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September 27, 2006
How can anything ever make you crave raw tuna topped with blocks of ice-cold watermelon? It's all I want, sipping this defiantly powerful grand cru pinot noir tinged with 10% chardonnay. Is the chardonnay there to lighten the wine, or was it just what these south-facing pinot grapes snacked on in the noonday sun? It all looks so delicate in the slender glass--beading a thin baby's breath of bubbles simmering to the surface. Pretty looks aside, this is a wild monster of Champagne, frothing mad at the gums with the taste of jammy grape juice and tangy acidity--fruit that's both fleshy and raw at the same time. The aroma's even bigger, thudding rich scents of what an orange and apple would smell like if they were grown in hell. You don't drink wines like this. You confess them.
September 22, 2006
05 Domaine Les Fines Graves, Beaujolais-Villages
This is the wine that sat in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, the one and only time my family would ever drink wine. You always wanted a taste, even though you were barely old enough to drink soda or coffee, and, if your family was like mine, you could count on that one errant uncle lurking in the hallways to bring you some. This is when many of us fell in love with wine, and the Fine Graves villages-level Beaujolais is a curious, lush expression of that same wine. Grapey enough to be juice squeezed from the cluster by your own hands, yet clearly vinous and full of fermented life, it's one-dimensional, but completely powerful. The muted aroma portends the dry afterthought of tannins, while peppery strawberries, hints of smoke, and pencilly mineral fill the exhaustive palate. I want to sneak this up to my room, turn on an R-rated movie, stay up past midnight, and skip school tomorrow.
September 20, 2006
02 Maison Champy, Bourgogne Pinot Noir Signature
A friend once told me that when he lived in France, he could go to any grocery store he wanted to and find a perfect old Bourgogne to drink with his meal. I thought he meant Burgundy in general--like picking up some great 90 Pommard. But he meant “basic” Bourgogne, the declassified stuff you drink while you wait for your Pommards to age. I laughed in his face. So hard, I still remember what my spit looked like on his nose. But today, drinking this elegant Champy Bourgogne, I think I've seen the error of my ways. Light, oddly tannic, and alive, the flavors are simple--bright sour cherry and peppery red plum--but the ethereal aroma, much like a truffley 2001 Barolo, is precisely why people pay hundreds of dollars for stuff like this. Of course you would age it--not that it will get any better, but how could you ever let this go?
September 17, 2006
02 Chateau Margaux, Margaux
Tough in its femininity--like some hypothetical love child of David Bowie and Iggy Pop--this, my first first growth, is an icon of both subtlety and force. The aroma balances smoked chocolate chips with very ripe, floral citrus flavors. The acid-driven finish plays well against the young fruit, juicy with cassis and broth, underpinned by stony minerality. It's an effortless wine, more poetic than intense, that delivers little of the hubris I'd expected. Yet the finish is eternal. "I may be quiet," it says, "but what I've told you, you won't soon forget."
September 16, 2006
05 Sineann, Gewurztraminer Columbia Gorge Oak Ridge Vineyard
I guess I'll be making risotto tonight. This wine sucks the life out of me, to the point where I just want to boil it off in a pan with some starchy Arborio rice. It's unwittingly spicy--lonely with white pepper and old cinammon that has no fruit to season. There are traces of pear, honeydew rind, bitter green grapes, romaine lettuce, lime sorbet, and tonic. Combined with a thin, drying texture and a floral, but alcoholic kick at the end, this is only good in the way great gin is good--failing to balance the otherwise classic spice with any sense of depth or texture. The lingering taste of rose petals does bring me back for a second glass, though.
September 09, 2006
85 Quinta do Infantado, Porto Estate Bottled
Something like a Dao that's sat out for two days, there's a seamlessness to the simplicity and texture of this soft vintage port. Saturated with sediment, it needs a very careful decant, but, even muddied with tannin, it's lovely and elegant. The flavors are mostly grapey with light hints of something like blueberry and lavendar--a young Hermitage syrah or cru Beaujolais gamay on the nose. There's little concentration here, though, with a spike of spice in the finish and hardly any sweetness whatsoever. It drinks more like a table wine than a port, which is perhaps its charm.
September 06, 2006
04 Chateau Maris, Minervois La Liviniere Syrah La Touge
It could be Cote-Rotie. But sourced from just southwest of the Rhone in Minervois, the syrah here comes off even spicier than its famously sun-baked cousin. La Touge is an aroma-driven wine that manages to offer exactly the same blended flavor on every sip without ever getting dull. Nothing develops. It smells and tastes mathematical, a precise formula of seared sirloin, fresh blacktop, chewy bacon fat, green peppercorns, and Maille mustard. Dead petals of violet settle like fall leaves in the background. This is a meaty, incredibly masculine syrah with firm, smoky tannins. If the fresh raspberry flavor (thin but powerful like a consomme) that does eventually emerge was a bit denser on the palate--a hallmark of the 2002--I would have cleared the entire lot off the market.
September 04, 2006
03 Trio Infernal, Priorat 1/3
Is it "one of three" or just "one-third" of a wine? Trio's entry-level Priorat is missing a few parts, one of which is most certainly syrah. Because, if three Rhone-area winemakers are going to take the 13-hour-round-trip drive from their French vineyards to the heart of Catalonia, Spain every two weeks to tend their vines, they ought to bring some syrah there with them. It would've added much-needed depth to this humble garnacha/carignan blend--a soft, easy slurp, elegantly-styled, but mostly very boring. The leathery tastes and aromas are classic of Priorat, though, while the smoky carignan backbone suggests that something might emerge in the next two or three years. Unless it's really just meant to be a fun table wine.
September 02, 2006
01 Montevertine, Toscana IGT
Some say the sangioveto in Montevertine belongs in Burgundy. But why even bother with the thought, when it's what makes Toscana so great? Styled classically, with a small percentage of canaiolo and colorino blended in, this wine is virtuous with patience and calm. And that shy virtue is perhaps what helps it show so well. The lean, cherry flavors landmark of Chianti are whispy here--maybe even ghost-like--but those sheets blowing in the night wind soon turn to the fire of daybreak, smoky like a morning in the springs, finishing with tar, toasty earth, and fresh black pepper. You could miss it if you moved too fast. Or you could be moved and miss it once it's gone.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi