Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)

(image: Domaine Bousquet)

[ Editor’s Note: Listen up, friends of 1WD! With Baby Gianna due pretty much any day now, it could be a few weeks before this humble little corner of the Global Interwebs gets an update from me. I will be back in fighting form (if a bit – ok, more than a bit – sleep-deprived) and posting on here with mini-reviews and features just as soon as the new addition provides me enough time to do so. Until then, drink – and be – well! Cheers! ]

I’ve often said that we’re currently living in the single greatest time to be a wine lover in the history of humanity. This is due to the simple fact that global competition in the wine market is so fierce that the baseline level of quality required to get a wine to that market with a viable chance to sell it is probably the highest that it’s ever been.

Having said that, while the chance of running into a flawed wine on a store shelf these days is ridiculously small, the chance of picking up a perfectly serviceable but BORING wine are, as a sort of twisted side effect of that fierce competition, probably higher than ever. You can easily get a clean, tasty vino, but will it “blow your skirt up?” Maybe, maybe not. Which is why for the last 3+ years I’ve been such a fan of Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet (see previous coverage here) – purveyors of clean, serviceable, tasty wines that are bargains in terms of QPR, and more often than not have something about them that puts them above the fray of duller-than-an-actuarial-convention status so often found at their respective price-points.

This time, I couldn’t meet Domaine Bousquet viticulturalist Franco Bastias and economist-turned-proprietor Anne Bousquet in person (thanks, Covid), so I joined a media samples tasting with them via Zoom. Except I wasn’t wearing any pants, since they could only see me from the waist up. Just kidding. Probably.

Anyway, you can delve into the Bousquet history here – since we’ve already covered that, let’s talk about what these guys have going for them that makes their stuff better than boring. They’re sitting at 4,000+ feet, twice as high in elevation as Mendoza. They saw potential in Tupungato early on, at a spot that was still virgin land before they planted. “It was quite an enterprise to first clean up all this land,” Anne Bousquet mentioned. “By 2000, we were ready to plant. You have to be patient, you have to wait for them [the vines].” Fortunately for them, the land consisted of Alluvial soils from the Las Tunas River in the Andes, with calcareous deposits in the lower layers, forming “caliche” rock. Good stuff for high elevation vine plantings. What they don’t grow themselves, they from multiple Tupungato growers who have or are getting organic certification. Now, they’re BRCS, Vegan, & USDA Organic certified (among other certs – they’re working on Demeter now).

And… that’s mostly it. Throw in a talented staff and Argentina’s low-ish production costs, and you’ve got a recipe for over-achievements like these…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2021 Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc (Tupungato, $10)


Canopy management helps keep DB’s SB from being burned by the ample Argentine sun; and the deep sandy, gravelly soil helps promote the acid retention needed to balance the ripe fruit. This white is surprisingly herbal for Argentine SB. Though it doesn’t lack for tropical/exotic fruit notes, it’s almost New Zealand-like in its boisterous, aromatic style. Chalky/mineral hints show up as well. In a word, the palate is “Zesty!” Bright in the mouth, with lots of pith and grapefruit, starfruit, and spice, there’s just great bang for the buck here.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2019 Domaine Bousquet Reserva Chardonnay (Tupungato, $20)

It’s probably odd to cite a nose as feeling delicious, but… here you go. Peaches, apples, cream, even some dried flower petal notes all hit with nice precision. The flavors of apples, citrus, white peach and pear are all lively and energetic. You don’t feel the power of the 14.5% abv until it hits the edges of the palate as it broadens on your tongue. Toasty finish, good length, plenty of freshness… Another underachievement.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2018 Domaine Bousquet ‘Gaia’ Cabernet Franc (Gualtallary, $17)

The presence of calcareous stones mark the sandy soils at this wine’s source site, and it’s topped off with 8-10 months aging in French oak. Personally, I LOVE all of of the green dried herb, spice, and lovely dark fruit (plums, black raspberry, black cherry) action on this. It’s immediately inviting, and carrying most of the right Cab Franc calling cards. Structured, vivacious, and deeply dark-fruited on the palate. Yeah, you get some of those green notes (and minerals, too) along with a good balance of depth and structure – but it’s CF, so you knew what you were signing up for when you bought it, right? At the price, this is Go-To red for nerds like me.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021)2018 Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec (Tupungato, $22)

