Friday, February 27, 2015

Issue XXI: Peralillo Arenal Carmenere Edition

Peralillo Arenal Carmenere

I’ve spent a certain amount of time and space in this column discussing “the next big thing” trendiness of wines, which sometimes goes to grapes, such as what happened with Pinot Noir after a very popular movie, but also goes to regions, such as France for a long, long time, but also including Spain and Australia. After the wines of Spain were driven up in price by demand, the search was on for another hidden gem and a lot of noise was made about Argentina and Chile. Those two South American regions have at least some decent entries, but for all the testing I did, it didn’t quite bear out. I have, in fact, after somewhat extensive testing (it’s generally the same for each region, depending on availability) a single entry from Argentina (the Navarro Correas, which was the second edition of the HSC) and a single entry from Chile, which is this one.

Unlike Argentina, which relies somewhat heavily on the Malbec grape, Chilean wines trend much more heavily towards Carmenere, such as this one. Carmenere can be a very bitey grape in a wine, often hidden behind waves of astringency which never quite vanish. This is one of the smoother ones and represents perhaps the best introduction to this grape, which can be quite capable in the right hands. What we have here is another fruit-forward wine that smooths out nicely, retaining a good bit of acidity and tannins to provide an excellent balance. It is definitely not a one-note wine, though and a good deal of complexity will appear as it breathes. It does not make a good slugging wine, but as a sipping wine, it’s right up there with the best. This is another that will do better the more it breathes, but it needs a good 20 minutes initial air time.

At $10 a bottle, this is easily one of the best values on the list and as such, makes an easy Standard, just like the other South American entry, the Navarro Correas.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Issue XX: Sean Minor Cabernet Sauvignon Edition

Sean Minor Cabernet Sauvignon

When I first started on the wine trip years and years ago, I much preferred the lightness and sweetness of a white Zin, for instance, over the big bad brute that Cabs are. Even to this day, my preference is not for the heavier wines, though my wife's preference is perhaps closer to that, so there are not very many of the red Zins or the Cabs showing up here. This heaviness actually precludes much interest from me in Ports, as well.

Skipping back, but less back, to maybe 4 or 5 years ago or so, when she sort of co-opted what was still, for me, mostly a passing interest, aside from a few French favorites (several of which are currently too expensive to appear on this list) that I had on a fairly seldom basis, I happened to be having a discussion with a friend who was heavier into things, having taken a few Napa wine tours and so on and with another friend, who was on the beginning curve to taking his own leap into wine exploration. The gist of this conversation was sort of note-comparing and he pointed me to a California Cab that he had really enjoyed and which was immediately available. By now, you’ve probably guessed it was this one.

One of the things I’ve always disliked about Cabs, in addition to what I’ve always considered their sort of plodding nature in terms of mouth feel, is their rather lengthy air time. A freshly opened Cab is usually a repository of astringency from the high tannins, which rather forces things into not only sips, but small sips. The vast majority of Cabs I’ve had are this way…save this one. This one has less astringency at the gate and smooths out a lot faster. There’s still all the body you could possibly want, but it is never quite to the point of being excessive, such as those other ones seem to be. It’s still a bit more than I usually desire, but it is a very, very good wine and I’ll usually work a bottle in once a quarter or so.

This is another I’ve never seen come up on SPA, same for the Pinot from them, if I remember correctly and the wine itself is too much to try to slug on a regular basis, but at $13 or $14 a bottle, picking one up isn’t exactly going to break the bank either, which puts this as a Mixed.