Weekly Tasting Round-Up
This week was one of those weeks where it seemed like everyone got back to work after the long-ish holiday break. I saw (too) many suppliers, who were loaded with full bags of interesting and diverse products. I also had more than a few new supplier contacts come through the office - some with interesting items and some not really worth considering - so goes it.
Monday started off with attending (at the very end) a retail tasting featuring a perennial favorite from Piedmont - Frattelli Alessandia - with Vittore Battista, 8th generation winemaker, in attendance. A family estate dating back to the 1830s, this is one of the most consistent producers of relatively affordable Barolo - especially when you consider the selection of Crus - on an annual basis. Tasting the 2015 San Lorenzo once again reminded me of why this is a producer to follow. The wine is round and full of fruit, with a focused core of acid and tannin that is well integrated. Winemaking here is a combination of looking back and looking ahead. Without being cliche, there is a fine balance between the traditional and the modern camps, but the use of larger wood with modern vineyard and winemaking practices is sort of the new norm employed by many winemakers in the region. Fruit in the San Lorenzo hangs on the palate, but the wine finishes long with supple tannins. Great style. I would very much enjoy this with an earthy mushroom dish. Should age gracefully for another 10 years easily before really any signs or thoughts of "age". Look for this in the $72 range for retail.
Tuesday looked south of the equator to South Africa and the wines of David Finlayson from Stellenbosch. One of the most iconic winemakers in the country, David Finlayson has been at the forefront of wine production from a number of regions and across any number of styles for many, many years. Working since 1993 at family owned property - specifically Glen Carlou - David has set the stage really for the entirety of the modern age of wines in South Africa and post-apartheid.
The wines I had the pleasure to taste are not quite available in the CT market at this point, but may become so soon, and I would recommend finding these once they are. Across the range there is balance and elegance. My notes detail high scores across the range - not an easy task.
The wines tasted ran the range as can be seen in the picture below, but one wine in particular stood out: Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 2017 from the Camino Africana range. This wine is chewy and chalk, just fabulous texture that flows into a long, rich and smooth finish. I don't really care if you like white wine or not, this is really great wine. Only about 100 six pack cases are made, so might be a hard time finiding - well worth the search, though.
Not to be out done, the rest of the range is quite good.
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 - shows great length with dark fruit and super chewy tannins from mountain fruit - tasty.
Chardonnay, 2018 - was well balanced and chalky with just enough acids to create lift and length - a pleasure to drink.
Cabernet Franc, 2014 - this was the other wine that really shined, and is a testament to why Loire Valley grapes need to be taken seriously no matter where they are grown (see notes above about the Chenin Blanc). Earthy, dark fruit with a touch of wild/herbal notes that build through the long finish, which is carried by moderate tannins.
Also in this tasting was another wine from South Africa: the Luddite Saboteur, 2015, from the Bot River Region, which is in the southern-central wine region close to the southern oceans. With a focus on Shiraz, this self-proclaimed garagistes has a wine in the Sabateur that pays homage to all things non-mechanized or industrialized, especially winemaking. Whatever you like to see here the wine was good and the packaging is cool. A blend of Shiraz, with smaller percentages of Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this wine is super juicy and smooth to the point of being rich almost in a 'New World" way, but without all the sappy, confection styling you might get from a true New World wine. It maintains a touch of Shiraz at the core with peppery spice notes that flows into a super smooth and very long finish. "Delicious" was my last comment.
Last wine in this group is a wine from the southern hemisphere, but from a different continent - South America, and specifically Argentina. The Vina Alicia Brote Negro Malbec, 2014, which is a beautiful example of what can come from Lujan de Cuyo in the Mendoza region. Herbal and loaded with red fruits, there is an earthy side to this wine that balances so well. Supple tannins create a chewy feel through the finish. Long. Kind of expensive at about $75 retail, but quite good wine if you can find it.
Next vendor tasting (still Tuesday morning), was the reps from Broadbent Selections and the wines of Weingut Huber from Austria. This was a look at selections for an up-coming event and a revisit for me on wines that I have been selling in some capacity for many years. included in the grouping were new vintages and a at least one new wine to me. The Huber family has been making wine from their estate in the Traisental for generations. These are precise and classically styled wines that represent Austria very well.
Wines tasted include:
Gruner Veltliner Hugo, 2017 - green and fresh with elevated acidity makes this easy drinking
Gruner Veltliner Terrassen, 2017 - from select sites in the Traisental, this is a mineral driven, fresh and airy style of GV
Gruner Veltliner Ober Steigen, 2017 - 25-50 year old vines from a single vineyard, this is complex and dense, with a big feel on the palate plus pear and stone fruits
Zweigelt, 2015 - bright berry popping notes with a little spice and wood notes - this is made half in stainless and half in vats to add roundness
Rose Sparkling - which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt. This is soft and fruity and fizzy, just an easy wine with a touch of residual sugar that makes sense for my event to be served with dessert.
Tuesday morning continued with a tasting from a local supplier with a mixed bag of wines that really resulted in nothing of note. The afternoon continued with a whiskey tasting of a wide range of American producers that covered about 25-30 selections. I will write about these in another post as this is all wine related items, but my tasting was cut short because some knucklehead kid ran his car into my daughter's car int eh school lot, and I had to cut my tasting short. Failed to get the picture of the table, but just imagine 30 bottles of whiskey. Smelled good, too.
Thursday continued the tasting parade with some great wines from South America. This is the opportunity to consider the fact that there are tariffs in place and perhaps more on the way for wines sourced in Europe. The current administration has been waging a war on European aerospace and tech taxes to the benefit (and most likely behest) of large American companies. The problem with this is that these tariffs are having an impact on goods that thousands of Americans in the wine and spirits trade count on to sell, and many of these people are in jeopardy of loosing their jobs as prices escalate, costs (especially labor) are being scrutinized, and sales decline. So, while limited number of airplane manufacturers and tech companies get to keep more of their overseas income (do they pay taxes on that income?), thousands of American jobs in the wine and spirit wholesale and supplier segment, as well as restaurant and retail business are placed at risk of being eliminated. Or the costs simply get passed along to the American consumer, which impacts everyone in the supply chain.
ANYWAY...back to Chile.
Here is a close contender for the best values and tastiest wine(s) of the week - especially if what you like about wine is supple, juicy, rich fruit. Take a look at the Primus range from Veramonte. Veramonte is more of a retail/grocery oriented wine brand with large production of fairly reasonable priced wines. The Primus range, though, is a selection of wines from the Apalta region in Colchagua. It is a region that is highlighted due to the soils, which are based on old riverbeds and contain less organic material but more gravel/alluvial structure. This all makes for more intensity and fruit in the wines, and Primus wines have this.
Primus Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 - currently Maipo, but with newer vintages will be sourced in Aplata. Black fruit with a little green pepper notes. Good, not great.
Primus The Blend, 2015 - full and rich with a good dose of black fruits and supple tannins. Still a bit of bell pepper notes.
Primus Carmenere, 2017 - this is the star of the line-up and could easily be the contender for Wine Value of the Week. Full, super-smooth fruit and a long finish. The red currant mixed with deeper notes of plum that are just short of true black fruits, make this elegant in a lush way. Long finish. Very good wine and the star of the lineup, as it should be.
Check out the next posts for the Value Taste of the Week, and The Vermouth You Should be Drinking, Now...
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ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.