The site for this Malbec has soils similar to those that source their SB, but the roots in this case have extended quite deeply. With Malbec being sensitive to its moisture uptake, this helps the grapes get good concentration. And concentrated this is. Cassis and blackberries, along with some dark red plums, show up on the nose, which is reserved at first but opens up nicely after a few minutes of air time. Slight hints of chocolate mint, pencil lead, leather, and tobacco follow. In the mouth, it’s supple, with red fruits that are juicy, tangy, and also ripe and chewy. Very fresh (thank those cool, high altitude Tupungato nights), with darker herbs and spices on the finish. Delicious stuff, and (you guessed it), an Overachiever.

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 53: Overachievers-R-Us (Domaine Bousquet Recent Releases 2021) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for September 13, 2021

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for September 13, 2021 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Midnight Train to Awesome (Georgian Wine Is Ready for Prime Time)

Well, folks, I’m just going to come right out and say it now: Georgian wine is ready for prime time.

No, not wine from the U.S. state of Georgia (though that state has had some standout wines for many years now, so don’t overlook it). No, I mean Georgia the country. The home of the Caucasus. That Georgia.

First, the bad news: Like Greece’s Crete, Georgia is one of the great ironies of the wine world. Despite vying for status as the place where civilized winemaking began, and once being an important player on the world’s winemaking stage, a combination of historically suppressed production, and impossible (for Westerners) to pronounce and unfamiliar indigenous grape varieties, means that Georgia now has to somehow find its modern footing in a wine market that now scarcely pays it any mind.

It also has to deal with the fact that, dominated as it is by small, family-run wineries, it’s virtually impossible for Georgia to match supply if demand for its wine did happen to jump.

Every (re)emerging wine region needs at least two things: 1) The ability to hang with the currently very high minimum quality threshold of wines in an ultra-competitive market, and 2) a champion with authority and bonafides. Georgia now has both.

Regarding the first, Georgian wine is becoming one of the better “hand sells” in the wine world. My sample pool of Georgian wines has been growing slowly and steadily over the last 18 months, and most of those samples have impressed the hell out of me. As for the second, a champion has, indeed, emerged in the form of Master of Wine Lisa Granik, whose recent book The Wines of Georgia is basically the current bible when it comes to the region’s vinous wares.

Importantly, we’re also seeing some boutique importers who are getting bitten by the Georgian wine bug, and are passionately repping the country’s wines. I was visited by just such a person: Jeff Brown, who owns Village Vines LLC (and is a 1WD local, no less!), and who specializes in bringing in products made by small family outfits in Georgia. Brown left me a couple of samples to wet my beak, and now I can crow about the quality of those to you and give you a sense of what Georgian wine has in store (figuratively, if not yet literally).

 

Midnight Train to Awesome (Georgian Wine Is Ready for Prime Time)2019 Nareklishvili ‘Amber Dry Wine’ Qvevri (Kakheti, $36)

With orange/natural wines still flirting with toast-of-the-town status among wine geeks, Georgia is a natural fit for the hipster wine-loving crowd. Based on my experiences so far, the best amphora-aged whites from Georgia are among the best and most enjoyable amphora-aged whites, period. This 2019 Qvevri is a treat—freaky in all of the best ways. It’s honeyed and structured, has a tiny amount of funk that doesn’t even border on distracting, and delivers so much tasty apricot, pear skin, and bruised apple action that subsequent sips are pure pleasure.

 

Midnight Train to Awesome (Georgian Wine Is Ready for Prime Time)2019 Gurgenidze Family Bimbili Aleqsandrouli Red (Racha, $38)

Thankfully, this Aleqsandrouli is so delicious, you won’t care a whit about how to pronounce it. Brambly red berries abound on the nose and the palate, along with ample notes of white and black pepper that remain enticing and never once get obtrusive. The perky lift/vibrancy in the mouth makes this extremely food-friendly, but the breadth to the mouthfeel adds weight and enough seriousness to just sip it on its own, too.

