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Archive for March, 2015

An affordable pair of Etna Rosso to age for the short term

In these temporarily leaner times there are many wines from Etna that exceed my price range.  The pair featured in today’s post are priced at what I regard as the beginning range for this region.  Though both are from the 2013 vintage and are mostly expressions of Nerello Mascalese, they showed completely different in flavor and evolution.  On the first night the 2013 Planeta, Etna Rosso was my wine of choice.  It was the more forward of the two with darker red fruit and a romantically volcanic, mineral finish.  The 2013 Tenuta di Fessina, Erse, Etna Rosso, by contrast, was tight, higher-toned, and more acidic.  You can imagine my surprise when first smelling the Erse on the second night to come across pure aromas of Juicy Fruit gum.  That is perhaps not the best description but what matters is that the wine displayed its own unique profile.  I recommend you try this wine but first give it hours upon hours of air or better yet, cellar it for the short term.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Planeta, Etna Rosso – $24
Imported by Palm Bay.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from vines at 600-800 meters in elevaiton.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for six months in used oak barriques.  Alcohol  13%. The nose had tight aromas of darker berries.  In the mouth were firm red fruit flavors that did not expand until the acidity came out in the finish.  With air the red fruit became darker with a subdued structure of fine and dry tannins.  The finish brought firm cherry flavors and a black, mineral finish.  **(*) 2016-2022.

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2013 Tenuta di Fessina, Erse, Etna Rosso – $23
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello
Cappuccio sourced from vines at 670 meters of elevation that was fermented and aged in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a light, grapey cherry.  On the second night the nose revealed attractive aromas of juicy fruit gum.  There were similar fruit flavors in the mouth.  The wine was not quite light bodied and existed from the very beginning around an integrated structure.  The tannins with a touch ripe, texture, an drying in the aftertaste.  The pretty, berrylicious flavors were matched by juicy acidity.  The wine picked up some weight towards the finish which emphasized the good fruit.  *** 2016-2020.

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A late 19th century photograph of a family at harvest.

 

Vendanges à Verrières. Thiollier Félix. c. 1890-1900. [1]

Vendanges à Verrières.
Thiollier Félix. c. 1890-1900. [1]


[1] Vendanges à Verrières. Thiollier Félix. c. 1890-1900. Paris, musée d’Orsay. Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski. URL: http://www.photo.rmn.fr/archive/97-024757-2C6NU0S5NJKX.html

Albania, New Mexico (by way of Arizona), and Texas

I am naturally curious about many things and as this blog is chronicle of my daily interest in wine, rather than a focused critique, I found myself purchasing three wines from Albania, New Mexico, and Texas. I do know that I might be better off at times purchasing my favorite $13 Cotes du Rhone but my curiosity is driving.  Of the three wines in this post the 2011 Kantina Arbëri, Kallmet, Mirdite, Albania has the most potential. I liked the dark fruit, tar, and minerals.  The 2012 Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, Chupacabra, New Mexico is another effort from Maynard James Keenan’s Arizona based Caduceus Cellar.  The firm fruit, acidity, and structure all go hand in hand but it needs some short-term aging to open up.   I do not know how it will develop but it tastes like it was intended too.  Finally, the 2013  McPherson, Tre Colore, Texas keeps with previous vintages by being a soft wine to drink right away. The Kantina Arbëri was purchased at MacArthur Beverages and the other wines at Sherry’s Wine and Spirits.

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2011 Kantina Arbëri, Kallmet, Mirdite, Albania – $16
Imported by  Winebow.  This wine is 100% Kallmet. Alcohol 13.9%. The nose bore dark fruit and tar. The flavors in the mouth were black, fresh and dry with both a leather note and earthy hint. The wine became lively towards the finish with noticeable drying structure. With air the wine develop black minerals, texture, and a little tart flavor that went with the salivating acidity. An enjoyable wine but in the end the structure might soon overpower the fresh, black fruit. ** Now-2017.

