Monday, November 11, 2019

A New Paradigm

Now comes this from winefolly.com: a list of "classic wines" composed by two sommelier organizations for the purpose of educating wine lovers everywhere.  The "classics" include eleven reds and nine whites denoted by their varietal name.  The idea here is to show a classic example of type from one or more venues so wine lovers will learn what the stuff is supposed to taste like when sourced from prime locales.

Sounds like a plan.  It seems to be a little less dogmatic than the schema I remember from forty years ago which separated the noble wines from the common (ignoble?) ones.  That model is still useful today but only if you acknowledge that most wine grapes can show nobility if grown in the right venue.  By the way, if you hang around long enough, doesn't everything get recycled and designated as the "the best new thing."

This week we'll start with the whites:

     1. Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain
     2. Chardonnay from Burgundy, California and Australia
     3. Chenin Blanc from Vouvray and South Africa
     4. Gewurztraminer from Alsace, Sonoma and Trentino-Alto Adige
     5. Pinot Gris from Alsace, Northern Italy and Oregon
     6. Riesling from Germany, Alsace, Austria and Australia
     7. Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, New Zealand and California
     8. Torrontes from Mendoza, Salta and Catamarca in Argentina
     9. Viognier from Northern Rhone and Central Coast, California

Now, going back to the old noble/common paradigm, the noble grapes from the list would be Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Viognier.  They would be the ones expected to show more character than the others.  There is still a lot of truth to that.

Now here's the challenge: If you're standard wine go-to is limited and you're curious about some of what's on the list, well, spread your wings.  None of us is studying for the sommelier exam here.  We're just in it for the fun of it!

Vine & Cheese has good examples of each type listed including several inexpensive introductory models.  We also have twenty percent off one of the very best Alto Adige Gewurztraminers.  Wouldn't that be a nice one for the Thanksgiving table.


If you want a wine education while having a bunch of fun at the same time join us this Thursday the 14th from 5-7pm.  That evening Dominique Chambon will lead us in a tasting of three from Italy along with a lovely French red from Provence.  Then on the 21st David Hobbs rejoins us for a tasting from his fine wine portfolio.  Please join us for both events!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Ribero del Duero

Everyone says Rioja is the fine wine region of Spain.  It's their Bordeaux.  Their Napa Valley.  Everyone means me too.  So when the wine salesman offers me this incredible red ($85 retail!) from Ribero del Duero, of course, I jump on it.  I have a reputation to protect.  If the wine sounds incredible but the real story is that it will be extremely hard to sell, well then I'm all in!  Let's do it!

So Oracula is now in the store.  It is constructed with the Tinta del Pais grape which is one of the three dozen names for Tempranillo.  Ordinarily the Ribero del Duero blend would be 75% Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec making up the remaining 25%.  Up to five percent total between Garnacha and the white grape Albillo are also allowed.  Those are the historic standards for the region going back more than a hundred years.  Oracula, however, is like an Italian Super Tuscan with no regard to the rules.  It is overwhelmingly Tempranillo with some Garnacha.

Oracula is dark red in color.  It has aromas of cherry, spice, toasted oak and cigar box.  On the palate it is dense and layered with succulent, velvety tannins.  It also has the requisite long finish.  In other words, it's steak wine.

You ought to buy one, what with the holidays and all coming up.  The packaging is smasho!  Ask to see it when you're in the store.

If Oracula really is all it's cracked up to be, what makes it so?  Ribero del Duero is located on the northern plateau of the Iberian peninsula 280 feet above sea level.  The name means "on the bank of the Duero" which is the east-west river crossing Spain and Portugal.  In Portugal it is called the Douro and that is the finest wine region of the country.  On the Spanish side the river hosts seven DO's (denominacion de origen) or wine districts before it reaches Portugal.

Ribero del Duero is huge.  It has two hundred wineries and a milllion acres in vines.  It is the third largest wine producer in the country and almost all of the production is red wine.  Two mountain ranges, the Sierra de la Demanda and Sierra de Guadararia, shelter the region making its Continental-to-Mediterranean climate possible.  That climate means long hot dry summers with harsh winters.  The soil is a silky clay over limestone with marl and chalk.

Is Ribero the real thing?  Are they the best wine appellation in Spain?  According to my current research, there is a groundswell of support for the proposition.  Vega Sicilia (est. 1864) is the great winery of Ribero del Duero and its flagship wine, Unico, is considered by many to be the finest of Spain.

Ribero del Duero red wines are intense.  They are deeply colored with firm tannins and structure with complex aromas of dark fruit.

You ought to try one.  Perhaps the Oracula.


Speaking of great red wines, please join us this Thursday after 5pm when we open some Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.  Cheri Rubio hosts our event.  The specific wines are yet to be determined but they will be legitimate estate bottled Cabs.