Wednesday, April 2, 2008

WBW #44: French Cabernet Franc

Gary Vaynerchuk, director of Wine Library and the face behind Wine Library TV, is hosting this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. His theme is quite simple: drink a French Cabernet Franc and talk about it.

Thanks to a tip from Brooklynguy, I was able to find a good stash of 2001 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny Terres Chaudes late last year. For WBW #44, this wine will do just fine.

Domaine des Roches Neuves is located in the appellation of Saumur Champigny and is owned by Thierry Germain. Thierry approaches Cabernet Franc like a Burgundy wine-maker instead of a typical Loire producer. This cuvée, Terres Chaudes (which literally translates to "Hot Earth"), represents the middle of the three cuvées Germain produces. The age of the vines for Terres Chaudes are between 35-45 years old and the yield does not exceed 35 hectolitres per hectare. Half of the wine is matured in stainless steel vat and the other half is matured in 1 year old barrel previously used for his top cuvée, the La Marginale. Thierry Germain converted to biodynamic farming starting from 2005. Upon release, Terres Chaudes can benefit from 6-8 years of bottle aging to gain further complexity.

Importer: VOS Selections, Price: $16, ABV: 12.5%, Closure: real cork

Tasting notes:
Color: Medium garnet, tight rims.

Nose: Strong notes of wet animal fur and light roasted meat upon opening. After an hour in the glass, wine opens up revealing lovely aromas of dark berries, lavender and a hint of tobacco.

Palate: Juicy and balanced. At age 7, the acidity is still fresh but the tannins is already quite resolved. Flavors include tart berries interlaced with layers of dust, smoke and tar. The texture is really smooth. Concentrated fruit but a (tiny) bit rustic.

Body: Medium

Finish: Medium in length. Mainly tart berries supported by dusty notes of sandalwood, herbs and a slight touch of spiciness. A bit of animal funk adds complexity to the finish.

Terres Chaudes, like all Cabernet Franc, is a versatile food wine. It is a perfect match for mild goat cheese, beef stew or even lamb.

Aside from being elegant, smooth and delicious, another great aspect of this bottle is that there is no "raw vegetable" or "steminess" that a lot of people dislike in Cabernet Franc. (Maybe this is due to sufficient bottle aging)

the 2001 Terres Chaudes is at the peak of its drinking window at the time of writing. Although I really don't see any benefit from further bottle aging, it should continue to drink well for another 2-3 years.

For a $16 wine, it really blows away a lot of competition that cost twice as much. Wish I can find more.

Note: the 2005 vintage is still quite affordable, currently selling for $20 at PJ Wine.

Friday, March 28, 2008

2005 Quinta de Cabriz Dão Colheita Seleccionada

In the good old days when our US currency still had decent purchasing power, French, German and even Italian wines were relatively affordable. However, with the dollar sinking to an abyss, good and inexpensive European wines are just hard to come by. Today, a decent bottle from these regions will cost you at least $15.

When I want a wine for casual drinking, I can't help but to go back at Portugal. Aside from producing a very wide variety of wines with distinctive personalities, Portugal also produces some of the world's finest, unique and highest value-added wines. As in the case of this 2005 Quinta de Cabriz Dão Colheita Seleccionada that only cost $8 with fairly decent availability nationwide.

Quinta de Cabriz belongs to a dynamic wine company, Dão Sul, that makes a wide range of products. Although not directly mentioned the Colheita Seleccionada, Simon Goode,wrote an excellent article describing Quinat de Cabriz's portfolio back in 2004.

Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada is a blend of Alfrocheiro, Tinta-Roriz, and Touriga-Nacional which spent 6 months in 2 year old French oak barrels. It is lightly filtered prior to bottling and carries ABV of 13%. The US importer is Aidil Wines & Liquors.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Clear Ruby.

Nose: Fresh cut pine wood, cherry and cinnamon. Quite aromatic.

Palate: High-toned cherry liqueur. Lively acidicty (although a bit high) and juicy fruit keeps it from being boring. Quite balanced. Notes of violet and some dark fruit flavors emerge as wine opens up. Tannins very light.

Body: Medium.

Finish: Short to medium. Mostly cherry and spice, notes of pine needle.

This is a fun and lovely everyday wine that can support a wide range of cuisine. Better with food than by itself. It does has the structure to support 1-2 years of bottle aging. Extremely high QPR value.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

WBW #43: Comfort Wines

Joel at Wine Life Today provided the assignment for Wine Blogging Wednesday #43:
Choose a wine, any wine, that you love to unwind to and tell us about not only the wine but what makes the experience special and relaxing for you!”

In my mind, comfort food is typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. By the same token, a comfort wine should complement comfort food in the following ways: easy to find, comfortable to drink and light on your wallet.

In the current economic climate, inflation of wine price is down right scary!Comfort wines that are 'best bang for the buck' are not easy to come by (Well, two buck chuck does not count!). What makes the wine I am going to recommend so special is its high QPR value. Aside from being tasty, just by knowing the fact that every time when I open a bottle to share at any occassion is not going to break my bank is enough to make the drinking experience 'relaxing and special'.

The Wine: 2003 Royal Oporto Douro Porca de Murça Red
ABV: 13%, Price: $5, Importer: Admiral Wine Imports

Porca de Murça is produced by Real Companhia Velha in Portugal. The company has a very nice website in English highlighting their history, culture and products. The grapes of Porca de Murça are sourced from vineyards in the Douro region owned by Real Vinicola. The varieties in this wine is composed of Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz and Barroca. Real Companhia Velha also makes a white wine under the Porca de Murça label that sells for about the same price.

Tasting Notes:
Color: Slightly murky, medium garnet.

Nose: Fairly straight forward. Mostly candied cherry.

Palate: Albeit one dimensional, it is quite balanced. Acidity does poke out at times. Fairly concentrated flavor of ripe cherries supported by hints of oak. Light Tannins.

Body: Medium at best.

Finish: Short to medium. red fruit and slightly pepperish. As wine opens, there is also a note of black tea detected.

Although Porca de Murça does fine as sipping wine, it performs much better with food. This wine just sings when paired with a dishes such as maple-garlic pork tenderloin.

Note: I have tasted the '03, '04 and the '05 vintages of this wine and the quality is consistent across all the vintages. The best part is that you can still find the 2005 vintage retails for $5, especially in New York City, at Astor and PJ Wine. How special and comforting is that?

Friday, February 22, 2008

A first taste of Bull's Blood

In my early days of learning about wine, I used to frequent Trader Joe's wine shop at Union Square. I was initially wowed by the low price tags on most of their selections. (Although looking back, I realized I would have purchased better quality of wines by spending not much more at either Astor Wines or Wine Warehouse). It was at Trader Joe's where I picked up this bottle of 2003 Egervin Egri Bikavér which I have much forgotten until recently.

The Egri Bikavér(Bull's Blood of Eger) is Hungary's most famous red wine. It is produced in the wine region around the town of Eger. Egri Bikavér has always been a wine of the field blends with Kadarka or Kékfrankos as the anchoring varietal. However, since 1997, straighter DHC(Districtus Hungariucus Controllatus) regulation was put in place stating that Egri Bikavér must contain at least three of the following varieties:

Kadarka, Kékfrankos(Blaufränkisch), Kékoportó(Blauer Portugieser), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Menoire (known as Kékmedoc, or Médoc Noir before), Pinot Noir, Syrah, and the modern Austrian hybrids, Blauburger and Zweigelt.

In 2004, Egri Bikavér Superior (a higher cuvée) was also introduced. In this case, 4 out of the 11 recommanded varieties must be included. Currently, there are more than 40 producers in Hungary bottling Egri Bikavér. Unfortunately, retail exposure of this wine is still very limited in the U.S.

2003 Egervin Egri Bikavér is a blend of Kékfrankos, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zweigelt. It comes with a real cork and carries a 12.9% ABV. At 2006, It was $5.99 at Trader Joe's. Importer: Monsieur Henri Wine Co., New Orleans.

Another interesting fact about this bottle worth noting. It actually comes with the following instruction at the back label: "To appreciate Egri Bikavér at the best, open at least one hour before drinking and serve at room temperature". According to Egervin's website, room temperature means 16-18°C.

Tasting notes:
Color: Clear Ruby.

Nose: Yielding nothing upon opening. After 1 hour (as per instruction), aroma of cherry pie started to emerge. Notes of oak peeks out as wine opens more. There is also a hint of green leaves in the background.

Palate: Slightly unbalanced. Not much fruit. Flavor of tart or unriped cherry. Not much structure or tannins. It is actually fairly one dimensional.

Body: Light (lighter than most Beaujolais).

Finish: Medium at best. Notes of cherry fruit but not much else. As wine warms, the finish turns a bit alcoholic.

Clearly this bottle is not the best example of the best known wine from Hungary. Egri Bikavé can be a fun wine. For example, Bert at Wineterroirs gave a thumbs-up to a 2003 St Andrea Egri Bikaver Superior here. Unfortunately, Bert's example is not imported to the U.S. I must re-taste Egri Bikavé from other producers in the future to give this wine a better evaluation.

If you can recommend a good Egri Bikavé, please let me know.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

WBW #42: Round Up

Andrew Barrow wasted no time in posting the round-up of WBW #42.

Participation of Wine Blogging Wednesday, started by Lenn Thompson has seen linear growth since its inception. For this installment, 54 wine bloggers from around the world have accepted the challange.

From reading all the entries, I am amazed how talented our fellow wine bloggers are. The titles are so creative. You know, everybody can describe a wine, but to painting a visual picture in just seven word requires a lot of thinking. Compare to the others, my description is just plain lousy! Oh well! I wish there will be more mind-tweaking exercises like this for the wine blogging community in the future.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WBW #42: An Italian Red in Just Seven Words

The 42nd installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by Andrew Barrow of Spitton. His challenge for us is to describe an Italian red wine in JUST SEVEN WORDS.

Well, I have to admit this exercise is really fun but also very difficult, especially for folks like myself whose first language is not even English. Fortunately, Super Bowl XLII bailed me out in helping me to find the appropriate description for the Sicilian red I tasted. (It is a coincidence that this is also the 42nd installment of WBW)

The wine : 2005 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria

The description : The Patriots' Collapse in Super Bowl XLII

I have to apologize here that my phrase will not make any sense to folks who are not familiar with American football or NFL. So, I provide a a little background on Super Bowl XLII and why I choose this phrase to describe the 2005 Cerasuolo di Vittoria:

The New England Patriots and the New York Giants played on Feb 3rd, 2008 for the 42nd championship game of National Football League (NFL). The game is called Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots had touted an explosive offense and a strong defense throughout the entire football season. They had won every single game coming to the Super Bowl with an 18-0 record. However, during the game of Super Bowl, their offensive performance did not exhibit the expected explosiveness. Instead, it was actually quite light weight and one dimensional throughout. Their defense also fell flat and fizzled in strength. Ultimately, the Patriots collapased and lost to the Giants by a score of 14-17 thereby falling short in finish; abruptly ending a dream of 'the perfect season'.

If my short summary of Super Bowl XLII is confusing, NFL.COM provides a much better coverage on this event.

Now to the wine, Cerasuolo di Vittoria is produced by the Planeta family in Sicily. They have a very nice website in English. This wine is composed of two indigenous varieties: 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato. All the grapes of this wine are harvested from the Dorilli vineyard.

This wine has ABV of 13.5% and I paid $19 for it. (Sadly, with the weak US/Euro exchange rate, the 2006 vintage is selling for $22 - $25).

Tasting notes:

Nose: Explosive aroma of raspberry.
[ Analogy: the initial showing of the Patriots’ explosive appearance ]

Color: Clear ruby.

Palate: Fairly one dimensional with flavor of mostly strawberry and raspberry. Very fruit forward with notes of pepper. Good acidity but not particularly mouth coating.
[ Analogy: appearance of the Patriots’ one dimensional performance during the game ]

Body: Light to medium
[ Analogy: Patriots showing up as a light weight team ]

Finish: Mostly red fruits. Clean but short finish.
[ Analogy: abrupt finish to the Patriot’s season, falling short of expectation ]

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria reminds me of a mid-level Beaujolais. It is actually a good food wine to pair with for light fares such as roasted chicken or roast beef sandwich. However, for $20+, the QPR value on this wine is just barely ok.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Wow! the Giants won the Super Bowl!

February 3, 2008 would go down in history as one of the biggest upset in NFL history. The New York Giants stunned the heavy favorite, the New England Patriots, in Glendale Arizona to capture the title of the Super Bowl XLII Champion.

So many historic moments were made on that day, but the following are the most notable:

- NY Giants became the FIRST team to win 11 consecutive games on the road.

- FIRST Super Bowl with 4 lead changes between the 2 teams played.

- FIRST time in NFL history for two brothers (Peyton and Eli Manning) to win back to back Super Bowl titles and MVP titles.

- FIRST time in NFL history where a father-son combination to win Super Bowl championships with the same team in the same capacity of linebacker and long snapper. (Steve DeOssie - XXV, Zak DeOssie - XLII).

- FIRST time in in NFL history for a team (Patriots) winning all 16 regular season games and all the playoff games ONLY to lose in the Super Bowl.

Photo: New York Giants linebacker Zak DeOssie held up a newspaper after the Giants beat the New England Patriots 17-14 in the Super Bowl XLII football game on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) ( David J. Phillip )