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2013  McPherson, Tre Colore, Texas – $18
This wine is a blend of 49% Carignan, 40% Mourvedre, and 11% Viognier that was fermented and aged in stainless steel.   Alcohol 13.9%.  The wine had a rounder mouthfeel with initial flavors of tart red and black fruit. The flavors became sweeter with integrated acidity and minimal structure. What structure there was became noticeable in the back end. * Now.

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2012 Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, Chupacabra, New Mexico –
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Petit Sirah that was aged in neutral French oak.  Alcohol 13.7%.  This carried firm fruit, good acidity and length. The cranberry red fruit had an integrated structure of spiced tannins. The oak is still noticeable with its barrels notes and tannins on the gums. There was a bit of an aftertaste. ** Now-2018

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Red and white Cotes du Rhone from Domaine de la Janasse

I do not drink much white Rhone wine but I do try when I see affordable bottles.  One such example is the 2013 Domaine de la Janasse, Blanc, Cotes du Rhone.  It offers a very attractive nose of nuts and fruit which are reflected in the flavors.  The flavors, however, remained very tight over two nights.  If this wine loosens up over the next year or two it could become rather enjoyable.  The 2011 Domaine de la Janasse, Reserve, Cotes du Rhone was a surprisingly good drink of wine right from the first pour.  This custom cuvee for Eric Solomon is quite serious, particularly given the low price.  The darker fruit is attractive now but repeated tastes assure that this wine will continue to develop over the short-term.   Buy it by the case!  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Domaine de la Janasse, Blanc, Cotes du Rhone – $20
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 15% Clairette, 15% Bourboulenc, 10% Viognier, and 10% Roussanne.  Alcohol 13%.  There were smooth aromas of lychee and nuts.  In the mouth were tight and dense flavors of white fruit, nuts, and dried herbs by the finish.  It eventually took on some spices with the drier flavors of the finish.  ** 2017-2023.

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2011 Domaine de la Janasse, Reserve, Cotes du Rhone – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan, 10% Mourvedre and 10% Cinsault sourced from 10 to 60 year old vines which was aged 12 months in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  This is a serious wine with youthful concentration.  The flavors mix blue and black fruit with an attractive amount of spice.  This drinks well now but should develop.  *** Now-2020.

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A captivating 17th century Limoges of a man pouring wine from a small cask.

Le vin. Jacques II, Laudin. 17th century. (C) RMN-Grand Palais. [1]

Le vin. Jacques II, Laudin. 17th century. (C) RMN-Grand Palais. [1]


[1] Le vin. Jacques II, Laudin. 17th century. (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée de la Renaissance, château d’Ecouen) URL: http://www.photo.rmn.fr/archive/01-003915-2C6NU0GR85U7.html

Affordable Rioja from Ramón Bilbao and Bodegas Ontañón

Continuing in the vein of affordable Spanish wines are the pair from Rioja featured in today’s post.  Both of these wines are made entirely from Tempranillo yet they show different personalities.  The 2011 Ramón Bilbao, Rioja Crianza was produced using fruit sourced from Rioja Alta during a hot vintage.  The wine tastes fresh.  It spent more time in oak so it exhibits dry structure and smoky notes.  The fruit for the 2012 Bodegas Ontañón, Ecológico, Rioja was sourced from organic vineyards located in Rioja Baja during a very dry vintage.   The attractive, meaty nose made way to similar flavors that were enlivened by tartness and acidity.   It continued to offer interest and in the end, was the bottle we saw to the end.  Its attractive price and capability for development make it an ideal wine to drink over the next couple of years.  These wines were provided by Padilla CRT.

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2011 Ramón Bilbao, Rioja Crianza – $16
Imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. This wine is 100% Tempranillo that was aged for 14 months in oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The wine was a little rugged, meaty yet fresh.  The flavors were on the dry side with structure and an overall young profile.  It took on a dark, smoky aspect.  ** Now-2019.

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2012 Bodegas Ontañón, Ecológico, Rioja – $13
Imported by Gabriel Wilson Selections.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo that was aged for five months in used American oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was buttery with attractive, meaty aromas.  In the mouth were similar flavors mixed with red and black fruit that had tart ripeness and good acidity. The wine showed some weight to the meaty flavors.  The black red fruit morphed into black licorice in the aftertaste.  The wine should continue to develop over the next year.  ** Now-2019.

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A man and a woman in a vineyard in autumn; representing the benefits of the fiftieth year of life.

This undated image shows a man and a woman standing under an arbor in a vineyard during the fall. The woman has been gathering apples and the man holds a knife, presumably because he has been harvesting grapes. In the left background workers are harvesting grapes which are then dumped into barrels. In the center background appears a horse-drawn cart with barrels of wine.

A man and a woman in a vineyard in autumn; representing the benefits of the fiftieth year of life. Engraving. Published:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

A man and a woman in a vineyard in autumn; representing the benefits of the fiftieth year of life. Engraving.
Published: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Five different Barbera d’Alba

It may be that there are not enough hours in the day to prepare my house, work, and write about the history of wine.  Fortunately, I can still taste wine! It was great fun to go through the five Barbera d’Alba wines featured in this post because they were all so different.  I will keep my commentary short as I plan to taste through a second set. The 2013 De Forville, Barbera d’Alba is a well-priced, grapey wine that will develop over the short term.  The evergreen forest aroma was a new experience for me!  The 2011 A&G Fantino, Cascina Dardi, Barbera d’Alba had a rather ripe nose but in the mouth it was all in balance with bonus  earthy flavors.  Of all five wines this is the one you can drink right away.  The 2009 Domenico Clerico, Trevigne, Barbera d’Alba has a killer nose but packs in some serious structure that still needs many years to resolve.  Definitely lay a few bottles down. The 2009 Giacomo Grimaldi, Pistin, Barbera d’Alba might be too funky for some but I was oddly attracted to this elegant wine.  Finally, the 2009 Marziano Abbona, Rinaldi, Barbera d’Alba came as over ripe and a bit to much for my preference.  If it were dialed back a notch it would then be in balance with the earth, fruit, and cedar.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 De Forville, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines averaging 30 years of age in Barbaresco, Neive, and Alba.  The fruit  was fermented in stainless steel then aged for one year in oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose revealed clean fruit that morphed into aromas of an evergreen forest.  The tart red fruit changed to black fruit with acidity driven flavors noticeable on the front of the tongue.  With moderate structure the wine came across as classically tight.  With air the wine was very grapey with forward acidity, a tart, linear middle, wrapped up with a nice grapey structure.  **(*) Now-2023.

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2011 A&G Fantino, Cascina Dardi, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from 60 year old vines on sandy clay soils that was fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for 18 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose bore ripe aromas that approached that of raisins.  In the mouth this was clearly a more forward wine with ripe flavors that were balanced by tart flavors on the tongue tip.  It had grip, salivating acidity, and an attractive earthy hint in the aftertaste.  With air the ripe, earthy flavors filled the mouth and developed well, taking on citrus undertones.  *** Now-2020.

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2009 Domenico Clerico, Trevigne, Barbera d’Alba – $25
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from the Trevigne cru that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12-16 months in 40% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose of pure licorice remained attractive over two days.  In the mouth were fresh, dry black flavors, licorice, and obvious structure.  The acidity was integrated with the drying tannins mixing with minty fresh finish that was slightly spicy.  With air the wine remained very much the same.  Young! **(*) 2028-2026+.

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2009 Giacomo Grimaldi, Pistin, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Banville & Jones Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, and Novello that was fermented in and aged for 9 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 14%.  This was quite funky at first on the nose but then it cleaned up.  The flavors showed restraint and were fresh from the acidity with both ripeness and texture in good balance.  It showed spices and some roughness.  With air the flavors became slightly funk with raspberry candy, hard red fruit, and lovely acidity.  There was moderate structure and just a hint of old wood.  *** Now-2023.

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2009 Marziano Abbona, Rinaldi, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from a single vineyard in Monforte d’Alba with 35-50+ year old vines.  It was fermented in stainless steel where it was aged for six months followed by eight months in French oak casks. Alcohol 15%.  The nose bore dark aromas.  In the mouth the flavors coated the tongue with ripe, earthy red fruit, mushrooms, and almost raisinated fruit.  The acidity was supporting but there was a touch of heat in the finish after which the structure became noticeable.  With air this dense, ripe wine showed extract and picked up a bit of cedar in the finish.  ** Now-2020.

