Last Thursday's tasting featured four red wines: an inexpensive Spanish Garnacha and three twenty dollar reds from Chile, France, and California. The Spanish red was really quite good so if your need is for respectable everyday fare that Spanish bottle would be an excellent choice but if you wanted something more distinctive the latter three were exemplary.
Our Chilean option was the 2012 Terra Noble Gran Reserva Carmenere and it was a spot-on example of type down to the off-putting earthiness of the wine when first uncorked. Carmenere is the storied premier grape of Chile first planted in the 1850's and then labelled as Merlot throughout the twentieth century before genetic testing in 1994 revealed its true identity. It is characterized by red fruit (cherry) flavors, spice, earthiness/smokiness, with ample leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate rounding out the profile. Our Terra Noble opened up beautifully, losing its earthy mustiness and becoming a real head turner in the second hour of the event.
Our California red was the 2014 Smith & Hook Central Coast Proprietary Red Blend. From the back label - "Crafted from superior quality Merlot, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this blend features vibrant berry, cherry, and plum flavors." This one was just as advertised and not surprisingly, it needed no time to open up. There was no need to ponder over this one. It was a fun crowd pleaser with no pretension.
By contrast our French red was one with a pedigree. Not only was the 2014 Crocus L'Atelier Malbec de Cahor representative of the grape variety grown in the place known for that type (in France!) but it also carried the Paul Hobbs Selections moniker on the back label. Mr. Hobbs may be the best known winemaker in the world with wines featuring his name prominently commanding high dollar prices. This one is actually made by Paul Bertrand. Tellingly, all of our tasting wines came with tech sheets with the Crocus carrying about five times as much information as the others.
So which one was the best? We're not saying! The California wine would be a great apertif or pizza/hamburger wine. The Chilean would marry well with red meat or game on the grill. The Crocus would be what you need for fine dining. This tasting really offered something for everyone...unless you required white wine!
We have Europeans next week with David Rimmer bringing new French and Italian wines to the tasting table. Forget about Ruffino, Banfi, Louis Jadot, and Louis Latour; if you want to taste real quality from Europe be here on Thursday the 26th at 5pm for the good stuff. Count on great European cheese on the table for this one too!