Saturday, May 21, 2016

Issue XLIII: E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge Edition

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge [Blend] Edition

Here is one that finally grew on me. This is unusual because it is usually love within a bottle or two, but this one definitely took much longer to gel and for me to appreciate it. While hailed, at least in some circles, as “one of the world’s greatest wine values”, if you’re a regular readers of these hallowed HSC pages, you already know that much of the French preponderance in those circles is because of the Great Hype Machine. Given my experience, I would have to include this among that number, but it is also a fairly fine wine, though not to an extent where I would lump it in any great category, even restricting it solely categorically to French origin. Guigal, it should be noted, is given much responsibility by those same persons for setting the standards for the appellation for the Côtes du Rhône region. While I don’t know enough to comment on the veracity of that, it does bear mentioning.

The first few times I had it, I thought it was excessively astringent and as it turns out, I was not wrong. It never really loses that astringency. However, after a good hour of air time, it does mellow out to be a delightfully complex wine. The majority here is Syrah, which is still holding fairly fast as my all-around favorite varietal. The rest is Grenache and a very small percentage of Mourvedre. I suspect this is where a lot of the astringency is coming in with the Syrah giving it a very characteristic dark hue and the full body that it exceeds so well at. Mouth feel is pretty solid, though I’d say it tends a bit towards the medium heft side of things. Great gulps can quickly become unpleasant, though.

So, while this one can be a very solid wine to drink now, I’d say it would be a good choice for cellaring as well, since even a modest 5 – 10 years would result in a smoother and eminently drinkable potion. Having finally “gotten” this wine, I was almost distracted by discovering all the various aspects I was able to derive from it, which continues its dual aspect. Not only will wine aficionados find much to enjoy with it, but even those new to it can use this as a platform, a stepping stone, perhaps, in finding not only various flavor notes, but also observing how a wine can open up, both with temperature (see first HSC post for more on my methodology there) and with air time.

Now, while this can be an enjoyable wine, it does take significant time to get to that point, which I don’t always have patience for. I find it delightful, but not necessary enough to be a Standard and I’ve never seen it on SPA (though I’m guessing it has been at some point) and thus, we call this one a Mixed.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Issue XLII: Waterbrook Melange Red Edition

Waterbrook Melange Red [Blend]

What we have is another in an increasingly long series that demonstrates rather notably my fondness for blends and another example that the state of Washington is really truly starting to come into its own as a wine-producing region. It’s not going to overtake California in hearts and minds anytime soon, but there are some very strong entries coming out of there, particularly the Columbia Valley, which is, if not already, soon to be a very recognizable name and they deserve the recognition for making some very fine wines.

This is a very complex and somewhat busy blend, with no less than 8 different varietals making their way into concoction, which is then aged for slightly over a year. This barrel-aging imparts a very nice degree of smoothness to things, though there is a very distinctive note of bitterness and a definite bite, just to keep things from being too cozy. It all works together very nicely in this well-balanced act, though any of the elements less than 10%, perhaps even higher, are going to be difficult to pick out as individual elements.

This is also another on the slightly heavier side and the slightly fruitier side, particularly aimed at the berry side of things, but more on the darker, so blackberry (this is also a very dark wine), currant and plum. It is quite good-tasting and has a pleasant mouth feel, but the finish is truly wondrous, at once all of the grace notes, but still retaining a very high degree of sippability. It’s definitely not a slugging wine, though. The fairly high tannins will make that a somewhat unpleasant proposition.

Where this comes in at price point makes it a very good choice for a backup wine. While not as budget-friendly as Dark Horse or as tasty as some of the HSC’s other favorites, it will do very well for almost any occasion, such as house-warming or pairing nicely with a very wide variety of foods. For me, it’s not enough to break into my usual stable, but I could see bottles showing up here and there. I’ve never seen it on SPA, so I’m going to leave this as a Mixed.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Issue XLI: Terre del Nero d’Avola Edition

Terre del Nero d’Avola

One of my favorite things about wine in general and red wine particular is that it, more than any other beverage of the *ahem* “spiritual” type, is contains great character. In fact, if there is one aspect of this drink that I think is a hallmark, aside from the actual chemical properties and taste differences, it would be this and nowhere is this more evident than in this wondrous grape from Sicily, the Nero d’Avola.  “Nero”, in this case, refers not to the emperor, but to the black hue of this grape, which is called the most important grape in all of Italy and is one of the more prominent indigenous ones. In my view, it is not too distant from Syrah, which is, as noted repeatedly here in the HSC, one of my favorites.

Here we have a study almost of contrasts, which manifests itself in a bit of astringency, but soaking up all that sun in Sicily also imbues it with a smoothness and depth of taste that counters that nicely. Perhaps this wine is a metaphor for the sun itself, where gravity does battle with the force of millions upon millions of energy discharges from fusion to keep it functioning with just the right levels so it doesn’t fall in on itself or give rise to a supernova, either of which would make this column and everything else on our spectacularly colored planet academic.

Apocalyptic visions aside, for the price point, this is a very difficult wine to beat, as is nearly every other entry on this list from Italy, the south of which, including Sicily is itself still my most favorite wine-producing region. This is a gorgeous wine and since evidently this is the column where I wax metaphoric, if Sophia Loren were a wine, I’d imagine she would look like this one: deep, rich, full-bodies, at once both sweet and wild, subtly refined at times, beautiful, burgundy…actually, maybe not that last one for Ms. Loren, but definitely for this wine.

I’ve never seen it on SPA, but at the fairly moderate price this usually is at normally, it’s still a tremendous value. Lately, it’s been a bit difficult to come by, so I suspect that others have discovered this gem. This is a very strong entry and always enjoyable and by my accounting, a Standard.