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An inexpensive pair from Spain

Given the rate at which we have been spending money  to prepare our current house for sale, I expanded my purchases below the $11 per bottle mark.  Both of the wines featured in this post are worth drinking.  At only $9 the 2013 Bodegas Ignacio Marin, Duque de Medina, Garnacha, Cariñena offers an articulate nose, black fruit, and attractive greenhouse notes.  It will not hold your interest for more than two glasses so think of it as a wine to drink while you clean your paint brushes or prepare dinner. For just a Dollar more the 2013 Bodegas Castaño, Monastrell, Yecla has attractive aromas and flavors infused with crushed orange skin.  This flavor works very well with the tart red fruit and in the end, will hold the interest of you and your friends until the bottle is finished.  At only $10 per bottle I find that incredible.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Bodegas Ignacio Marin, Duque de Medina, Garnacha, Cariñena – $9
Imported by South River Imports.  This wine is 100% Garnacha. Alcohol 13%.  The nose revealed articulated aromas of black fruit with a slight greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth were ripe, textured flowers and black fruit that was delivered in a more linear fashion.  The acidity and dryness were noticeable in the second half before the greenhouse notes came out on the palate.  The dry structure was appropriate before the aftertaste of minerals and dry extract.  ** Now-2017.

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2013 Bodegas Castaño, Monastrell, Yecla – $10
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Monastrell sourced from old vines on limestone soils.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a slowly building nose of crushed, orange skin and floral aromas.  Nice!  In the mouth were orange citrus infused flavors of red tart fruit.  There were dry, gum drying tannins, and floral, lifted flavors.  A pretty wine.  ** Now-2016.

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“Light and delightful, especially when iced”: 19th century descriptions of Hamadan wine in Persia

The wine of Shiraz, the city in what was once Persia and now Iran, were renowned around the world.  There was another wine that was described as of the same quality, that of the ancient city of Hamadan.  Hamadan is located south west of Tehran, up in the foothills of the Alvand Mountain.  The city is one of the oldest in the world dating back to the Assyrians some 3,000 years ago.  Due to the expansion of British interest in central Asia during the 19th century, written English descriptions of Hamadan wine are readily found.

Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

Charles James Willis felt that only the wines of Shiraz and Hamadan were worthy of the cellar.  He described Hamadan wine as “a delicious pale white wine, with a powerful natural bouquet, resembling Moselle.  It is, when new, rather too sweet.  It is a very heady wine”.  [1]  George Nathaniel Curzon, The Lord Curzon of Kedleston may have felt slightly different in that it resembled “hock”.[3]  Another visitor described the wine as “a sort of strong sauterne, and some of it has quite a delicate flavour”. [2]

Crop showing Hamadan and Tehran from Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

Crop showing Hamadan and Tehran from Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan. 1897. [3]

When Hamadan wine was stored in bottle it was found to turn sour by the second summer.  Thus the wine kept best when stored in bulk which involved large earthen jars.  Each jar contained some 600-800 bottles worth of wine and were uniquely employed only in this city.  Hamadan is located in the foothills where the winter temperatures average well below freezing.  The large jars had only the bottom three feet buried in the ground.  The cold would penetrate the jars so hotbeds of horse manure were kept around the upper part of each jar.  This source of heat was not always enough for the wine sometimes frozen into a solid piece.  To access the wine for drinking, blocks had to be chopped out!


[0] Willis, Charles James. In the Land of the Lions and the Sun. 1891. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=30w4AAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[1] Willis, Charles James. Persia as it is. 1886.  URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=M4c2AAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Gordon, Sir Thomas Edward.  Persia Revisited. 1896.  URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=eDhFAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan.  Rand McNally. 1897. David Rumsey Map Collection. URL: http://www.davidrumsey.com/
[4]  Curzon, George Nathaniel, The Lord Curzon of Kedleston.Persia and the Persian Question, Volume 2. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=9c0oAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false