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November 30, 2006
This is a simple, earthy wine that reminds me of sitting along the Seine, watching trash barges tow empty carnets of Gauloises and other heaps of the city's waste northward to the English channel. Truth is, all we ever drank in France was Kronenberg from the can, and we made fun of the posh urbanites buying wine at the street market behind us. This is what I imagined they were drinking. Delightfully singular and consistently funky, it proudly expresses the winemaker's Vacqueyras base, where the grenache grape is often wild, tasting of black licorice, tart red currants, black cherry jam, marjoram, and furry red berries picked from the bush. They should sell magnums of this wine with pizza made with a shy spread of pureed San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and pepperoni--and deliver it to me. I'll be waiting by the river, beneath the stench of trash, with a can of Kronenberg in my hand.
November 25, 2006
04 Tardieu-Laurent, Cotes du Rhone "Les Becs Fins"
When did Cotes du Rhone start to include Bourgogne? With a heady perfume of smoked meats and dead flowers alongside a toasty palate of dense, tannic, sometimes minty black cherries, cranberries, violets, and sweet licorice, this Tardieu-Laurent blend challenges everyone in the Rhone to do better. Its tacky tannin and long, floral finish remind me of Vosne-Romanee, while the (what I assume are) syrah and grenache still shine through. So much so, in fact, that it shouldn't even be classified as Cotes du Rhone, the simple but pleasant southeasterly French blends dominated by grenache. It's on the cusp of being something reverential, if not referential, of French wine--a reason to rely on winemakers instead of appellations. Great winemakers make great wine and, based on this bottle alone, I will always look forward to tasting Michel and Dominique's work--no matter where they live.
November 21, 2006
04 Ugo Lequio, Langhe Arneis
It's wine like this that means Italy to me. Despite all the great Baroli and Barbaresci--perhaps the most noble of all wines--made just beside these Roero hills in Piedmont, despite the barberas made just south in Alba, it's the unadulterated presence of Italy's table whites that make them, to me, amongst the country's most enjoyable everyday wines. And, tasting the Lequio arneis, it's no surprise that such wines have occasionally been blended with nebbiolo to make Langhe's reds, the way roussane, marsanne, and viognier are often blended into the reds of Rhone. The perfume is like that of pear tarts keeping warm in the oven, with more pastry and dry salted pears on the palate and a strong surge of lemony acidity to finish. A waxy body infused with citrus, fuller than you might expect, calls on Oregon pinot gris or the cortese-based wines of neighboring Gavi. It ends tart and chalky, begging for shrimp, crawdads, trout, or a foggy, crisp country morning.
November 14, 2006
04 Cameron Hughes, Barbera Sierra Foothills Lot 17
It could pass for great California merlot, and whatever it lacks in semblance to "true" barbera, the wine makes up for in seamless intensity. The tart, grapey taste is almost like bubble gum seasoned with red chili oil. I love the juiciness of this wine, much like the Runquist "barbera," with 14.5% alcohol providing weight, but no heat. What a luscious wine. On top of all that fruit, there's just a hint of earth and a clean finish of chalky, wet stone tannin. Who cares about terroir? I do. But not today.
November 13, 2006
90 Bruno Paillard, Champagne Reims Brut N.P.U.
If you could combine my favorite flavors from Champagne and give me something that would age, easily, for at least another 10 years, you would be Bruno Paillard and your wine would be called "Nec Plus Ultra," French for "nothing more beyond." Because nothing lies above or beside this assertive summary of the 1990 vintage--a wine that pains me with its complexity. First, there is the simple dry raw almond taste of old chardonnay, which drowns in the passion of Paillard's pinot noir. It is indeed an extreme example of sparkling wine, as delicate flavors quickly transform themselves into the persistent taste of tart raspberry and baked Fiji apples with toasty caramel undertones. This is a wine that thrives on power, feverishly, manic with what tastes like the laughter of a crazy clown. And then it just explodes. Thank you, Danielle.
November 10, 2006
04 J. Christopher, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir "Sandra Adele"
Not nearly as elegant as the 2002, this new Sandra Adele has to rely a bit more on its oak than you'd expect to make it work. So, on first open, the burnt aroma of fresh floorboard and blacktop hides all the delicacy and sexuality that I know this wine contains. But after a bit of decanting, the elegant cranberry juice, black cherry pulp, chocolate chip, and black grape flavors take over--always growing more intense, but still restrained by cleansing spring-like acidity and a lean, taxingly fumey finish. If the 2002 is for his mother's beauty, this is for her discipline.
November 09, 2006
04 The Magnificent Wine Company, Columbia Valley House Wine
You could make lamb meatballs with this. I don't mean mixing it up with ground, eggs, bread crumbs, and spices. I mean reducing it down to a thick paste, dehydrating it, and binding its essence with the will to taste great things. While the tannic 70% cabernet and 25% merlot back this juicy wine with pudding-like flavors of bittersweet chocolate, sweet plum, and plump raisins, it's somehow the mere 5% syrah that drives it to be, yet again, the greatest value in American wine. It's alluring, spicy, toasty, macerated fruit that reminds me of Minervois. Clove-kissed fruit that charges rustically like wild boar into the barrel of a gun. Fleshy, sauvage, like hog belly clenched between your fingers, like sweet lamb mashed with herbs de provence and fried on the back of a wooden spoon.
November 08, 2006
01 Domaine Joseph Voillot, Bourgogne
This is a wine that frees you from the confines of Bourgogne. Bright, fresh, and lively--as any pinot noir should be--this relatively tired table wine still sings on pitch with clear notes of bright cherry and cranberry. But it's the nose that drives it--making it seem more complex than it really is. The earthy aroma makes me wild, reminding me of sauteed button mushrooms on a countertop beside dried porcinis rehydrating in the background. It's noticeably light and unaffected, but still each note--be it the simple wet sop aroma or the overwhelmingly bright acidic taste--is loud and persistent. It's a young kid trying to show me what he's made of. He won't ever beat me, no matter how old he gets, but I wouldn't dare hit him too hard. He deserves better. Thank you, David.
November 01, 2006
NV Galway Pipe, Yalumba Tawny Port
After all this--all this wine--sometimes you avoid the stuff you started with. Maybe you keep an old, empty bottle behind the recycling to remind you, but rarely do you ever go back and drink the stuff. Not after the great many vintages, and the great many debts, you've jolted and idled through the years. Which is why, when they're right, wines like this deeply concentrated tawny port can be profound, even after years of being ignored. What it lacks in complexity, this generous 12-to-15-year-old blend redeems in brute force. Its alcohol, mellowed by sweetness, spices the thick, figgy palate, which lingers into flavors of sweetened pipe tobacco and roasted walnuts. And, despite all its sugar, the finish is as fresh and fond as a memory, which this bottle has quickly become.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi