Saturday, June 27, 2015

Issue XXVII: Fantini Farnese Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Edition

Fantini Farnese Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

The Montepulciano grape (d’Abruzzo meaning “from Abruzzo” to distinguish this from another Italian wine-making area) is one of the milder ones, which means a couple things. The first is that you tend to get a very smooth, very drinkable wine. It has a very slight acidity to it, which does well to lend a little balance, but this is a very silky wine overall, more of a medium body, yet with very good mouth feel. The second is that wines of this nature tend to be consumed young, so there is not a great deal of aging going on. My personal research has found that this tends to (but not always) make the price a bit less and in this case, it is a fantastic value. This grape also blends well with others and many vineyards do so, however, that is not the case with this one. It is the straight across grape, which helps to really give you an idea of the soft flavor associated with it. It is possible to age this one, though reports are that it changes little.

This is another that I found when trolling the Italian aisles. I love this label, from the coloration and design to the intriguing dot embossing on the label itself and, as usual, have no fear of buying a wine strictly due to the label, though it also admittedly helps that this is an Italian wine, a country that currently occupies the overall favorite slot for me.

At around $12 normally, this is more of a Mixed (though it could easily be a Standard) as well as one of the better values out there. This probably would do remarkably well at a restaurant as a table wine, as it’s difficult to imagine it not having a lot of broad appeal.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Issue XXVI: Menage A Trois [Blend] Edition

Menage A Trois [Blend] 

Note: I don't usually do this, but as this is a very well-selling wine and it has been in the news recently about arsenic levels, I wanted to address this. First point would be that there is not enough arsenic in there to make anyone ill even remotely to the point of dying. Alcohol poisoning would occur long before and is the much more immediate danger. As we have seen in many, many other areas, this amounts to bad science, more specifically, bad chemistry. Arsenic is literally everywhere, including in the ground. High levels in water, which is more frequently consumed and hopefully devoid of toxic materials, would be a huge negative. Wine is consumed nowhere near as frequently, obviously and has other compounds more pressing, so applying a water standard to wine is patently absurd. The HSC, therefore, fully backs the Wine Institute and all of the producers, as well as the opinions made in these statements:

And now on to this Edition proper:
Ménage à trois means, in a literal sense from French, “household of three” and was to describe an actual living arrangement, aside from the more temporary nature of which it is probably more well known in America.  So, in that sense, with its combination of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the name, based on the French application, is perfectly appropriate. The sexual aspect of that phrase (in which all three living together are also engaged in carnal relations) also ties in here, with all three of those winds blending and melding together into a single unity. Wine itself has long had a history of ties into romance and eroticism, referred to frequently as the drink of love, another way in which everything here ties together nicely. Still more interestingly and perhaps reinforcing the point, this has frequently been the best-selling red wine in the United States.

This is a wine I wouldn’t hesitate to call delicious and melds the grapes together very nicely. The density and heavy mouth feel of the Cab and Zin is very readily apparently, yet it never becomes clunky as the Merlot does a great job lightening things out and bringing a bit more fruitiness into the mix. This is one of the smoothest wines out there; let it air long enough and it becomes quite silky, with a gorgeous finish. There is not a great deal of astringency here and the tannin bite is very muted overall, though not gone entirely. There is little to no question in my mind about why this is the best-selling red or whether it deserves it. It does.

At a $10 spot normally, even though I’ve never seen it on SPA, this is a Standard as well as one of the better values out there, as long as you like fairly heavy wines. This should also work well for maturing, something I will probably try down the road if I ever get set up for it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Issue XXV: Prunotto Fiulot Barbera Edition

Prunotto Fiulot Barbera D'Asti

Back when I was first compiling the list, I created several sub-lists of wines to test. One that frequently came up on a few of the “under $20” or sometimes budget wine lists where I was drawing several names was this. Concurrent with my then-tour of the world via bottles of wine, it did, however, take me a bit to get to as it was closer to the $20 mark and my process at the time was to buy at the lower end of the scale first and then get one of the more expensive ones. Now, I had no intention or even passing thought of ever doing a column like this, so I’d occasionally run into the $40 range for something really special, but the higher ones were more one at a time rather than getting a cluster, as I did will the lesser expensive ones.

What I found here was another lively wine from what was fast becoming my overall favorite wine-producing country, Italy, though this was more to the northern part of the country, all the way opposite of my favored region, that being the southern part…at least for reds, that is. Wines from the north tend to be more bitey and that is the case here, though this is a very drinkable red. This tends to be a fairly intense red and a bit deceptive, since it initially feels very light in the mouth.

Airing this one out tends to get a bit pointless as there is not a great difference between 15 minutes and longer. I haven’t tried it directly out of the gate, but I get the impression it probably would be one of those that one could conceivably pull the cork and go. The taste here tends to have elements of berry, but nothing particularly strong and overwhelming. Barbera, as grapes goes, seems to be a milder one and all in all, this can be a quite refreshing wine.

It is, as noted, one of the more expensive entries, comparatively, on this list and usually runs around $18/bottle. It’s another that never seems to come up on SPA and hence, another that comes in at Mixed.