Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wine Correspondent's Top 25 Wines of 2011; A Special Report by Ralph Del Rio Wine Correspondent

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

As I often say to folks; How good can a wine be if not many people can taste it or afford it. That's a double edge sword. There are many wines that the only way you will be able to taste is to go to your neighborhood wine tastings or to go to wine conventions and things like that. You have to be on the lookout.

Sometimes you have friends or corporate parties you can go too. Another way is to read your wine magazines and see what looks like it might be of interest and buy a bottle or two and take notes. Accessibility is key and the abilty to be able to write down sme good notes and if you can get the feedback from others who are tasting with you.

There are different approached to scoring some rely on telling you about the terroir and the soil and what the year was like for the wine, what the winemaker did to make the wine shine and also comparing it to previous years. Other reviewers go straight for the the aromas and flavors.

I like to consider the wines feel and overall makeup including the nose, aromas, tastes and finish. Whether the wines are actually available for purchase. I like to hit what I like to call the 'mezzo territory' that often happens when you taste, looking at the amplitude versus the smallest nuance, so the average person can say 'Yeah, I understand where your coming from'. As with any list there's always things that get left off, nevertheless...without further delay, my top 25 wines for 2011.

2007 – Stag Leap Wine Cellars Cack 23, Cabernet SavignonA well-rounded wine with good cigar box and oak. The fruit sits on layered tannins with big dark stewed cherries, It’s savory with cool earth tones.

2008 – Le Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla ValleyThe wine gives off smokey coffee notes, it’s complex, meaty yielding grill mark flavors to red fruits It’s rounded with metallic iron, powerful and yet refined.

2007 Fransiscan Estate Napa valley Cabernet SauvignonBetter than the 2000 & 2002 which I have re-tasted. This is a classic Napa Cab. Blueberries and Blackberries, plummy, jammy, and racy. It’s full of toasted oak with the edges chopped off. This can age better in the bottle.

2008 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Monte Bello Vineyard Cabernet SauvignonIt makes me think of forest floor. A musky Robin Hood feel to it. It is herbaceous like thyme with oak, graphite and cassis. Earthy & silky goodness. Another classic.

2009 Mitolo Jester, McLaren Vale South AustraliaExcellent nose on this Shiraz wine; blackberry jam, perfumed aromas of five spices, olives and plums. It is crisp, chewy and concentrated.

2009 Chateau St. Cosme Gigondas ValbelleVery focused with good body, good mouth feel. Black cassis fruit with crème flan notes and oodles of anise. It has a good fruit palate.

2008 Mount Eden Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Cruz MountainsAn intense wine that is concentrated with smoked oak and floral-like jasmine, very rich and layered–quite a mouthful. It’s a Chardonnay that stands on its own.

2007 Modus Toscana Ruffino IGTThis is what I call I great Super Tuscan wine, to use an overused term. But it’s a fact. Rich and powerful; cherry notes some roses and black fruits. There are spice aromas along with leather. An integrated tannic finish which is sleek .

2008 Dr. Loosen Bros “Dr. L” Mosel RieslingA real straightforward excellent Riesling. It has it all, in the right places. Minerality, balance, stoney & bright.

2007 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti RiservaAn excellent full bodied wine. Exotic cherry and mocha notes and spice with richness.

2009 Chateau St. Michelle Dr. Loosen EroicaGreat citrus and tropical flavors. This wine is lively and jumpy. It has great acidity and very light petrol. Year in and year out the Eroica exhibits good character.

2004 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva RiojaAn earthy wine. Fine structure. Juicy but still has that dryness. Delicious dried fruits, cocoa sweet tobacco with a leathery nose with toasty vanilla spices.

2008 Storybook Mountain Maycamas Range ZinfandelStrong powerful blackberries, good tannins that is concentrated yet stylish. Nice white pepper flashes and mixed wild herbs feel to it along with hints of strawberry. A fine layers of flavor.

