Monday, October 26, 2009
Three Red Wines from the Big Three (France, Spain, Italy)
Southern Rhone Valley, France
2007 Eric Texier Brezeme
100% Syrah from the one of the northernmost points of the Cotes du Rhone. This was tense, bordering on strict, out the gates. I decanted and followed intently for a couple of hours. Yes, there were the woodsy, peppery northern Rhone (though this is still in the south) Syrah aromas, and darkish blue fruit, with a touch of savory frying bacon, on the palate. The fruit on the mid palate fleshed and rounded out with some air, but I wouldn't say the wine gained too much in complexity, freshness, or deliciousness. The slowly expansive core of fruit did lend some balance to the wine, but not enough to change my opinion: this wine does not taste ripe enough. If I'm saying 'not ripe enough' as opposed to the opposite description for a red wine, then perhaps this really is not quite ripe enough? Maybe I'm being too picky or judgemental, but that's my impression. I re-tasted the wine today (should probably note that the wine did spend 4 hours in a decanter before I re-bottled it) and it is a mere shell of it's former decent if not exciting self. Fainter fruit, oxidative tartness beginning to surface.
Ribera del Duero, Spain
2002 Dominio de Basconillos Viña Magna Crianza
Several months ago, I read a reliably thorough and thoroughly reliable entry from Manuel Camblor, containing a tasting note from one of New York based importer Alex Ellman's (Marble Hill Cellars) Spanish selections. A few weeks of email correspondence and some samples later, I purchased some wine from Ms. Ellman for the shop, and this is probably my favorite of the wines I bought. Without a doubt the best, most complete and satisfying Ribera del Duero I've had in a year, probably since the 1998 Valduero Reserva I drank a year ago. Not like there is much competition out there, though. Ribera del Duero generally is annoyingly grapey, overly oaked, flabby, over-extracted juice and one of the regions that I would suggest you avoid like the plague if you do not already do so. That having been said, I would seek this wine out for an example of Ribera del Duero that has aged into a delicious wine: rich and dark fruited yet balanced with enough acidity, some oak clearly contributing to the structure but not causing it to topple over, and enough development to contribute a subtle, savory braised meat character that does not rob the immediacy of the ripe fruit. In fact there is still plenty to like in the bottle I'm drinking now which I opened four days ago! It's worth noting that 2002 was generally derided and panned as a weak, damp vintage in Rioja and Ribera del Duero. I'd counter that it helped provide this wine with the balance and acidity to be drinking perfectly now and for another five years at least. I'd more than willingly put this wine up against any new wave hot shot from the hyped 2005 vintage (Pingus included) in five years and be confident that it would take the crown.
2007 Poggiarellino Rosso di Montalcino
I have tasted this wine a few times over the past two months, and shared a bottle with none other than McDuff the wine dog when he came over for dinner last month. Poggiarellino makes honest, imperfect, Sangiovese based wine that shows off its Montalcino terroir and wears on its sleave its rustic qualities (some may say 'flaws'). What does that mean? Big barnyard like nose, with noticeable brett, and rich cherry aromas that draw you closer to take a sip. All of the previous descriptors apply to the palate, writ large. Big cherry fruit, tell-tale brett, tannins that are assertive (don't think they care too much about 'tannin management' here) and acidity that vears towards slightly volatile. Sound exciting? It is, and more importantly, it's honest and engaging. I've no idea how the wine might age, but it sure is an exciting drink right now. Especially with a New York strip steak as I last enjoyed it.