Friday, February 26, 2010

Old Vines = Good Vines

Wine: Atteca Old Vines 2007, Calatayud, Spain

Paired with: a little of this & a little of that (leftover night!)

Comments: I feel like we don't see a huge selection of Spanish wines in our travels through the LWS circuit. I'm sure they're around, but somehow, they don't have a huge presence (I suspect the Spanish are keeping the best for themselves). Anyway, I'm very glad that this particular Spanish wine caught our attention. The phrase "old vines" will do that every time.

So, how old are "old vines?" Well, there's no legal definition of the term, so some newer producers use it on vines that are 20 years old; other growers wait until the vines are in the 40+ range. Some of it depends on the type of grape, some of it depends on the region. (You'll see it a lot on California Zinfandels, especially.) In this case, these Spanish garnacha (grenache) vines are supposedly 120 years old, so I'm perfectly OK with that designation.

So, why get excited about old vines? Grapevines, as they age, produce less and less fruit. And what they do produce develops extremely concentrated flavors. If there's a varietal you like, and old vines version of the wine should be all the things you like about the wine, squared.

Tasting Notes: Lots of plum/prune/raisiny flavors. Good balance between tannin and flavor. Initial nose had lots of leather & spice. Wine definitely benefits from being opened prior to drinking; give it at least 20 minutes for the wine to open up. Initial pruney/raisiny flavors mellowed into more berry-like notes.

Color: movie-prop-blood red

Price: around $15

Verdict: Friday, with the right food. We didn't do the wine justice with random leftovers, but I think roast meats would match very nicely with the big flavors here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And the medal goes to...

Wine: Jackson Triggs Esprit, Vidal Icewine, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Paired with: No pairing. We consider icewine dessert on its own.

Comments: You have to appreciate a country that has an official wine supplier for their Olympics. Yes, that's what the packaging (and the complimentary corkscrew that came with it) claim. So was the $1.25 donation from our purchase of this one bottle of wine what pushed Canada to the gold medal in hockey? Alas, we'll never know.

Tasting Notes: Icewine is always a multi-sensory experience, and this wine is no exception. Lots of honey & carmelized peaches on the nose. Beautiful, viscous honey colors. Big flavors of orange-blossom honey, but with a slight tartness on the finish -- similar to the tartness left on your tongue after eating kiwi.

But as much as we love JT, and love icewine, this particular bottle lacked... something. Icewine should make you feel like you're bathing in a glorious late-summer, sleepy afternoon haze. And while this was very good, it didn't have the depth that we've come to associate with icewine. Had we bought this as a late harvest wine, it would be very impressive. But stick that i-word on it, and our expectations skyrocket to a level that this doesn't quite meet.

Color: liquid honey

Price: $25, approximately (we bought this two trips ago, and I'm estimating based on what we'll typically spend on a JT icewine)

Verdict: Tuesday. Yes, even though it's an icewine, it's a merely acceptable icewine, not a roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head-good icewine.

We're back!

Apologies for taking a leave of absence so soon after starting the blog. A new job (despite it being a fabulous job) took precedence even over wine-drinking. But we're back, having figured out how to balance  wine and a grown-up job. Sante! Salud! Slainte!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Worst. Wine. Ever.

Wine: Pigmentum Malbec 2006, Cahors, France

Paired with: Bacon-wrapped chicken breast & herbed potatoes.

Comments: Just in case you thought we liked everything, let me now prove you wrong. I'm pretty sure I'm exaggerating in calling it the worst wine ever, but holy cow, was this wine terrible. It was a spur of the moment purchase with a thought process that went something like this: "Hey, it's malbec from France. We like malbec. And it's on sale for $9 - let's get it!"

So, we had a clunker. The first sip was vaguely "eww," but the insane amount of fat in the bacon sort of  worked with the flavors, and we got through a glass or so with dinner. And by then we were used to it, so we poured another glass. By the end of the second glass, we decided we just couldn't take it any more. We didn't even finish the bottle.

Now, there is an off chance that we just had a bad bottle. But the chances are pretty low - the producer uses synthetic corks, which have a pretty low failure rate, and the wine didn't have the vinegary bite that we've typically encountered with corked wine.

So before you run for the hills if you see a French malbec, this is not to say that spur-of-the-moment purchases should be avoided, or even that all malbecs from France are awful. But take my word for it, this is one wine you can pass by.

Tasting Notes - pre-food: Sour with vaguely plummy notes. Absolutely no tannic structure, very thin.

Tasting Notes - with food: Surprisingly, thick-cut smoky bacon made this potable. I think the smoke from the bacon stomped on the sourness and managed to yank a few palatable notes out. Supposedly, malbecs from Cahors should taste like damsons (a type of plum), tobacco and raisins. Supposedly.

Color: Dark violet.

Price: around $9

Verdict: Never. Really. Skip it.