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May 26, 2007
Cameron Hughes is quickly becoming one of the world's leading negociants. He seems to respect terroir, or at least understand that--even if the wines are packed in Frisco Bay--they are born and bred elsewhere. This 12.8% bottling is a humble archetype of New Zealand's best varietal. It's sharp and acidic, sizzling on the tongue. The grapefruit and gooseberry flavors are perfect, classically pungent and uric on the nose, and never muddled. Yet the finish develops somehow, slowly ripening in the mouth to a mild taste of guava, papaya, green mango, pineapple, and green grape before finishing with the cleanness of Glacier Freeze Gatorade Blast or Electric Lemonade.
May 17, 2007
04 Guigal, Condrieu
Really a fun wine--at once exceedingly rich aromatically and dry to the point of being transparent on the palate. It's the bain of viognier, especially the northern Rhone's Condrieu--a wine denser than other whites that last years in the bottle, yet one that dies suddenly and soon. Maybe too fast is it's beating heart, too passionate its deciduous perfume of orange Dreamsicle wilted down to white peaches. So classic is as classic does, and with the merits of terroir come its faults. Guigal's 04 Condrieu is nearly dead--now more refreshing than fresh, like spring water distilled from Bergamot tea. Save it for the syrah.
May 16, 2007
03 Fattoria di Felsina, Fontalloro
Felsina is putting out some tremendous sangiovese. Everyone likes it--from Parker to Gambero Rosso, who has given his rare Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award to Felsina (over 20) times. Like the '00 Fontalloro (which left me breathless), the 03 is so Tuscan it's anti-Tuscan. Today, at least, when some Tuscans have all but physically moved to Napa and Bordeaux. It's white-beans-mashed-with-olive-oil-and-parsley Tuscan, Etruscan rather than Tuscan--ancient, but at home where it is. Because there's no denying the modern power of the fruit in this 2003 bottling. It's bold and spicy, with loads of blackberry and black cherry flavor, anise and peppercorn. Simply, the antidote for old, gamey lamb-cum-mutton. It shows off the strength of its terroir, more like the brunello moniker than typical sangiovese or morellino (though it does have that damp essence common to the Maremma coast). Thank you, Danielle.
May 14, 2007
05 Magnificent Wine Company, Columbia Valley House Wine
Man, the House Wine has become such a commodity. What was an unbelievable bargain has "matured" to become just another everyday table wine. A good one, mind you, but nothing like the ones of a few years ago, which gave every northwest cabernet at three times the price a run for the money (Andrew Will, Walla Walla, the list goes on). Now, its competition is more in the class of cheap Spanish garnacha and monastrell--grapey enough to keep everyone happy, with the trademark breadcrumb-like tannin (not too dry, but with enough grip to make you think it's a serious wine), and nothing really serious going on. Which is maybe what this wine should have been in the first place--still every bit worth buying as it was with the 2002--but we were spoiled by those early Charlie Smith-driven vintages that gave an entire generation of cheap wine drinkers a true taste of the power and sophistication of New World wine fornenst California's overpriced reds. So be it. We had our fun. And now we get what we deserve--a ripe, tasty red with no apparent flaws.
May 13, 2007
05 Bodegas Naia, Rueda Verdejo Naia
If Chablis, with all its Loire-like limestone and Kimmerdigian clay, can be considered a part of Bourgogne, maybe this is Rueda's claim to the AOC. Second only to Naia's own Naia des, it's a legendary verdejo that does more with the grape than most would ever think possible. Fresh and lemony, with notes of sea salt, honeysuckle, and flint, it's every bit as simple as it is complex--a wine that's as much fun to chug as it is to sip slowly next to grilled squid and garlicky escargot. Rounding out a portfolio that also includes the electric Las Brisas verdejo/sauvignon blanc, Naia makes a strong case for the Bodega's being one of the world's finest white wineries. Its house style blends freshness and balance with precise fruit and naturally cutting acid. It's as much a drink as it is a seasoning--lifting every meal, lifting warmth out of a cold morning in spring.
May 05, 2007
05 Domaine de Pouy, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne
In the same vinosphere as the tart alvarinho-, loureiro-, and trajadura-based wines of kindred Vinho Verde in northwestern Portugal, Domaine de Pouy has stood out every year--unpretentious, satisfying, and deceptively complex. It is the best ugni blanc (trebbiano) on the market--a reason (the only reason) not to distill this grape down to brandy--lean and green with flinty acidity, refreshing tartness, and a striking essence of starfruit, almond milk, and sweetened lime zest.
May 04, 2007
05 Les Jamelles, Vin de Pays d'Oc L'Etang-Vergy Pinot Noir
Wildly ripe and acidic to the point of acetic, this is a confused, confusing take on pinot noir--an "I'll be damned if you tell me how to grow my grapes" wine, where "terroir" takes a backseat to "whatever the hell we could do." Boisterous. Spicy. Loud. Frappant (only for its violent French root). These are some of the words that come to mind. I think the Les Jamelles was startled when I opened it--lost, perhaps, in this big city hundreds of miles from its home in Southern France's Aude Valley. But it puts back on its skin after a few minutes in the glass, hardening its stare, rocking its tough city limp. Well, it tries. Enough to walk down Broadway at midnight and not get mugged. The vinegary acid quickly comes into balance and powers the milky, black cherry flavors and a grapeyness common to gamay (which I suspect is what made this bottle lose its Bourgogne designation) that emerge gloriously and lustily in the glass. As any backroad wine from as hot a vintage as this, it's an indulgent secret, much like Spain's monastrell, Long Island's cabernet franc, and Sicilia's nero d'avola.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi