Saturday, November 14, 2015

Issue XXXV: Bouchard Pinot Noir VDP Edition

Bouchard Pinot Noir

As an aside, before we get to the review proper, there is a VDP designation to this wine. This simply refers to a specific region in France, which the government there likes to keep track of. I’ve had to explain this to others, so wanted to note that it is not to be confused with the VSOP designation of Cognac or Brandy, which mean entirely different things.

Here we have an interesting case, a wine that due to inconsistency, has been largely hovering on the border of being tossed from the list. It is perhaps a testimony to the wine that it never quite gets to the point of me booting it, but in a list marked by consistency, the presence of this one is unusual at best.

We start with, as I mentioned a couple of entries ago, with the idea of mining various wineries, vineyards and producers for other wines if they have an entry I particularly like on the list and Bouchard’s Chardonnay, one of the earliest entries here, has been a constant source of delight since inclusion. Thus, it was not much of a stretch to pick up some other wines in the stable bearing the label, especially given that they were all at the same price point, which was around $10 a bottle at the time and that’s regular price, not SPA (SPA usually takes a couple bucks off at that point).

The first bottle I had was magnificent, a shining example of what that grape is capable of, but the next one that followed was astringent enough to be borderline vinegar. I may exaggerate, but it was quite jarring. After some time, it smoothed out to a fairly thin and easy drinking Pinot Noir, but there was no real depth there, highly unusual in any kind of burgundy, let alone a Pinot Noir. Subsequent bottles went back and forth between those two extremes, but in no case did this have a particularly high degree of body. Taste was also fairly consistent with the astringent bottles taking far longer to smooth out with air time than the better ones. As they use the screwcap system for these, it’s not clear why that would be the case, other than perhaps different barrels or possibly some contaminant in the line somewhere.

So…while I wouldn’t say this is a great example of a Pinot Noir nor would I ever recommend it for someone wanting to try out a solid wine representative of that grape as a starting point, at the price point, it does have a good purpose of being a solid wine (that might need a lot of air time) overall at a very attractive price point. This is one you can buy a case of if you were throwing a party, say and had a budget (especially if you find it on SPA), but also didn’t want to be embarrassed. I will sometimes pick up a bottle if I see it at hand in the wine or liquor store and don’t have the time or inclination to be in the store for a great amount of time. It’s not my first choice for a Pinot Noir, but it somehow has managed to hang onto its spot on the list…which deserves some degree of credit, after all.

So, with this wine, if you get one of those magical bottles, especially at a discounted price point, you can have truly a magnificent deal, but that’s best case scenario, of course. It’s very possible you will wind up with the “adventure in every bottle phenomenon” as well. This is a wine where you can have either a phenomenal experience or somewhat of an underwhelming one and for that reason, I’d be inclined to have it be SPA Only, but that attractive price point makes it worthwhile enough to gamble. Ultimately, this is a Mixed.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Issue XXXIV: Ball-Buster Edition

Tait Ball-Buster [Blend]

Sometimes you can get a clue from the whiff right after you open a bottle of wine. Even before it hits some air time, assuming it’s a red, of course, the odor just smells delicious right out of the gate. This is one such wine.

As a blend from Australia, if you guessed it was mostly Syrah/Shiraz, you’d be on the money. They complement that with Cabernet Sauvignon and a splash, comparatively of Merlot, so this wine is big and delivers in equal measure. You may be tempted to discount it because of the name, which means exactly what you think it does, but you’d be missing a fine wine, if you did.

Deep, dark, rich and full of complexity, this is a wine that combines the wonderful taste of Syrah and banks in enough astringency to keep it from getting too dull. If there was one wine that really captures a lot of the nuances of wine, this would be a good candidate. Silky and slightly sweet, it has a very nice finish and a balance and temperament that works well to a sipping session. Now, admittedly, there is very little, if any, finesse, but they clearly were not going for that. If you like Syrahs, this is a good choice.

As to frequency, it is one that I’ve yet to see on SPA, but is pricey enough, pushing the upper limits for inclusion to the list, that I wouldn’t typically reach for it, considering that I think there are frequently better values to be had. If I wasn’t in an area with such a selection, though, that might be different and accessibility definitely would probably play into frequency here, though I might be inclined to give as a gift. All that aside, the ultimate category for this one is Mixed.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Issue XXXIII: Fat Bastard Cabernet Sauvignon Edition

Guy & Thierry Fat Bastard Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the things the HSC likes to do, one of the “tricks”, I suppose, as it were, is to mine the various wineries of their other spoils, meaning, of course, when we stumble or otherwise come upon a wine we find favorable enough to add to the list, we then will sort of sort through and pick up companion, sibling bottles, perhaps, in the rest of the line of a given winery or vineyard. So, from the halls of Guy & Thierry, purveyors of one of our favorite standby cooking Chardonnays, also from the  Fat Bastard line, comes this gem, which I spied on a random walk through the aisles of the wine store.

The “fat bastard” moniker is intended to reference the “roundness” of the wine. “Roundness” refers to an aspect that could best be described as a lack of astringency, the anti-astringency, perhaps. It typically either refers to a full maturation or to tannins which are softer and less abrasive in nature. For a casual sipping wine, this is quite ideal. However, Cabs in general are big, bad bruisers and this one is definitely a Cab, so there is a lot of boldness and smashing flavor and some tannins that are not quite entirely tamed. What this means is a bit of hardness to offset the largely silky and smooth nature of this wine, but not enough astringency to either be assertive or disruptive.

Cabs can also tend to easily get clunky and heavy and though this one didn’t, it wouldn’t really be a Cab if it didn’t at least approach it, which this one did. I did find it a great testimony to the skill of the Fat Bastard folks, though and while I’m not a huge Cab fan, if I felt the urge and couldn’t find a bottle of Sean Minor, this, though not quite as tasty, would definitely be a solid substitution.

All in all, though, this is more of a Mixed. I do see the Chardonnay on SPA from time to time, but never this one. If I did, I may or may not pick one up and I do like it well enough to buy it at a full price, whether it was on SPA or not, but not enough for it to be the automatic of a Standard.