2008 Chateau Beau-Sejour-Becot 1er Grand Cur ClasseFruit is dead center on this wine. It is fleshy. With good oak grainy tannins spicy, some mint and feels very fresh. It is well rounded. It will only get better which is scary.

2004 Chateau Haut–Bages LiberalThis Bordeaux stands out with its firm black current, backberry and cassis flavors. The earthiness is big and complex. Truffles and Muddy. A totally concentrated bottle of juice that is just plain good.

2009 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza ArgentinaThis Malbec was a favorite. It’s juicy deep and intense. It’s very focused. You can appreciate the smoke and the spicy black fruits, currants. It is rich and full bodied; fine stuff.

2009 Mollydooker The Boxer Langhorne Creek South AustraliaA bright bouquet with deep cherried, black pepper, eucalyptus, and plenty of oak. Animal notes, bacon fat; it’s an integrated wine with a lot of backbone to it.

2009 Morgan Chardonnay Monterey Metallico Un-oakedA Bright wine, but not creamy. It is clean and fresh like cut flowers. You can taste the fresh ripe honey due melons and the pleasurable fruit. It is a long wine. Many seconds of pleasure.

2010 Cave de Lugny, Macon Villages Burgendy FranceA great Chardonnay. It’s better than the 2009 and 2007 which were great. It is a great value too. It’s oak less and pure tasting. The wine has a dry chalk fresh taste of lemon & apricots. It’s long it’s racy quick mouthful of awesomeness really good.

2007 Condado De Haza Ribera Del Duero, SpainA fresh classy wine generous fruit. Flavors that suggest very ripe sweet strawberry, mocha, tobacco, and leather. It has nice grainy tannins with and iron minerality, good acidity and stuff that reminds me of wet stones.

2008 Chateau St. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet SauvignonA consistently solid wine that just overachieved this vintage. So much that it really turns heads. The wine is accessible. It is earthy, chocolatey, big and a little complex. It opens up well. The length is uncanny.

2009 Sebastiani Chardonnay Sonoma CountyAn intermixing of great flavors, honeysuckle and smooth buttercream, banana with a tinge of granny smith apples, it’s there all framed and balanced. Super value too, unreal.

2008 Archery Summit Willamette Valley, Premier Cuvee Pinot NoirA deep pinot noir. It has good flavors. A Big taste of chocolate & black plums. There is a smokey wood spice going on. There are a lot of dark scents; burnt cherry pits and a little tomato. It is earthy even mushroomy. It screams for wild salmon, charred vegetables and seasoned pork loin.

2007 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes 375MLVery harmonious Sauternes. It’s better than last years. Powerful and lively, dried pineapples and apricots full bodied. The citrus cuts through. You taste the honey, graham crackers, caramel & spice. It’s a big winner.

2009 Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte – LiracA rich blend of granache, syrah and mourvedre. Really deep, black plum, cassis, fig and smoked ham. Whiffs of gardenia. It’s ripe and complex with excellent acidity. Tarry but rolls like velvet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chinese Millionaires really like their brand name wines...Is Bordeaux risking losing its' customers?

As this year is ending we are learning that the Chinese millionaires really like brand name or “Icon” wines. So much so, that they are buying up all the famous first growth wines says Malcolm Moore a reporter for the Telegraph in Shanghai. He quotes Xavier de Eizaguirre, who manages Chateau Mouton Rothschild, one of France’s five “Premier Cru” estates, who says it has been a “huge struggle to stay fair” to his customers. “When the Chinese are willing to buy your entire year’s production, it is difficult to resist,” “We have to take the opportunity to do business… Eizaguirre also says politically that he has to be careful with the rest of buyers worldwide; “After all, one day we might get kicked out of China and then, when we return to our old customers, they will ask us why we deserted them when they needed us.”

Apparently, the five Premier Cru estates, which also include Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Haut-Brion, produce only 180,000 bottles to 200,000 bottles of wine each year, (which sounds low)and there is only so much to go around.