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Midnight Train to Awesome (Georgian Wine Is Ready for Prime Time) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)

So… the global [pandemic has now gone on so long that not only have we crossed the threshold of 50 virtual samples tastings, but we’re circling back and revisiting producers that have already held such events…

In this case, that’s actually a positive development, as I got a chance to revisit the single vineyard wines of Dutcher Crossing—this time, however, focusing on three SV Pinot Noir releases from the 2018 vintage rather than (quite lovely) Sonoma Chardonnays.

Leading the virtual sipping were Dutcher Crossing winemaker Nick Briggs, and Terra de Promissio Vineyard’s impeccably-polite owner Diana Karren. As Briggs put it, the idea behind the single vineyard tastings was to once again showcase how DC “really explore that site and how those clones interact with that site.” But since the only people who really care about clones are winemakers, vineyard managers, and vine nursery staff, we are going to spend a lot more time talking about the three vineyards and the three wines showcased, and a lot less time (ok, probably none) talking about Pinot vine clones here. Anyway, let’s dive in!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Terra de Promisso Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $53)

Terra de Promissio is currently the most designated single vineyard in all of Sonoma County, appearing on over ten bottlings. Diana and husband Charles Karren bought the site in 1999, and planted it in 2002. And then everything kind of went to hell. “When the vines went in,” Karren recalled, “I was seven months pregnant.” Issues stacked up and funds got so tight that she contemplated dropping out of school and declaring bankruptcy at the time. Thankfully for them (and for us), the family rallied some funding and it pulled them through (“our story [of the vineyard] is the story of America for us” she noted). Dutcher Crossing has been working with this site since before the Petaluma Gap AVA was officially approved, so they have a feel for what works best when it comes to Pinot there. “They treat us as friends and family,” Karren mentioned when discussing DC; “I love that they’re very much involved in the grape-growing process.”

DC sources from the ocean-facing hillside at TdP vineyard (according to Karren, “the stakes are bent at an angle” in the first few vineyard rows due to the wind.) The position promotes thicker skins to protect the grapes—and thus more structure and color in the resulting wines. Briggs mentioned that “this is the wine I always grab” when asked which of his Pinots happens to be his favorite. And, well, it is pretty damned good. It’s big on flavor (pomegranate, black cherry, black raspberry), big on spices (black tea leaf, cedar, dried herbs), structure, suppleness, and power. This is about as robust as Sonoma Pinot gets, and is flexing its textural muscles, but in a polished and authentic way. Yeah, it’s structured, but that fruit is all silky showiness, too.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $53)

As per Briggs, this site near Healdsburg sees “warmer days, and not even as cool” evenings, promoting more of a “Sonoma aroma.” Seven different Pinot clones were planted by John and Diane Bucher on this 30+ acre hillside spot, with the steepness of the vineyard adding the potential for more complexity (helping to balance the natural lushness of the fruit that comes off this warmer spot).

There is great fruitiness here (ripe cherries galore), enticing aromas (graham cracker, vanilla, citrus peel, earth, and backing spices), and a young structure. But it’s also perky in its palate liveliness, and buoyant in its cherry fruit flavors (which are ripe and fun without being obnoxious about it). The finish closes out with more black cherry and hints of pepper, and the whole thing feels gorgeously balanced.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Cut Root Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $56)

This is the inaugural vintage from this site, the culmination of about six years of work (vines went in in 2015). “We were only able to develop about four acres,” Briggs pointed out, with the rest of the site too steep or wooded to plant (the vineyard sits near Occidental). It’s a cooler, less windy site, protected by the 100-feet tall Redwoods that surround it.

The hard work to prep the site was worth it—based on this release, the spot has serious potential for top-notch Sonoma Pinot. Rose petal notes mingle with herbs, black pepper, tea leaf, and both dry and fresh red currant fruit aromas. The palate is at once large/expressive and also lithe/transparent, with a long, spicy, mineral finish that’s laced with chocolate and earth tones. This is damned fine stuff, with a promising future ahead of it.

