkable, and another claim of one out of 10 (!).

First thing I didn’t like when opened the bottle was the cork. You see, I love real corks (yes, I had my share of corked wines – but this is not the subject of this post). I’m completely okay with screwtops – I would be surprised to see a screwtop on the bottle of DRC, but in general, I get it – and it makes it easier to open a bottle, especially when you travel. But the type of corks I have a problem with are plastic and synthetic corks. They are hard to pull out, and just look very artificial – they just don’t belong to the wine world, in my opinion. Besides, somehow I think that they have the worst  impact on aging ability of the wine .

This wine was closed with red plastic cork ( you can see it in the picture). Okay, moving along. It is 8 years old wine, how about pop and pour? Pour, swirl, sip – ouch! The feeling of biting into a freshly cut tree brunch. Bitterrrr! My wife had her taste, put the glass down, and politely said “I think it should breath a little first”. Okay, got a decanter, pour half of the bottle in. By the way, the interesting fact is that after that first bitter sip, the wine stayed in my mouth with a very long and rather pleasant (!) finish – probably for the next 10+ minutes. Two and the half hours later… I wish I can tell you the wine magically transformed – no, it became only somewhat better. Dark fruit appeared, tannins became mellower, but the wine was not together – there was no harmony there.

We finished the bottle next day, and it still didn’t improve much more – may be it needed more time? I’m not sure, but I have one more bottle, which I plan to give a little time – will see what will happen. But I also have to tell you that I had one of the most surprising pairings with this wine – as you can guess from the picture, this wine paired excellently (I’m serious) with … cherry preserve! They were literally meant for each other – take a spoon of cherry preserve, sip of this wine – perfect! I never thought of wine and preserve together before – may be I should try it more often? This wine will stay unrated for now, as it is very hard to put a handle on this experience.

DSC_0391 Clos ChanteducNext wine was also sourced from the Last Bottles – 2006 Clos Chanteduc Cotes Du Rhone. I was unable to find good information on this 2006 vintage, current available vintage of this wine is 2010, but I would assume that  the composition stayed about the same, so it should be Grenache/Syrah blend (2/3 Grenache, 1/3 Syrah), a classic Rhone blend. The wine is associated with Patricia Wells, a well known chef living in France. While looking for information about this wine, I found an interesting post about 2009 version in the blog called Wayward Wine – here is a link for you, it is a good reading. Getting back to this 2006 wine, it was rather a typical Cote du Rhone – soft, supple, good mid-palate of plums and cherries – but may be too soft and too supple, it was missing a wow factor. Drinkability: 7.

DSC_0393 Jermann Sauvignon BlancThe next wine I want to mention is 2008 Jermann Sauvignon Blanc Venezia Giulia IGT. Jermann is one of my all time favorite Italian producers – I don’t think I tasted any wines I didn’t like from Jermann. This Sauvignon Blanc was closed with screwtop, and the wine is 5 years old – but it came out clean and round on the palate, with perfect amount of white fruit, some herbal notes, perfect minerality and acidity – very enjoyable by itself and with the food. Drinkability: 8-

Now, let’s get to the subject of this post and talk about Georgian and new French wines I discovered.  Last Friday I stopped at  the tasting at Fairway Market in Stamford, where Michael from importing company called Corus was presenting new Georgina wines.  There were four wines included in the tasting, three of them definitely standouts.

