Saturday, March 28, 2015

Issue XXIII: Clean Slate Riesling Edition

 Clean Slate Riesling

Wine has been a struggle with me at times, especially whites, wherein I’ve wanted something a touch sweet and round, yet light and the white Zins, by then, had become a bit too cloying for me and I hadn’t found my exact favorite in a red. Truth be told, I sort of gave up on wines for a while, aside from sake, which has been a fairly constant companion, and gravitated back to mostly beer.

It was on this course when I wound up being best man at a former friend’s wedding and, after dutifully nursing a glass of the lower ranged reds they had there for a few hours, the groom introduced me to the wonders of Riesling. We appropriated all the bottles of that we could find (they had a mix) and enjoyed glorious glass after glass of that wonderful nectar potion until the last was emptied. The wine was one that I immediately ran out and got (it’s on the HSC list currently, but has gone back to a re-testing phase, due to excessive inconsistencies between bottles) and enjoyed repeatedly until I finally tired of it.

So, heavily into the reds of a few years ago, I came to view Rieslings and Moscatos as mostly light, sort of frivolous wines, almost, suitable for dessert and little else, certainly not for hanging out and drinking. That is still mostly the case, but every once in a while, something will come up on SPA that sparks my interest and this is a perfect example of that, showing up on sale while I was perusing the German aisle. Since the grape originated there and I hadn’t the chance to try a German version of this delectable varietal yet, that was an easy choice to grab.

While the other Riesling was heavily sweet and a bit sugary (definitely needs to be served cold), this one is a lot drier, lending it a certain amount of complexity and also allowing the wine to develop somewhat on the palate as it warms. The aspect of apples (as opposed to heavy fruit, such as peach for the Moscato) is still present and it doesn’t have the perfumery nature of the Moscato, either, but presents a remarkably clean drink, slightly sweet, yet well-balanced with acidity that is an experience to itself. A bottle of this amply demonstrates the huge difference between American and European brews, utilizing the same varietal.

As usual, I do not rate whites on the normal scale, including this one.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Issue XXII: Zantho St. Laurent Edition

Zantho St. Laurent

When I say Austria, probably the first thing that comes to mind is Vienna…or possibly the Anschluss. Skiing and sausages and Sigmund Freud and strudels and schnitzel and maybe even schnapps, but not wine. If you extended it to Germany, most of those things would also apply, along with beer and a host of other sundries, but wine might be restricted, if one thought of it at all, to Blue Nun, ice wine and/or Riesling.

One of the best things about the internet is that it makes the world a bit smaller and in many ways, this wine sort of highlights the purpose of this column and list. Our story with this wine begins during the last week of December 2013, when I was at the liquor store to get some mead for our customary New Year’s Eve celebration. As I was no longer working in fairly close proximity to this wine store, I’d started trying to load up whenever I went shopping, buying a month or so at a time, depending on what’s on SPA at the time.

In this case, I can’t remember if I stumbled down a wrong aisle or how I got there, but I found myself in the German section, which is notable only for how little of the available store shelf space it takes, percentage-wise. On an earlier trip, I had noticed a wine with a lizard on it that looked interesting, but as I already had a full basket, I made a mental note and then forgot about it for a few months, until the last week of 2013.

Bad job doing that as this wine from the St. Laurent grape has many similarities to a good Pinot Noir, but with the additional bonus of being relatively undiscovered and unknown. It is fairly prominently berry and the mouth heft is probably about in the middle, but it has some intriguing spicy notes to it and requires a fairly decent airing time to really gain some of the smoother tones. It is almost like a gamier version of a good Pinot Noir.

This is ultimately sort of a middle of the road wine, coming in at between $11 - $13 most of the time I’ve seen it. I have never seen this particular brand on SPA, ever, which precludes it from SPA Only. While I did greatly enjoy the bottle, I didn’t love it enough for it to be a Standard, so by process of elimination, this comes in as a Mixed.