Cheers!

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for August 30, 2021

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for August 30, 2021 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)

Maybe it’s because I’m expecting my second kid and have a temporarily renewed affinity for all things small and cute, but I found the idea of Le Grand Verre’s figuratively pint-sized (they’re actually 6.3oz) packaging intriguing enough to accept their live virtual tasting/samples invitation.

I mean, the sort of test-tube-esque bottles are kind of cute, in a mad-scientist-meets-excited-wine-lover kind of way. The fact that they focus on providing wines from French producers that are led by women, and that focus on sustainable/organic offerings was really just cool icing on the cake for me.

Nicolas Deffrennes, the founder of Le Grand Verre, grew up in what he described as “a really small town in Cotes du Rhône.” When attending Harvard, Deffrennes “had my ‘eureka’ moment” after joining the university’s famous wine club. “My dream job was to be helping French exports,” he noted.

As for the selections at Le Grand Verre, Deffrennes explained that their focus on organic/sustainable and female-led estates developed more naturally from their primary goal, which was to showcase “more off the beaten path, more authentic wines” Receiving a grant from Burgundy, they designed their proprietary packaging (shatter-proof, double sided, recyclable PET mini-bottles) and toured vineyards to find wines for the program.

As we’ll see in a minute, the wines are good and, for the most part, outperform their extremely modest price points (I’ve tried to extrapolate full bottle prices below based on what their flights cost), but the packaging kind of shares equal billing with them at the moment. Deffrennes vision was to provide “the freedom of sampling, without the need to open an entire bottle” (is this actually an issue that most of us even have after sheltering-in-place?). The minis are deliberately designed so that the color of the wines can be seen easily, with the elongated, slim shape apparently helping to make pouring easier. They are double-coated to help preserve freshness. When pressed to detail how long a wine might stay fresh/drinkable in LGV’s proprietary, Deffrennes demurred that the design was meant to preserve the wine “for a long time.” At which point, I had to channel my inner K2-S0:

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)

Anyway, let’s see how the contents of that innovate packaging fared, shall we?

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2020 Domaine de Caylus Chardonnay (Pays d’Herault, $6.25)

Domaine de Caylus resides on 25 hectares of organically farmed vineyards in the South of France. Inès Andrieu calls the shots there, her grandfather having bought the Domaine in 1963. “My father [still] lives downstairs,” she noted. The family have been winegrowers since 1865. “It’s difficult, as a woman, but it’s a good life, it’s a beautiful life,” she told us. “Now, I am the manager. My first goal is to preserve our lifestyles. We live here, and it’s important for us to preserve the future of my children.”

This white sees no oak, which helps put its white flower, lemon blossom, lemon, white peach, and yellow apple aromas front and center. It’s a pure nose with very good intensity. In the mouth, it’s refreshing, with lovely white peach and pear flavors, along with some lovely apple notes. Just really, really fresh. “We’re trying to minimize any intervention” Andrieu explained, and this Chardonnay seems all the better for it.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2020 Domaine de Caylus Rosé Blend (Pays d’Herault, $6.25)

A Grenache/Syrah blend that’s redolent with aromas of roses, bright cherry fruit, watermelon, and wild strawberry. Delightful stuff once you sip it, with lots of bright and ripe red fruit on the finish, which has good length. “You can share it with your love. It’s very good with vegetables. Maybe you can take it to the beach with a picnic. Not complicated, but fresh and fun,” Andrieu explained. Yep, nailed it.

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2020 Domaine de Val d’Arenc Bandol Rosé (Provence, $7.50)

“Of course” is how Château Val D’Arenc’s Gérald Damidot put it when asked about whether or not they were now focused on organic viticulture. Val D’Arenc has been practicing organic viticulture for over 10 years, and Damidot has been in the winemaking biz for double that (13 of those years being in Bandol). “I make the wine with all the passion I can,” he emphasized, preferring a “delicate, feminine” style for his wines.

