Friday, January 28, 2011

A "Super" MiniTuscan.

Wine: Verrazzano Rosso, 2007 Minituscan (Sangiovese, with small quantities of Canaiolo and Merlot); Greve in Chianti, Italy

Paired with: Episode of Iron Chef America

Comments: I've long felt that the Italian concept of a thinking wine (as summed up in our first post) was created after tasting either a Barolo or a Super Tuscan. Super Tuscans are so much I like in a wine - big, complex, and the result of winemakers saying, "We're not doing it your way no more."

Quick history lesson. In the 1960s the Italian government set up DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and, soon after, DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Following the lead of the French, they wanted to keep regional specialties pure by setting up a certification system that ensured products are made in a certain place a certain way. Good for shoppers wanting a quick easy way to get the real stuff, not so good for the winemakers who could only make wine the way the government said they could. 

Enter the rebels, the guys who probably got bored making Chianti. Granted, there are some great Chiantis, but how boring is it always doing the same thing? These wine makers started playing around, throwing out the required grapes and using what they thought would work. Likely, this resulted in a lot of swill, but the end result for a few was some of the world's best wines, Super Tuscans. Big, bold, complex. The type of wine that you can get lost in.

Fast forward a few decades. Super Tuscans, like any successful rebel, are now entrenched in the establishment. Regulated, somewhat. And, as the careful skill and small batches warrant, expensive.

Now we have Verrazzano winery, supposedly once the winery of the same Verrazzano who discovered New York harbor and now has a bridge to Staten Island named after him. Not sure if that's an honor or not. The wine makers at Verrazzano decided that Super Tuscans had gotten a little stuffy, a little rigidly defined. So, they introduced the MiniTuscan. These wines are designed as an entry-level Super Tuscan. Not as bold or complex, but nonetheless interesting. And for the price, we were willing to experiment. 

And, honestly, this experiment is worth the price. It's not something you're going to crave, but it's still one of the better $11 bottles we've found at our local wine store.

Tasting Notes - no-food: Honestly, we'd have to say it smells like tannin, no fruit or flowers here, just dryness. The taste wasn't bad, a little dry and tart but with a pleasant currant finish

Color: deep plum fading to pink on the edges

Price: $11

Verdict: Tuesday, though to be fair, this could probably be a Friday with the right pairing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In the dish, in the glass

Wine: Jean-Luc Colombo, 2007 Les Abeilles (grenache, syrah, mouvedre); Côtes du Rhone, France

Paired with: Coq au vin

Comments: Here on Tuesday/Friday we often pair our wine with food, but don't always explain why. There are many people who will go on about rules for pairing - the cliché of white with fish and red with beef being the most well known. The truth is there are no rules. If you like the wine with the food, it's a success.

That being said, there are some guidelines that will help you find wines that the majority of people will enjoy with certain foods. Probably the simplest of these guidelines is: if it's in the dish, it's in the glass. Anytime we're making a meal that involves wine in the recipe, we always buy an extra bottle to drink with dinner.

Tasting Notes - pre-food: This was very light-bodied, pleasant in a bland sort of way. Even on the nose, it was kind of generic with just a general red fruit smell

Tasting Notes - with food: The food gave it a little more presence, particularly following the bacon in the Coq au Vin where a smoky boldness was present

Color: medium-red, fairly light color considering the grapes

Price: $11

Verdict: Tuesday, a French red that doesn't start singing with French food is only okay.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Que Syrah, Syrah

Wine: Jackson Triggs 2006, Delaine Vienyard Syrah; Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Paired with: Pernil (roast pork), chorizo-yuca mofongo

Comments: We've expressed our love of Jackson Triggs in the past. The winery and people are wonderful, the wines are better. So, we expected to get a good wine when we first tasted this. We got a great wine.

But first, let's clear something up. Syrah? Shiraz? Um, both.In the northern Rhone area of France, they call it syrah and the wine is more tannic with slightly smoky flavors. The Aussies, however, have embraced shiraz, with a fruity style that is often more approachable to new wine drinkers. Like everything else in the wine world - outside France - there are no hard and fast rules for labeling syrah/shiraz. However, most wine makers will call the more tannic version (often from cooler climates/years) syrah and a fruitier version (often warmer climates/years) shiraz. Now that we've made that completely clear...

Interestingly, we bought this shortly after it was released and it was already in short supply. So, sorry reader(s), you're not going to be bringing a bottle home. But recent vintages are reportedly just as delicious.

Tasting Notes - pre-food: leather and red fruits, nicely balanced with just enough tannin to let you know it's there. An unusually large bouquet for a syrah that held hints of cherries and currents

Tasting Notes - with food: Very interesting. With the mofongo and meatier pieces of pork a sour cherry aspect came out and the tannins softened to almost nonexistent. However, with the fattier pieces of the roast, the tannin was much more intense. It's exciting to drink a wine that changes with every bite of food (which we also think is the sign of a good pairing, if we do say so ourselves).

Color: Deep garnet

Price: Around $30, for current vintages (anyone having a bottle of the 2006 is welcome to share)

Verdict: Friday, though we expected this to be more of a Tuesday wine - most syrah and shiraz are to us - the complexity of this one pushed it well into Friday territory

Friday, January 7, 2011


Wine: Veglio Barolo, 2005, Italy

Paired with: Charcuterie and cheese plate with garlic & dill chevre, Uncle Joe's Cheese (aged cheddar); elk rillette, Moroccan lamb coppa

Comments: Barolo is THE wine as far as I'm concerned. Desert island, one bottle for the rest of my life, last meal wine. Nebbiolo is of course a great wine on its own, but when grown in the clay hills of the Barolo region and properly aged, one sip is enough to make my eyes roll back in my head. Even the thought of a sip of good barolo distracts me from whatever I'm doing. Amy, knowing this, was kind enough to provide me with a bottle for the holidays.

Barolo is still being bottled in two styles. The traditional style, my preference, is aged up to 3 weeks on the skin and creates a heavily tannic wine of light color. The growth of wine on the international market in the 70s and 80s lead to a modernist style that's lighter on tannin and fruitier. Still good, but not a thinking wine.

Tasting Notes - pre-food: This is definitely a modernist Barolo, fairly light with a a hint of cherry. Perhaps this is also a reflection on the price point. Aromas are also of cherry with a little leather and Twizzlers licorice thrown in

Tasting Notes - with food: The barolo had a slight sweetness when paired with the spice of the Moroccan lamb coppa and also complimented the cheeses very nicely.

Color: light ruby, like a pinot noir

Price: $15 for a 375-ml bottle

Verdict: Tuesday, though it pains me to say it this is not a Friday Barolo. It's a perfectly acceptable wine, but   doesn't live up to what the nebbiolo grape can be, especially from this region.