Wine Blogging Wednesday #52: an inexpensive organic red from Chile

When I heard about the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday number 52, Value Reds From Chile, proposed by Tim of the Cheap Wine Ratings blog, I knew that it was right up my alley. After all, for Wine Blogging Wednesday #48, when Lenn Thompson asked us to go back to our roots, to the first wines we liked to drink, I went straight back to Chilean cabernets.

And since, as far as I’m concerned, the most interesting ones are generally under 20$ (or only a little above that), it wasn’t too difficult to follow Tim’s lead and stay under the 20$ line.

But beyond the price, I thought I’d try (more…)

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Tasting Note: Viña Chocalán Gran Reserva Blend 2004, Maipo Valley

Although I am most often weary of the “big” wines, I do enjoy ripe fruit and bold flavors just as much as the next guy. As long as the ripe fruit doesn’t jam the glass, if you see what I mean, and as long as other elements give it structure and balance.

Case in point: Viña Chocalán‘s 2004 Gran Reserva Blend, which was an accessibly-priced addition to a 2007 edition of the Courrier Vinicole, a mail-order catalogue by the Société des alcools du Québec, our very own wine and spirits state monopoly. At 22$, it seemed like a safe buy, and proved to be more than that.

When they say this Gran Reserva is a blend, the folks at this young and ambitious estate (more…)

Wine and the electoral process

In times of political campaigns, politics can seep into just about any part of life. It may even get into your wine.

For at least one Chilean wine producer, as I found out on Twitter, thanks to wine educator Bruce Cass, the ricochet from recent political events is rather stupefying. The name of the wine? Palin Syrah, a reasonably-priced organic wine made by renowned winemaker Alvaro Espinosa for GeoWines. The association with the one and only republican vice-presidential candidate is apparently causing people to walk away from it in San Francisco, while Texans are buying it with extra enthusiasm in Houston.

As a quick Google search will tell you, (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 48: Catching Up with Chilean Cab

I had a moment of hesitation, when I read Lenn Thompson’s announcement for the 4-year anniversary edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. As he called upon us to go back to our roots, to taste back wines we particularly favored early in our wine guzzling tasting days, I immediately thought of Robert Mondavi’s 1987 Napa Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, which had been my first revelation of the potential of wine to enlighten life. But with the man himself gone and his own brand name disposessed from him and his family, it just didn’t seem right. Sometimes, you just can’t go back.

So instead, I turned my eyes south. Way south.

Back when I started to be truly interested in wine (more…)

Tasting note: Casa Marin Laurel Vineyard 2005

Just finished a really lovely bottle of Casa Marin sauvignon blanc, from Chile’s San Antonio valley. Delicious. Stood its ground wonderfully with a stir-fry of beef with bok-choy, red peppers, mushrooms with peanut sauce – which is not such an easy task for a white wine. Then again, this sauvignon had an acidity to sweetness ratio that was pretty close to many New World rieslings – and riesling is a solid match with Asian food.

There was a very ripe character to the wine, yet with a sharp, refreshing acidity. The nose had a touch of fennel, but way more citrus fruit (on the edge of grapefruit, but not quite there) and a hint of honey, with a nice mineral character rounding things off in the mouth feel. Very nice length, and (more…)

Published in: on October 20, 2007 at 8:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Mixing it up

There is a New World trend in wine that is intriguing, promising and annoying, all at once. It’s the habit of mixing varietals that don’t usually go together: chardonnay and viognier, verdelho and chenin blanc, touriga and tempranillo, etc. Australians do it with particular enthusiasm, determined to go, it seems, where no wine has gone before. There’s even a whole line of wines from Argentina based on that concept: Familia Zuccardi’s Fuzion brand. And other examples from Chile or the USA.

Sometimes the results are pleasant and harmonious, or really add up to something greater than the sum of the parts.  Like certain supertuscan blends of Bordeaux varietals and Sangiovese, or successful combinations of cabernets and shiraz.  Even more basic wines can do it well: Penfolds’ white Rawson’s Retreat is a blend of chardonnay and sémillon that is simple, accessible and, well, balanced. Which is probably the keyword that some winemakers forget as they seek to make daring, unusual blends.

For some producers, the fact that the blend is unusual seems to be the whole point, along with some notion of complementarity: freshness in one varietal, structure and richness in the other. Sometimes, going against the grain seems to be an end in itself. I’ve tasted mixes that should never have come together – and actually didn’t come together, even though they had been blended.

It’s just not that easy. There are historical reasons why certain blends have come together in different regions of the world, thanks to the way the climate favored certain varietals that came together properly in terms of flavors, textures, color and balance. Like sweeter, earlier ripening merlot with more tannic and tighter cabernet sauvignon in Bordeaux blends. Creating a new blend with varietals that have hardly established themselves in a new land, and trying to figure out how they’ll behave together is risky business, to say the least.

Mission impossible? Not really. But more care should be exerted by winemakers who choose that route. A hit or miss approach just doesn’t cut it. If it takes several years to build up a vineyard, it could be an idea for winemakers to give themselves many years of tasting and experimenting before releasing new, untested blends.