Case in point on that latter remark: this Mouvedre-based pink. The grapes are hand picked, and meant for rosé production. Damidot described it as “Not a simple rose, it’s gastronomic”—and he’s right. Pomelo, white peaches, flower petals all mark the alluring nose. Super fresh on the palate, there’s a ton of citrus pith, white pepper, and texture here (especially for the price). It really does suggest food in that pithy astringency and long citric finish.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines)2019 Château Peyredon (Haut-Medoc, $7.50)

This family-run, organic Bordeaux estate can boast a respectable neighborhood, bordering the likes of Château Poujeaux, Château Chasse Spleen and Château Maucaillou. Gamey and spicy, with hints of smoked meat, black fruits, and clove, this is a fresh take on Bordeaux red. Just-ripe blackberry, toast, smoke, chewy tannins, and good structure mark the palate, leading to a tangy, long, and earthy/funky finish.

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 51: Figuratively Pint-Sized (Launch of Le Grand Verre Wines) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for August 23, 2021

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for August 23, 2021 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 50: Opposites, Attractive (Comparing/Contrasting Portugal’s Douro and Vinho Verde)

Holy. Crap!

It’s actually been fifty… FIFTY!… of these not-in-person Zoom tastings since the global pandemic started? I’m getting twitchy for lack of travel, but my samples coffers remain more than full enough to supply with me with enough alcohol to dull the pain.

For this 50th incarnation of SiP (Sort-of-Shelter-in-Place) sipping, we catch up with longtime friends of 1WD, Portugal’s Esporão, who made their name as one of the most famous, well, names in Alentejo. Esporão has, since my time working them several years ago, branched out to acquire Quinta dos Murças—a Douro property that was just being on-boarded when I first visited them—and Quinta do Ameal, an historic property in Vinho Verde.

If you’re thinking “well, those two are about as far apart stylistically as you can get,” you’re on the right track, as that was more-or-less the theme underpinning the tasting of recent releases by both estates that I attended, led by Ameal winemaker José Luis Moreira da Silva and Esporão’s Frank Paredes. “Our main goal,” emphasized José Luis “is to produce wines that represent each region, and show the differences with both.”

And different they most certainly are, though once could , with enough quick driving, see both of them in the same day.

The lusher, much wetter, and much greener Vinho Verde is still technically the #1 selling Portuguese wine region in the USA, and the largest DOC in Portugal by vineyard area. Rainy, lush, cool, and continental, with influence from the Atlantic ocean, the region’s vines grow mainly on sandy loam and granitic soils (“that reinforce the acidity” according to José Luis). By contrast, the Douro is, of course, noted for its steep viticulture, Schist/slate soils, arid climate, fortified wine production, and potentially scorching Summertime temperatures.

Such a juxtaposition of regions yielded what you’d expect: vibrant white wines, and the deep, plummy reds to match them as opposite sides of the Portuguese vinous coin. There’s a bit more to the story, of course, and that’s where our tasting kicks off…

2020 Esporão Quinta do Ameal ‘Bico Amarelo’ (Vinho Verde, $12)

Ameal is the more recent Esporão  acquisition, but the more historic, dating back to 1710. The property runs 2600+ feet along the Lima River, with rolling hills and changes in elevation providing variation in growing conditions. The previous owner bet big-time on the Loureiro  grape variety here, running with it since about 1990. Loureiro means “laurel” (and the grapes do smell like it). “It’s incredible how these wines resist aging,” noted José Luis. “For me it resembles Riesling. It’s all about the acidity and the freshness. The idea here was to produce a different wine” than the region had been known for previously, “more valuable, more premium.”

Here, Loureiro, Alvarinho, and Avesso are blended from three different subregions, in an attempt to “look for the harmony” between these grapes “in a natural way” (i.e., no gas, no sugar added, etc.). The vineyards are about 25 years old. This is floral and mineral, with lovely citrus notes (think limes, lemons, grapefruit…). Vivacious and fresh in the nose, with tropical hints, there’s plenty of acidity to go around, of course, but there’s also nice roundness on the palates’ edges. Light, fresh, and finishing with green apple and lime pith. This one delivers intellectual payoffs as well as refreshment—for a price that kind of defies belief.

