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Daily Glass: The More I Drink, The Less I Understand?

February 20, 2019 2 comments

Wine is an enigma.

But you already know that.

The wine had been a serious object of obsession for more than 20 years for me. I went through multiple education programs. Read an uncounted number of wine books and articles. Most importantly, drunk a lot of wine – from the bottles, from the barrels, the juice of freshly harvested grapes and the juice which only had been fermented for a few days. Two days old wine and 80 years old wine. I taste roughly thousands of wines every year (with the help of trade tastings). Yes, the wine is an object of obsession. And yet, I would never say that I figured it out, that I fully understand it.

Wine is an enigma.

Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria AustraliaThe curse of wine is rather simple – until the cork is pulled (or unscrewed), you don’t know what to expect. A lot of wine bottles look ultimately attractive outside – bottle’s shape and weight play an important role, and then you got the label which, when properly done, is an ultimate seduction device. But once the cork is out, it is only the content that matters – and here we learn that not all the beauty from outside can be found on the inside. The worst part? Until the first sip, we have no way of knowing what we will find, even if we tasted and loved the wine before! Sadly, this is a classic case of any investment prospectus disclaimer – “past performance is no guarantee of the future results”. It is quite possible that you tasted and loved the wine before – nevertheless, every new bottle is a perfect screw up (or a beautiful surprise) opportunity. The wine is an enigma.

Back in 2014, I tasted 2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia (13% ABV, $14.99) and was blown away by the beautiful purity of that Shiraz. The wine had a clean, herbs-driven profile full of freshly ground pepper – you really had to taste it to believe it. I was so impressed with that wine that it became wine #4 on my Top Dozen list in 2014. I got 6 bottles or so (at $14.99, a great QPR) and was slowly enjoying it over the years. But not always. I remember trying to impress a friend with this wine when I found it available in a restaurant in Florida by the glass. That simply did not work – the wine was flabby and mostly insipid. Then I had opened a bottle last year, only to be able to say “what just happened???”. The wine had just some single note fruit, no pepper, limited acidity, and in a word, was not fun. I was further put down with this wine last year after tasting the current vintage release at the trade tasting – that wine was insipid, cherry cough medicine style.

When I pulled my last bottle from the shelf a few days ago, the thought was – yeah, whatever, let’s just free up some space. Unscrew, pour, sip – oh, my, everything was back as when I fell in love with this wine – fresh pepper, sage, rosemary, intensely herbal with tasteful addition of ripe black plum – as wow wine as it can be. Don’t ask me for explanations or theories – as I said, the more I drink, the less I understand.

Wine is an enigma.

Tallulah Cabernet Sauvignon

The second story is less unusual, but still in line with what we are talking about here. I got the 2009 Tallulah MD1 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.1% ABV, $75) after reading the skillfully crafted sales pitch by the folks at Benchmark Wine Company. What’s not to like there? Excellent winemaker, Mike Drash; beautiful label, great story of naming the wine after winemaker’s daughter, and maybe most importantly, the cult grape from the cult region – Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. The first experience with the wine was at the “ohh” level – tight, closed, by all means not ready. The next time I had the same wine was back in 2014, it fared better – I gave it 8- rating, but mostly for the potential, not so much for the actual pleasure delivered by the wine back then.

Looking for the wine to drink last Saturday with the steak (looking for the wine is a physical process of moving the shelves of the wine fridges in and out – I don’t have any record-keeping in place), I saw the bottle top with the characteristic “T” on it. Similar to the wine we discussed before, the thought was “well, why not – I need to free some space anyway”. The first sip solicited an instant “oh, wow” – a Cabernet perfection in the glass, vibrant cassis, eucalyptus, touch of cherries, sweet oak, perfect mid-palate weight, clean acidity, impeccable balance – the wine Napa Valley is so famous for was right there – in my glass.