2012 Marani Mtsavane is made out of 100% of indigenous Mtsvane grape – very dry, more reminiscent of Muscadet than anything else, with cutting acidity. Will be perfectly refreshing wine for the summer day, also will be very appropriate every time you will decide to serve oysters. Drinkability: 7+

2005 Wine Man Mukuzani – this wine is made out of 100% Saperavi grapes, also grown in one single place – village of Mukuzani. This wine is made by David Maisuradze, who makes amazing wines – here is my post mentioning couple of his wines I tasted before. When I took a first sip, my first  thought was about dramatic difference this wine had with the 2005 El Maset I just had a few days ago (both wines are from 2005) – silky smooth, perfect dark fruit, cherries, blackberries, round tannins and balancing acidity – overall, a wine of perfect harmony. Drinkability: 8

2009 Wine Man Kinzmarauli – Kindzmarauli is one of the most famous Georgian wines. Because it was so famous before, you can’t even imagine the amount of fake insipid concoction which arrived to US about 10-15 years ago, knowing that Russian ex-patriots will buy anything under that name. When people realized that they had been doped, the wine lost its appeal and now have to slowly work up its reputation. Kindzmarauli is also made out of 100% Saperavi grapes, but it is semi-sweet. The fake Kindzmarauli wines had nothing but the sugar in them. When you taste this 2009 Kindzmarauli, you actually first get the perfect dry grape underpinning, and then the residual sweetness comes in. Excellent wine to serve with cheese – I think it might even beat Port when served next to Stilton. Drinkability: 8-

Now, for my French discovery  – it might not be a discovery for you, but it is a new line of wines which are just being imported to Connecticut. The wines are made by Domaine Laroque in the area called Cité de Carcassonne, a part of Langueoc-Rossillion (Cité de Carcassonne has a status of IGP).

2012 Domaine Laroque Sauvignon Blanc Cite de Carcassonne – in a blind tasting, I would definitely say that this is a restrained version of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Perfectly bright, with hint of grapefruit and lemon zest, refreshing, uplifting – make sure you have enough on hand for your summer entertainment – or you will deal with some upset guests. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Domaine Laroque Rose de Cabernet Cite de Carcassonne – nice, clean Rose, good amount of strawberries, good acidity. Drinkability: 7

2011 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc Cite de Carcassonne – this was a “wow” wine. Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite single-grape wines, which are so hard to find. This is two notches up most of the Loire stuff – I guess it is much closer to the best of Bordeaux and Calidornia – prefect dense red fruit, good minerality and herbs, firm structure, supple tannins and overall very balanced. This is what I call a “dangerous wine” – once you start drinking it, it is almost impossible to stop. Drinkability: 8

Are you tired of me yet? Okay, good – I have two more wines to tell you about.

DSC_0395 Sarah's Vineyard2001 Sarah’s Vineyard Chardonnay Estate Reserve Santa Clara Valley – I got it as Bin Ends in Massachusetts last year. The unfortunate part – this wine was past prime. Well, it was more like a nice sherry – dark yellow color, nicely oxidized. I was able to finish the bottle, but this was not an amazing experience by all means. Mostly you could taste almonds, and that was about all you could find on the palate. I will not rate this wine as it would be simply not fair.

Last, but not least at all – an amazing Aussie experience.

1999 Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia – from the very first smell, the expectation was that a “wow” wine is ahead. Perfect dark fruit on the nose, a whiff of chocolate. And the very first sip confirmed that “wow” – blackberries, cherries  and cassis, dark chocolate, cocoa, eucalyptus, touch of roasted flavors, perfectly firm and structured. Pronounced acidity, supporting tannins – all perfectly balanced. This was an outstanding glass of wine (it was my one and only bottle, sigh). By the way, you should read an interesting story behind the name of this wine – I don’t want to retype it, hence the picture of the back label below.Drinkability: 8+

That’s all I have for you for today. What was your best wine experience of the week? Have a great week ahead and cheers!

Re-post: Best Hidden Secrets of The Wine World: Wines of Georgia

January 17, 2013 9 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

We are continuing our “secrets” discovering journey, this time moving few thousand miles mostly east of Veneto, Italy, which was our last stop. Now we are in the fertile mountainous region called Caucasus. To be more precise, our destination is Georgia, a small country with a rich history (the subject of Georgian Wines was already discussed in this blog, but recent encounter with Georgian Wines convinced author that this subject is worth talking about again).