Of course all of this has caused the prices of all Premier Cru wines to skyrocket even during the financial crisis and deep global recessions. Prices have tripled or quadrupled worldwide in the past year which does not make any sense economically. Even substandard years such as 2007 and 2008 which normally would have made Bordeaux wines more affordable have been inordinately overpriced. I think this has a lot to do with the catapulting rise of new world wines and the absence of French Premier Cru’s on annual ‘Best of” lists. The folks are really getting a chance to see, taste and buy these new world wines alot more, earning loyalty. Producers and winemakers are filling the gap with great wines at a better price.

Case in point… a case of Lafite sold for about $5,000 ten years ago in New York or London and now fetches as much as $64,000 and in Asia $72,000. Gosh, I hope my figures are wrong!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some thoughts on French White Burgundy

All the Best of wine lists are coming out about now and it's made me think about some of what I've been drinking more of this year and that's French white Burgundy. So many of the 2008 and 2009's I have tasted have shown alot of good flavors and acidity, good drinking but you can tell that these can hold up for several years. The 2009's have more acidity on the surface making for some lively wines.

Here are some thoughts on the French Burgundy wine styles. I and expansively toured the French region in the summer 2007 in what I would call a whirlwind yet very detailed gastronomical experience.

Chablis - has a very high acidity and givers you a real accurate expression of the terroir, limestone chalk and flint. Premeirs and Gand Cru's especially can be very fresh. I guess you still need to mention it...Chablis is not the fake California one you used to see ages it's all good. Some of it can be pricey but worth it.

Mersault - can be ripe and can be rich and heavy, it can be smooth or it can be very tenacious with alot of minerality like wet stones. very alive. Harder to find sometimes

Chassagne-Montrachet - in the higher slpopes you find arguably the greatest expression of Chardonnay floral, smooth crisp very cool sometimes racy or spicy with sweet fruit. Probably the most consistent in the region that I've tasted over time. It costs a bit more because there's just not alot of it around in retrospect; but if you see it and can swing it try it.

Rully - full of fruit and a steely, very fresh and unemotional, this is a positive especially for seafood and shellfish. These always taste very classic to me.

St. Aubin - Juicy wines that are racy with delicious fresh fruit sometimes you can smell things like leaves on the trees; these wines have a focus and feel reserved to my palate.

Maconnais - at the southern end of Burgundy these wines are have a developed and rounded feel to the with big acidity and freshness. you look for balance in these wines and when you find it, it's a knock out. It's where you say "try tastes like it costs a fortune!" Great with Camambert or Brie Cheese!

All in all. I feel pretty strong about this wine region and its good to see how these wines standup to the American counterparts. There's that great movie 'Bottleshock' that goes into that and it's just as good as the 'Sideways.' movie.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review - Grand Vini 2010 – Joseph Bastianich 2010

Grand Vini 2010 – Joseph Bastianich
Wine restaurant tsar and all around Italian wine ace; breaks down his 89 favorites.  Italian wine based on his preferences and relationships. Italian Wine is so infinite and Joseph’s passion and authority makes this a book that can be picked up again and again for reference and nuance

Friday, September 9, 2011

Get Ready For The Loire!

The Holiday’s are upon us and that means abundant wine and great food. The Beaujolais season is here. But that’s not all that goes good with the seasonal food. There are also the great Rhone wines and the elegant Burgundies.

Yet arguably, the home of the most delicious seasonal wines is the Loire region; sort of where the unadulterated French wine is located.

Loire wines are mouthwatering and have lightness, casualness and brightness that put a twist in the flavors of those who love powerful Rhônes or elegant Burgundies. There is really not a heavy Loire wine, nor a high-alcohol Loire wine, white or red.

What’s incredible is the uniformity of appeal for the wines in the Loire that cuts across a 630-mile area near the Beaujolais region to the Atlantic Ocean. There are countless of vineyards and these really thrive and grow here because the countryside is dominated by rivers and moderate weather; with a lot of slopes and valleys. It is very rural. There are now 89 appellations.

With all this it’s hard to believe that it’s easy to understand this expansive area. Really? No Joke.