While working on this post I looked for my previous notes on this wine, and I only found a short reference in the post about “Month in wines”, written precisely 5 years ago, in February of 2014. To my big surprise, in that post, I found the following line: “…definitely needed more time, let’s say, at least 5 years…” – the fact that I randomly pulled this MD1 bottle exactly 5 years after and the wine evolved beautifully – well, I guess, this is just a happenstance…

Wine is an enigma.

But that what makes it an ultimate fun.

Month in Wines – January 2014

February 6, 2014 6 comments

Wow, it is hard to believe that the first month of 2014 is already a history. Well, it truly is, so as usual, it is the time to sum up the best wine experiences (quick reminder – I rate wines on the 10 point scale with pluses and minuses – with rare exceptions, the only wines included in this summary are those with rating 8- or above) of the January 2014. There were quite a few interesting experiences, so not in the any particular order, here we go:

2005 AR Pe Pe Grumello Riserva Buon Consiglio Valtelina Superiore DOCG (13% ABV, 100% Nebbiolo) – beautiful, fragrant, gentle, elegant. The wine for quiet, self-reflecting evening, to be shared only with the closest people. Would do fine for the cosy Valentine’s day evening. 8

NV Tsarine Champagne Cuvée Premium, Reims (12% ABV) – classic and substantial, has its own character as opposed to many universally boring sparklers. A beautiful packaging is definitely a plus… 8

2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV) – one of the very best Prosecco I ever tasted. ‘nuf said. 8-

2010 Artemovsk Krim Semi-Sweet Sparkling Wine, Ukraine (12% ABV) – touch of sweetness, nice, refreshing, balanced – definitely an excellent sparkler. 8

2002 Bollinger Ay Rouge La Cote Aux Enfant Coteaux Champenoisbeautiful, complex, red fruit on the nose and palate, delicate concentration of flavors, round and polished. Definitely an experience. 8

1994 Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT – beautiful complexity of cherries and leather both on the nose and the palate. Perfectly fresh, with good acidity and excellent balance. Still has many years to go. 9-

1999 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Oakville – a classic with cassis, bell peppers and eucalyptus both on the palate and on the nose, soft tannins, good balance, very enjoyable. 8

1977 Grahams Port – delicious promising nose, wonderful complexity in the glass, with the aged, delicate fruit, figs and dates, with acidity still present. 8+

2009 Tallulah MD1 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.1% ABV) – this wine showed glimpses of greatness with clean fruit and cassis overtones, but it definitely needed more time, let’s say, at least 5 years… 8-

2010 Pedralonga doUmia Tinto Rias Baixas DO (12% ABV, blend of Mencía, Caíño and Espadeiro) – beautiful open nose with touch of barnyard and hint of complexity. Lots of herbs on the palate – sage, lavender, dark fruit, very good acidity and perfect balance. Very easy to drink. Besides, it adds two more grape to the collection. 8

2009 Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva, Mendoza (14.5% ABV) – very, very concentrated, mocha and espresso on the palate, dark fruit, good acidity, good balance. 8-

2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC (12% ABV, 100% Romorantin) – bright white stone fruit on the nose, citrus (lemon) notes on the palate, medium to full body, zinging acidity. It is getting there, but need another 4-5 years to achieve full beauty and grace. 8-

2008 Eurl Gilles Bonnefoy Rousanne de Madone Rousane sur Volcan (12% ABV) – plump, juicy, round, delicious. 8

The last 3 wines really surprised the inner snob in me. They are all made by the Rosenblum Cellars, and at the price of $9.99 each, I had really low expectations (so far, I didn’t have much luck with low-end wines from Rosenblum).

2012 The Great American Wine Company Chardonnay USA – light, simple, with hint of vanilla and butter, good acidity. Easy to drink. 7+

2012 The Great American Wine Company Red Blend USA (Zinfandel based) – good red fruit on the nose and on the palate, raspberries and blackberries, soft tannins, good acidity, good balance, easy to drink. 7+

2012 The Great American Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon USA  – good dark fruit on the nose with a hint of cassis, more dark fruit on the palate together with dark chocolate, good acidity, good balance. 7+

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That concludes the January report. Have you had any of this wines? Care to share your thoughts? Cheers!

 

 

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