For the sake of this blog, we will of course focus on the part of Georgian history which relates to wine. For beginners, Georgia is widely considered a cradle of wine making. According to Wikipedia, wine production started in Georgia more than 8,000 years ago. With all due respect to so called “old world” of wine, that beats France, Italy and other European countries by about 7,000 years.

Of course, truth to be told, multiple thousand years of history don’t translate directly into today’s advantage. For instance, majority of the countries which existed thousands years ago are not even remembered today. If everything goes well, that long history can only translate into traditions – good or bad, but traditions are just what they are: “typical ways of conducting certain activity”, or “an inherited or established way of thinking, feeling, or doing”, according to the definition from Merriam-Webster.

Fast forward to the middle of 20th century, and Georgian wine making traditions came under attack by soviet regime and Georgian wine making industry became literally non-existent. Fast forward once again, to the last decade of the 20th century, and traditions came back into play, helping to re-born Georgian wine industry. Of course, once former soviet union collapsed and Georgia became independent, freedom had a “drugging” effect. Tremendous amount of mediocre (at the best) wine was produced, all in attempt to “get rich quickly”. This situation backfired, and Georgian wines went into “ignore” category without any chance to rise to prominence (disclaimer: these are observations from US-centered wine market).

Luckily, traditions, based on real, rich history and pride came to the rescue. Fast and greedy mostly disappeared, and real wine makers and businessman took their place. Those thousands years of history and traditions became multiplying force for skills, craftsmanship and ambitions, and now started bringing us world-class wines. It is still very difficult to buy good Georgian wines in US, you have to really know where to get it, but hopefully this situation will change. Hmmm, may be we don’t need that to change? Let’s keep it secret, so those in the know can continue enjoying first-growth Bordeaux quality wines at one hundredth of the price?

Bagrationi_SparklingTime to talk about wines – after all, we need to put some substance behind the nice words. Let’s start with… Champagne? Err, Sparkling wine, of course, as Champagne can only come from Champagne. Enters Bagrationi 1882, which makes sparkling wines using traditional “Méthode Champenoise” for more than 100 years. Round, soft and creamy, with perfect acidity, bright and refreshing, this sparkling wine will successfully compete with any of the actual Champagnes and other sparkling wines. In the blind tasting (non-professional), 2007 Royal Cuvee was the best out of the 8 sparkling wines, including classic Champagnes (you can read about it here).

Pheasant's_Tears_winesMoving along, let’s talk about some of the most unique wines I ever had a chance to taste. Pheasant’s Tears winery (as well as some others), produce wines using thousands-years old (talk about traditions) technology – the grapes are crushed and fermented for prolonged period of time in the clay vessels called Qvevri. The resulting wines, made from different indigenous grapes, such as Kisi, Rkatsiteli, Tavkveri, Saperavi and others, are very different from most of other wines. Both whites and reds show very nice tannins which come from prolonged contact with skin and seeds (no oak aging whatsoever), as well as great level of complexity somewhat similar to good Madeira. This wines should really be experienced, as words can’t do them enough justice.

Maisuradze_winesLast for this post, but not least, I want to mention true world-class winemaker-made classic wines. You know, those wines which are happily associated with winemaker or lead producer, such as Michel Roland,  Christian Moeux, Helen Turley, Andy Erickson ( Screaming Eagle) and many others. These wines are made by David Maisuradze out of the classic Georgian red grape called Saperavi. Both Mukuzani and Saperavi are truly amazing wines, with perfect layered dark fruit on the palate, perfect structure, powerful tannins and excellent balance. 2005 Mukuzani shows more tannins at this point (it was aged for 24 month in the oak), and while it can be definitely enjoyed right now, it needs another 10-15 years to truly shine. Get it, if you can!

Georgian wines came back to the wine lovers to take the place they really deserve, the product of love and obsession supported by deep roots and traditions. While not easy to find, they are definitely worth looking for. Make an effort, find the bottle, try it, and send me a “thank you” note later on, as I’m sure you will be inclined to do. To the wonderful wine discoveries!

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