When you recognize that the region is dominated by a mere four major grape varieties - Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc - the wines become accessible, and so enjoyable. This is the key in untangling the superficial difficulty of Loire wine.

With some good prices right now. It is the best time to jump in with both feet for crisp, lush, grassy, citrus gooseberry Sauvignon Blanc; the multipurpose Chenin Blanc in all its polish; fresh and zesty Melon; and the surprisingly rich fullness of the Loire’s Cabernet Francs.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Getting started...A really quick and very basic guide to Bordeaux grapes…Don’t blink!

A lot of people get confused with Bordeaux and sure there is a lot that can be learned and said about this famous wine place; enough for an encyclopedia. This is a paradise for these grapes with all kinds of different soils and weather. This place is the benchmark for quality that is the reference point to all wine. In this quick guide I will keep it very very simple… I put together a pronunciation chart and a tasting chart that's posted that can be downloaded as well.

The main Reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The main Whites are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle. The whites produced in Bordeaux are both sweet and dry.

The great wine areas of Bordeaux are St.- Estephe, Pauillac, St.-Julien, Margaux, Graves and Passac-Leognan, St. Emillon, Pomerol, Sauternes/Barsax and a bunch of other smaller excellent Satellite Apellations.

For a quick list...Guys/Gals that you can call about French Wines are The Bern's Steakhouse (they have the most incredible legendary cellar) and B-21's in the Tampa area. Total Wine is another one to consider because they do carry plenty of French wine.

The Reds:

Cabernet Sauvignon is dark and tannic . It can be very astringent and provide the backbone for a wine. It can ripen late because of its think skin can be herbaceous, have cedar and tobacco nuances. You can often taste blackberries and dark plums among other flavors. It can age well.

Merlot ripens late as well but quicker than Cabernet sauvignon. It is often a lot softer than Cabernet Sauvignon and provides a chewy, supple round feel to the wine. It is usually bended with and is less acidic and tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. You can drink Merlot based wines a lot earlier but can age just as well.

Cabernet Franc is not very powerful. Yet it has a hot and sharp-tasting quality to it. It has a black olive hint to it as well as this wild grassy flair that when blended makes flavors and bouquet of the wine prism. It’s usually used in smaller quantities for influencing weight of the wine.

Petit Verdot is an intense wine with puckering tannins. It can be tasty and high in alcohol. It is very dark and not very easy to grow during harvest of Bordeaux because it ripens very late. If it is picked to early it can be extremely bitter which can throw off a wine. It is not used in some places in Bordeaux.

The Whites:

Sauvignon Blanc is used for making the dry wines that you find in Graves and the sweet wines that you find in Sauternes. It is a grape with a lot of minerality. It is grassy to the nose and is crispy. In Sauternes it is used to blend with Semillon in making the sweet wines.

Semillon is a grape that is fat! It is creamy with a lot of smoothness. It is used to make the legendary sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. The older it gets the more gelatinous it gets. It’s fruity too. It is also used to provide texture to the dry wines in Graves.

Muscadelle is a concentrated and ornamental grape that is used sparingly in Barsac and Sauternes and sometimes Graves. It is hard to grow because its can get sickly because it is so fragile but it gives off these great tropical flavors.

Some quick comments  on the great wine areas of Bordeaux. Now keep in mind these just observations…

St.- Estephe are firm, bold but very easy-to-read. They are fairly tannic and full bodied. They have an rigid austere quality which is good for aging.

Pauillac wines are among my favorites because they are medium to full bodied with black fruits, rich, powerful and have hints of tobacco and cedar.

St.-Julien have a good juicy currant fruit characteristics. They are mellower. They can be spicy with cedar notes

Margaux wines have great floral perfume representation. They are often more delicate and lighter than the St.-Estephe wines. Margaux wines are earthy and they have a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon and are very good young too.