 

2020 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro (Vinho Verde, $18)

This 100% Loureiro is “a blend of all the plots we have on the estate” explained José Luis, (those near the river giving acidity, and those on the hills bringing depth), and sees 6 months of batonnage. Talk about fresh aromas… Flowers, limes, and lemon rind – not overtly complex, but the nose feels elegantly refined. Juicy and refreshing, with mineral and bay leaf hints, the palate is absolutely electric, but never looses its cool or its composure. The finish is, indeed, reminiscent of Riesling, with its stone fruits and hint of spice. Elegant and excellent, and sporting a WAY long for the price!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 50: Opposites, Attractive (Comparing/Contrasting Portugal’s Douro and Vinho Verde)

2017 Esporão Quinta dos Murças ‘Assobio’ Red (Douro, $14)

While Ameal was already a well-established and well-regarded brand before Esporão picked it up, Murças still remains a bit of “a blank slate” for Esporão, even 12+ years after they acquired it. Its 48 hectares of vines (across 155 total ha) sport lots of biodiversity, and a bit of historical significance—in 1947, Quinta dos Murças had the first vertical plantings in the Douro (82% of the estate is planted in vertical rows today). The plantings favored more concentration and quality but lower yields (and in some cases, deeper roots), while also promoting more aeration in the vines, helping against disease pressure. “It’s really an important part,” noted Paredes, “the elegance is linked to these conditions” in their Cima Corgo location (the somewhat cooler area of Douro). The estate is now 100% Organic, benefiting from a 2015 a soil survey that afforded them deeper understanding of the plots and terroirs.

This blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz hails from vines that are now nearly 40 years old. The name (meaning “Whistle”) is derived from the sound the wind makes when it whips through the vineyards. Balsamic, blackberry, black plums, and ample spices mark the nose of this very friendly red. With nice freshness, its acidity balances its ripe red fruit palate and its tannins, which arequite well managed. Hints of wood spices round things out on the finish. This will make friends.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 50: Opposites, Attractive (Comparing/Contrasting Portugal’s Douro and Vinho Verde)2018 Esporão Quinta dos Murças ‘Minas’ (Douro, $24)

This red comes from al-estate fruit, with vine plantings dating from 1987-2011. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz are here joined up with bits of Tinta Cao and Tinta Francisca. The QUinta’s traditional lagares are still used for foot treading the grapes. Intense and ripe, this one is spicy, spicy SPICY! The fruits are quite black, and they are powerful. Leather, dark dried herbal spices, wood spices, dried violets, and smoke all show up, too. The palate is fresh, exciting, and also deep with tangy red fruit, big and spicy black plums, and balsamic notes. This feels young right now, and will likely get even more robust given a few years in bottle.

Cheers!

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for August 16, 2021

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for August 16, 2021 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)

“We probably have the most expensive viticulture in the world.”

So claimed Charles Symington, CEO of 5th generation Port and Douro powerhouse Symington Family Estates, during a recent ZOOM live tasting in which he was joined by fellow family member and Head Winemaker Charles Symington. And he has a point—and he has perspective, with Symington farming about 1,000+ hectares of vines in the Douro, with 26 estates and 8 wineries currently in operation. The staid but somewhat droll demeanor of both men belied the excitement that awaits anyone lucky enough to nab the wines we tasted, but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here.

“As you go from west to east [in the Douro], it becomes dry and hotter,” Charles explained, as we (impatiently, in my case) readied to taste through selections of still reds and vintage Ports from both Quinta de Roriz (in the Cima Corgo) and Quinta do Vesuvio (a much larger property in the Douro Superior, established in 1827 and acquired by Symington in 1989). “The rain we get in the Douro is mainly coming off the Atlantic. Temperatures in the Douro will often go below 0C in the Winter; in the Summer it’s not unusual to see 50C.” Combine those conditions with “the geography following the mountainside, the extremes in temperature, the lack of rainfall” as well as naturally low yields, hand-harvesting, and local regulations that would charitably be described as difficult, and you have a formula for viticulture that is anything but cheap. “The effort’s definitely worth it,” he insisted, though “there’s always an element of risk management.”

