Friday, November 29, 2013

An Everyday White Wine Jewel Burgans Albarino 2011 Rias Baixas

Albarinos make some of Spain's most attractive everyday white wines. They generally have everything I want and the 2011 version from Burgans is no exception. This bright, energetic wine is produced by the Bodegas Martin Codax in Rias Baixas, a DO that achieved legal status relatively recently in 1988. Rias Baixas is located in Spain's extreme northwest and is divided into 5 sub-zones: Val do Saines, Condado do Tea, O Rosal, Ribeira do Ulla and Soutomaior. Val do Saines, where the Bodegas Martin Codax is located, is the largest and coolest of the zones with average temperatures of 55 degrees and rocky soils laden with granite. It's this combination that makes for some special wines.

The Burgans Albarino sports prominent, beautiful aromatics dominated by ripe pear and supported with citrus, floral and mineral notes. The rich, medium bodied texture is lush with orchard fruit and lemony flavors. There's also a nutty nuance on the back end, perhaps as a result of this wine resting on it's lees for a brief time prior to bottling. In addition, there's no wood on this wine. The Burgans Albarino is fermented entirely in stainless steel. It finishes bright and long with excellent supporting acidity. This beauty is imported by Eric Solomon Selections. a wonderful, small importer that favors wines that are true to type and express their geographic origins. I've been a fan of their portfolio for a long time. This beauty cost me $12.99. Cheers.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Think Pink - Rosé All Year Long Carpineto "Dogajolo" Rosé 2012

Rosés are my go to wines in the summer. Heck, they go with everything from pork and burgers to sushi and everything in between. They're great as aperitifs, with the meal or as a sipper at a party or event. But why not drink them all year long? I certainly do. For the majority of consumers though, the Rosé choice is made less often when the weather gets colder. According to a large retailer I spoke to, rosé sales drop as much as 50% in the fall and winter months, though that's a better number then they used to have. Not that long ago, rosé sales would drop off a cliff to practically nothing after summer had gone. Now, some folks will continue to drink the pink through the holidays.

Rosés are also looked at as being somewhat fragile, so retailers worry about being stuck with last year's vintage when the new one is released in the spring. However, some rosés like those from Provence or the Languedoc in southern France, or the Nebbiolo rosés from Piedmont in northern Italy, actually benefit from a year in the bottle. The acidity and structure of these wines keep them fresh and lively and they develop more complexity and nuance with a year of age on them.

Last night I pan fried some chili and lime zested pork chops and served them with grilled pineapple. I wanted something cool and lively to drink with them so I turned to the $8.99 2012 Carpineto Sangiovese rosé from Opici imports. Now this is not one of those rosés that you would want to drink past it's year on the shelf, but this lively little wine had just what I was looking for. The color is a beautiful copper-like light pink and it's got delicate aromas of tart cherry, fresh flowers and a note of orange peel. It's got a soft, inviting texture with orange peel and tart cherry flavors supported by firm acidity. It finishes long and dry. This little wine is a good to very good value. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Forgotten Grape: Syrah - Domaine de Chateaumar "Cuvee Vincent" Cotes du Rhone

Syrah is a grape that has never really caught on here in the states. Yes there's a fairly broad category of $30 and up bottlings but there's very few in the everyday wine realm. Those that exist are mostly generic tasting, fruit driven examples that don't really give much in the way of complexity. There are Syrah bottlings from Australia of course, where they call it Shiraz. Some of those inexpensive labels are pretty good, like The Jump Stump and Boxhead to name a couple. And there's the ubiquitous factory wine Yellowtail of course. The shelf space allotted to Syrah in stores here in NJ is incredibly small.

Syrah was once hailed as "the next big thing" to come in the US wine world and it was a proclamation that never happened. Eric Asimov's feature on Syrah for the New York Times in 2010 is an interesting read. Most California Syrahs were dark, dense, overly extracted versions that were heavy and dull - and there's still more than a few of those. Many Cali Syrah producers have changed the way they work with the grape and are striving for more balance in their bottles. And there are the "Rhone Rangers",  producers line Bonny Doon, Edmunds St. John and Ojai who have worked with Syrah for a long time, bottling the best examples we have here in the states. Many other expensive Cali Syrahs like to claim all sorts of "terroir" notes in their aromatic and flavor profiles but in reality, there's still no Syrah on the planet like the ones that come from the northern Rhone appellations of Cote Rotie, Hermiatge, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph. In general, you can't really understand what good Syrah is meant to be until you throw down more than a few bucks for one of these wines.

However, every once in a while a good, inexpensive version from the southern Rhone shows up on our shores and when one does I find myself going back for more again and again. Syrah is a grape that needs a lot of sun but not excessive heat. It ripens early so it can lose acidity and character if it's left to hang too long. In the northern Rhone, the steep, rocky hillsides limit yield and preserve the special aromatics and flavors that Syrah can present.

Cotes du Rhones are usually blends based on the Grenache grape of course, but this 2010, 100% Syrah bottling of Domaine de Chateaumar from that southern Rhone appellation is a fantastic example of everything that Syrah can achieve, yet in a $12.99 package. It's got those wonderful, gamey Syrah aromas of black cherry fruit, black olive and spice notes with a distinct minerality. It's one of those wines I could sit and sniff all night, trying to define all the nuances. In the mouth it's got a big, fruity mid-palate supported by the olive and spice notes. It finishes medium in length with soft tannins and that mineral spine giving it shape. The vineyards here are sustainably farmed with no herbicides used at all. This beauty is imported by Bourgeois Family Selections, an importer I know nothing about. I will however be seeking out more of their wines. Cheers.