Graves and Passac-Leognan wines have lingering taste that is toasty, earthy with tobacco, cedar and clay. You can taste the limestone and clay. They are very aromatic, light yet with deep flavors. The white wines are oaky and creamy

St. Emillon wines are herbaceous and juicy. Often mouthwatering with soft fruit  They use more Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the blends. Those grapes grow really well in St.-Emillon. The wines take on a lot of styles it seems. It makes the searching and the tasting enjoyable. A lot of new modern winemakers have been making wine in St.-Emillon which is cool.

Pomerol wines are the benchmark for Merlot based wines. Black cherries and cassis flavors abound. These wines can be velvety smooth. The wines are round and have a polished air to them not found in other areas; quite frankly in the world. There is a small production from Pomerol.

Sauternes/Barsac can range from honey and tropical fruits, sweet zesty citrus all the way to Graham crackers and pine nuts even flan/crème brulee. The taste can feel like glycerin. It can be extremely glamorous

The Satellite Appellations are where you find the best values. Whether it is Cannon-Fronsac, Lalande de Pomerol, Cotes de Bourg, Blaye, and Cotes de Castillon. These appellations are providing some of the most exciting wines of the past 10 years and are giving the classic areas a challenge because they make great appealing wines in an uncomplicated manner which is attractive to wine makers and producers. The consumers like this too. What’s not to like!?! This is where you find the overachievers and incredible sleeper wines that are good to drink within the first 5 years.





Sunday, July 10, 2011

Brisket 101 – Low and Slow BBQ and Great Wine!

Brisket is the ruler of the low and slow BBQ. From what I can tell and the BBQ folks tell me. There are many more cuts of beef available these days than in the past. Brisket, you grill on low heat and allow for plenty of time. Make sure you have tin foil and a trusty meat thermometer....

This is the one that takes extra TLC and is marveled at in most BBQ competitions. The main secret is to cook it slow. It also allows you to open a few bottles of wine with friends as you gear up for the reward in a few hours. Great Times!

When you pick your meat, you need to make sure there is a substantial coat of fat on it. You want this. It makes for a juicier meat and you definitely want to trim it. This is called “first cut brisket” which is great for sandwich meat like pastrami, but it’s really not good for smoking. That’s other meats (which we can talk a little about another day).     

Once you’ve done all the prep, and it’s time to cook…Sear the meat for the meat on the grill for about 10 minutes on each side; and gives that underlying grill mark taste…make a little smoke...the smell of charcoal smoke triggers memories...I know it sounds funny...but it does especially when drinking wine..

Then wrap it in foil fat side up.

Wrapping the juices in with aluminum foil is a surefire way of guaranteeing juicy results; just like the pros!

When that is done reposition the meat away from the fire, bring the lid down and keep it at 250 to 300 degrees for 5-6 hours. Always keep an eye out on the coals and keep replenishing to keep it at the 250 to 300 degree range.

Then you can open up the foil and put your BBQ sauce if you like and re-seal the foil and bring the temperature down so the meat is at to 180 degrees. Use our meat thermometer!.. Make sure it stays at 180 degrees for about another additional hour.

When you’re done…Still wrapped! Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it sit for 10 minutes; still wrapped! When you remove the foil and are ready to slice remember to cut against the grain. Eat Immediately and Enjoy!

Timing is everything when doing brisket right. Eating it when it’s just done is awesome

Depending on the sauce many wines can help pick up the flavor of the meat and with match up well.   

I prefer red wines like Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with my brisket. It’s a win-win scenario.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review - How to Taste – Janice Robinson (Completely Revised and Updated) 2008

How to Taste – Janice Robinson (Completely Revised and Updated) 2008

A great book. Probably her best because it communicates to everybody. It shows you the steps of tasting in a way that makes you love not only the wine but the process you go through as you learn as well. This is the poetry of a textbook; so practical. The benchmark so far.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The aging of excellent Spanish Rioja! Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva, and Grand Reserva

Spain is known for it’s rich history and culture. It’s terrific food and incredible wines that rival those of Italy and France. Spain’s premeir wine region is called Rioja (ree-oh-ha). There are other great regions but Rioja’s wine region goes back about 2000 years and today it’s among the most cutting edge. That in itself is incredible.

Rioja usually does refer to the region but a lot of the time it can refer to the wine itself. For example, one might say “Do you have a good Rioja?”

My friends always ask me to explain Rioja. Well... Rioja's main grape is Tempranillo. You can find it all over Spain; but arguably it's best expression is in Rioja. There are other varieties like Garnacha and Graciano as well. Great red wine.

Just like the French, Spain has a serious set of rules that protect the integrity of the wine. These laws are called the D.O.

In Rioja the aging process gets listed from youngest to oldest. These terms are Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Each wine has its own distinct flavors and alot of it depends on the terroir. Rioja wines can be powerful and subtle and contain a dustiness which I think is similar to Rutherford California wines. A little toasty and a little spicy yet vibrant with good acidity, strawberries, dark cherries and raspberries come through. Some Tempranillo can be very Burgundian, very lush too...These wines are very food friendly; especially with agood hard sheep's milk cheese.

Cosecha requires the least amount of aging of them all; requiring barrel and bottle aging of less than 6 months. But to be honest there is alot of wine being called Cosecha. That's not to say that that it's wrong. Cosecha can be mindblowing but it's getting harder to distinguish the process.

Crianza wines require aging in oak barrels of at least 12 months with a minimum of another year in bottle.

Reserva wines require 36 months of aging between barrel and bottle. It must have at least 12 months in barrel.

Gran Reserva requires 24 months of aging in barrel and a further 36 months in bottle before before release sometimes a bit longer.

Some of the greats include Muga, Faustino, Marques de Riscal and Sierra Cantabria. Try one today.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A little history on Malbec

Malbec grapes originated in France and play the starring role in the wine production of Argentina. The flavors and aromas of wines made from Malbec grapes include dark blackberry, black pepper, cherry, plums, and chocolate. Other characteristics of Malbec wines include inky-black coloring, soft or high tannins, and high acidity. It can be chewy too. It’s earthy and is great with pizza or pasta with tomato sauce, barbeque pork, roasted meats, Asian and spicy foods.

Malbec grapes are reasonably small, very dark, and juicy. Monitoring the fruit on the vines is important to ensure good concentration of flavors. Luckily, the Argentine wine industry's almost 100% reliance on irrigation, it almost never rains, which gives the winemakers the tools they need to improve quality of the fruit.

Yet, Malbec is fairly sensitive to its climate. In cooler conditions and in Mendoza, which means in the higher the altitudes, it makes it a thick-skinned grape which develops high acidity and tannic content, leading to more robust wines. At lower the altitudes the grapes have much thinner skins, a lot more more juice, and make wines that are light-bodied and better for drinking young.

Malbec was initially one of the minor blending varieties of red Bordeaux, it now accounts for a very small percentage of local production. But its real home now is just about totally in Argentina, where after about 100 years of cultivation it has come into its own both as a pure varietal, and also gets blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

As a varietal in Argentina is where Malbec flourishes and produces both complex wines and also wines of softer tannins and strong fruit flavors. I urge you to keep these in mind and enjoy these regularly for some great values and also while having some good tasty food. Some of my favorites are the 2009 LaMadrid, the 2009 Pascual Toso, the rich and supple 2008 Trapiche (Jorge Miralles Single Vineyard), the 2008 Bodega Norton Reserva and the any of the last 2 or 3 vintages of the Norton blend called Privada.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sauternes Semillion and the Nectar of the Gods

There’s nothing like a great French Sauternes! Some call it the nectar of the gods. A lot has been written about Sauternes and how the wines can last 20 or 100 years if botrytis(noble rot) is brought into the picture. The flavors of Sauternes are of marzipan, apricots, graham crackers, mangoes, honey, nuts, orange, coconut, peach, pineapple and toast surrounded by a creamy, silky pliable and rich ingratiating texture. It’s as awesome as it sounds and after tasting it you may want to add more flavors to the list.
A Classed Growth Sauternes will improve in the bottle and should not be drunk for at least 8 to 10 years. Sauternes are usually delicious when young and it takes a lot of self-control and determination to put the wine away until it reaches its full complexity and maturity.

Semillon is the main grape in Sauternes but it is not the only great place in Bordeaux where this sweet grape grows. In fact sweet white Bordeaux grows throughout Sauternes, Barsac, Monbazillac and lesser sweet places like Cadillac and Loupiac. In the Pessac-Leognan and Graves, the Semillon wines generally have a substantial addition of Sauvignon Blanc which adds acidity and brightness to the fore.
With all this glory, you would think that Semillon is the ‘bees knees’ and is just fantastic but in reality the grape generally creates pretty dull juice even in great weather conditions. Semillon has been grown in many countries including South Africa, Argentina and all over South America but eventually it was replaced with Chardonnay as the go to grape.

With some exceptions, it seems that Semillon only grows great in Sauternes and Australia’s Hunter Valley(which actually thrives in terrible weather…go figure). Nature has made Sauternes perfectly suited for this grape. The area provides decent summers and the rivers of Garrone and Ciron provide fog during the fall, which are the conditions for the noble rot to thin the skins and deepen the sugars.

After all this, is really worth the fuss the answer is a resounding YES! What’s interesting is that Semillon is not very fruity at all. It’s concentrated and full of complex aromas and has a fresh and silky mouthfeel which make it go great with desserts especially creamy ones. It’s incredible with many cheeses including Maytag Blue, Stilton blue and Roquefort. Drizzle honey on the blue cheese and watch what happens! The new world Semillons match up well with Spicy foods and meats. With those Bordeaux Blancs try some shellfish.

Sauternes can be very expensive wines . Among the most famous are Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Doisy Daene and Chateau Climens. A good recommendation is to try some new world Semillon; wines such as Tim Adams from Clare Valley, Australia; Le Ecole No. 41 from Washington, USA; Tyrell’s Hunter Valley, Australia and Yalumba’s Eden Valley Botrytis, Australia.

And always remember these wines are generally always drinkable immediately without delay, yet can improve with a little extra aging.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My day with Australian Barrossa and some fine tasty sausages

I was having something called a Metty sausage that I bought with some kangaroo burgers(which I bought in a specialty market) that I haven’t tried yet. The Metty sausage is full of meat – not fatty. almost none it seems!... and lots of flavor, smokey bacon, tangy brandy…

I paired it with The Barossa Peter Lehman 2007, Penfolds Bin 28 2007. Both wines which I like a lot; year in and year out.

All this made me reflect…

I think Syrah from the Barrossa are exceptional and diverse and often provide great value. In the early 2000’s Australian Barrossa was a revelation. Big black fruit jammy opulent wines, rich with pepper and smoke, which I like. But later in the decade became a little homogeneous from folks cashing in on the craze of this wine hitting its stride. But now appears to be back on track.

To dig a little deeper…Syrah style changes depending on the climate, region and of course the winemaker. The aromas and flavors from most Syrah include pepper, blackberry and leather or smoke. Australian Shiraz and Central or Southern California Syrah are usually more thick in fruit flavors, some quite jammy even chewy and in the warm environments leads to riper fruit. On the other hand, in France the Northern Rhone style of Syrah classically shows more pepper and leather notes, with a lot less upfront fruit. The other place that makes a knockout Syrah is Washington state .

Getting back to the Barrossa, I think one of the prominent reasons for it being one of the world's best wine regions is it's home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world and with this history, and the soil that is low in fertility, which makes for intense wine, and the age of these vines bring a lot to the table.

The region is renowned for its Shiraz, but the Barossa is much more than Shiraz. Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mataro (also known as Mourvedre), Merlot and also Semillon are in ample supply and the wine styles include the well-known GSM Rhone style blends. They are marketed as such!

A lot to ponder, especially while having a snack of sausages…and now for that kangaroo!