As for what makes the Douro such a special place worthy of said effort, Rupert Symington chalked it up to the region’s unique soil system. The soil has “a quite porous and well-drained” schist layer “all over the main Douro valley,” he advised. Rainfall filters through all of that schist, forcing vine roots to go deep into granite to find water (especially important during the hot, dry Summer months). Low yields of concentrated, intensely flavored grapes are basically the natural byproduct.

Here’s a disclaimer: I have history with a few of these wines, and so jumped at this tasting opportunity. They happen to be among some of my personal faves, so I’m not making any promises that I’m in fully objective territory from here on out… you have been warned!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)2018 P+S Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia (Douro, $28)
According to Charles Symington, “2018 was really a very good year. It was very balanced, allowing for sugars and acidity to develop side by side.” This melding of Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca (with some Tinta Roriz) puts a crowd-pleasing exclamation mark on that statement. A spicy nose, with hints of vanilla, cedar, lots of plum; lovable palate suppleness, combined with juicy red and black fruit flavors, and just enough spice and acidity all keep things jaunty. it gets funky, meaty, and yet still even spicier on the powerful finish.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)2018 Quinta do Vesuvio Pombal do Vesuvio (Douro, $30)

Speaking of keeping a crowd happy, there’s this other blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Amarela. Herbal notes, with spice, dried violets, black and blue plums, cassis, licorice, and dark chocolate… not much to dislike here. It has softness, but also depth and concentration (and deceptively high amounts of structure). Delicious stuff.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)2017 P+S Prats & Symington Chryseia (Douro, $90)

Touriga Nacional (75%) and Touriga Franca… again… For Rupert Symington, this release is “a huge personal favorite of mine,” as he feels the 2017s are “absolute classics.” After tasting this, it’s not easy to find reason to disagree with him. Stewed red and blue fruits, ample spices, several types of licorice, and dried herbs all mark the entry. Dusty tannins, red plum and redcurrant juiciness grace the palate. There’s a fantastic finish, with plum flavors and vivacity throughout, along with meatiness, earth, and fantastic length. This is one of the most elegant TN-based reds you’ll likely ever find.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)2017 Quinta do Vesuvio Tinto (Douro, $85)

Touriga Franca (56%), with Touriga Nacional (41%), and Tinta Amarela (3%). Garrigue/dried herbs, pine needle, cedar plank, dried blueberry, ripe black and blue plums…. there’s a gorgeously sexy nose that extends right into a gorgeously sexy and round mouthfeel. This is but a mere pup at the moment, based on the killer combo of structure and acidity happening in it at the moment. While this is powerful and ripe, there is nothing that doesn’t feel luscious and luxurious in this—especially in that irresistible, lengthy ending.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)2007 Quinta de Roriz Vintage Port (Porto, $75)

Charles Symington described 2007 as “a rather unusual year… probably one of the coolest years” for the region, one that promoted “better acidity, and fantastic aromas; it’s one of the best years of the century so far” for Port. This release (as well as the Quinta do Vesuvio below) are foot-trodden in lagares, “a very simple method [that] can produce the most extraordinary wines.” And extraordinary this is. There’s. So. Much. SPICE. Think innamon, cigar, sweet tobacco, vanilla extract… along with raisin, dried fig, blackberry syrup, hints of rum, and black licorice. Immensely long in the finish, the balance throughout the palate on this Port is downright exceptional. And this is still youthful! (“Going through its teenage phase” according to Charles).


Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 49: “The Most Expensive Viticulture in the World” (Legendary Douro Releases from Symington)2007 Quinta do Vesuvio Single Quinta Vintage Port (Porto, $75)

Garrigue and dried herbs, blackberry syrup, dried flowers, eucalyptus, cola, dried black cherry, and they are all wrapped up in a sense of almost regal power. This is HUGE right now: dark, flamboyant and showy. The fruit flavors have this interesting combo of stewey plum action, with rich and velvety sweetness that all feels seamless. Quite long, and structurally still young. If you like them dark and sweet, there are few better.

Cheers!