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Grape Wines (not your usual suspects)


Five years ago, I attended the inaugural Wine Century Club Dinner in NYC. Although I’d already signed up myself up as a member of the Club, having assured all and sundry that I’d tasted at least 100 different grapes (preferably in single varietal format), I distinctly recall being introduced that night to the joys of Falanghina and a couple of other grapes, too.

So, five years later, on Saturday May 8, a group of us met at the Manhattan offices of Snooth(.com) to represent NYC in the Wine Century Club’s Global Fifth Anniversary Dinner. That’s snooth, not snooty: our event was very low-key and unpretentious, more of a tasting round the table, with various olives, dips, flatbreads and cheeses to help fill the stomach amidst a LOT of wine.

We had at least fourteen different grapes across twelve bottles, from six European countries: France, Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey. Four whites, eight reds and a dessert wine. (Plus two wines I’m not including because they were cheap, nasty and we were already WAY familiar with the grapes.)

I would say I was being introduced to about half of those grapes for the first time, which speaks either poorly to my claims of great wine knowledge or very highly to the group’s determination to one-up each other. (I suspect it was the latter.) Indeed, a solid four of these grapes were sufficiently obscure that they go unmentioned in Oz Clarke’s generally exceptional Encyclopedia of Grapes.

Fortunately I was DJing a house party later that night and was able to assure that none of the remaining wine went wasted…. unlike the DJ! Here’s what we drank.

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WHITES:
Grape: NARINCE
Wine: Vinkara, (Turkey)
Grapefruit juice. Very harsh. Unpleasant. A grape to remember to forget.

Grape: MOSCHOFILERO
Wine: SKOURAS, Regional Wine from the PELOPONNESE 2008 (Greece)
Light color. Very citrusy with lots of acidity. OK.

Grape: ZIERFLANDER
Wine: Stadlmann Zierflander, Thermenringer 2008 (Austria)
Yellow-green tinge. Rose petals, floral/quince with some citrus and apple – a little metallic but intriguing and quite drinkable on its own. I liked this a lot.

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Grape: ROMORANTIN
Wine: Francois Cazin, Le Petit Chambord, Cour Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance, Vendange Manuelles 1996 (France)
Nice golden color. Comes across a little like an older Chenin. (Not surprising really given the Appellation’s Loire location.) Quince, lemon, jasmin, crème and minerality. Beautifully rounded, rich without being overly powerful, sweet without being cloying, still plenty acidic grip, perfect example of the grape and likely wine of the event. (I’ve had this wine before, and loved, but never at such a relative old age. I see bottles on sale in Manhattan for under $40. It merits the price.)
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REDS:

Grape: FER SAVADOU
Wine: Domaine du Cros, Lo Sang del Pais, Marcillac 2008 (France)
Very purple. Slightly herbal, mushroomy, with some enjoyable Cabernet Franc green pepper notes. A pleasantly earthy, humble, honest table (food) wine. I polished this off later on while DJing; it was an easy-going yet distinctive fit. Picked this up for $15 at Hudson Wine Merchants; I’ll happily return for more.
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Grape: PLOUSSARD
Wine: Domaine de la Tournelle, Ploussard de Monteiller, Arbois, Jura 2004 (France)
Incredibly light, almost sherry like color, with a little sherry astringency on palate, too. Very light in flavors on the palate, disappointingly so to be honest. Likened by one person to an Austrian or German Pinot Noir. More interesting to look at than to taste, frankly – and I won’t be returning for more at $24. But I don’t want to dismiss it, especially as it was attempting to hold its own amongst so many more pronounced wines. So let me link you to this review by Keith Levenberger at cellartracker. He has absolutely nailed it: “You could pour this in a giant aquarium and still be able to read a newspaper on the opposite side.” And his review continues along those acerbically acidic lines.

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Grape: GROPELLO
Wine: El Filo Pravis 2004 Vigneti delle Dolomoti (Italy)
A deep dark red. Very potent on nose. Great big wine, olivey, just a touch of acidity.

Grape: OSELETA
Wine: Masi Osor Rosso del VEROUESE 1997 (Italy)
Very very dark red. A Bordeaux like astringency to the nose. Considerable legs. Big spicy wine with slight bitterness. Despite the age on it, has a long way to go. I found this overpowering without a suitably rich meal to accompany it. I searched for more info on the grape and found only a single reference in the whole of the World Wide Web. Kudos to whoever brought it for such obscurity.
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Grape: MENCIA
Wine: FLAVIUM CRIANZA BIERZO 2005 (Spain)
Light and smooth. Enjoyable. Not especially complex and not making a particularly strong impression alongside its stronger Italian neighbors. (Subsequently see that it sells for under $10… you get what you pay for, most times. I’m pretty sure I’ve had better examples of this grape.)

Grape: AGIORGHITIKO
Wine: SEMELI NEMEA RESERVE, 2004 (Greece)
Quite big, bold, plummy and spicy if ultimately a little one-dimensional. A new grape only for those who’ve never had Greek wines.

Grape ST. LAURENT
Wine: Steindorfer St. Laurent reserve, Burgenland 2005 (Austria)
Dusty, dark cherry, some licorice. Impressively full-bodied for an Austrian red, and this for a grape that claims to be offspring of Pinot Noir. My first time with the grape in single varietal fashion. Would like to enjoy with a meal some time.

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Grape: KALECIK KARASI
Wine: Vinkara Duruk, 2008, (Turkey)
Given that it was from the same producer as that Godawful Turkish white, we approached with a barge-pole. But we put the barge pole away once we smelled it. I thought it was gamay-like, with that tell-tale “bubblegum” note of Beaujolais. Unfortunately, it tasted more metallic than that on the palate. Interesting, intriguing even…. But not great.


DESSERT:

Grape : 75% ASSYRTIKO – 25% AIDANI
SANTORINI VINSANTO, VINSANTO 2003 (Greece)
Toffee colored, with honeyed, raisin, sweet licorice notes. Very sweet. Almost Oz-like in its stickiness. From grapes dried in sun for 8-10 days. Assyrtiko was not new to me, Aidani might have been. This wine was of particular interest as it’s from the Island that surely gave name to the Tuscan versions that now claim Vin Santo as their own. A lovely way to end a lovely tasting.

Cheers!

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