Monday, July 28, 2008

Rot Wein

It seems to be difficult to find good red wine in Bavaria - I drank a lot of very good "dunkel weiss bier" (dark wheat beer) but had bad luck with the "rot wein" (red wine) - it was pretty rotten!! The best I could find in the area we were in (Garmisch) was the Dominio del Ugarte, Rioja, 2001 - this was a run of the mill "good" rioja that stood head and shoulders above anything else we tried, especially the "local" German/Austrian reds. It was so much better than the other options that our group cleaned the restaurant out of it's stock. Some restaurants had only ONE choice of red wine, and this was often undrinkable. Really undrinkable...
Oh well, when in Rome...
Further north in Scotland the best beverage sampled also turned out to be beer - this was the Black Sheep Ale, brewed in Masham, Yorkshire. Interesting though was the policy of rotating wines on sale at the big grocery shops such as Tesco, Asda or Morrisons - often you can get "bulk" but drinkable wines such as those pictured below at half price, as little as 3 pounds (that's 6 bucks for us with the current exchange rate). That's something we NEVER would get in our wine monopoly states of Quebec and Ontario. Best of these wines I tasted while in the UK? The rather pedestrian named Lindemans, Winemakers Release, Shiraz-Cabernet, 2007 - it tasted like it was just bottled from a barrel, although the nice toasty oak more likely came from wood chips as this one was priced (on sale) at a measly 4 pounds. A crowd pleasing style, but that's great value.
Anyways, it 's now back to some serious wine tasting (I hope) in Canada!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Contest

I really thought I would have a contest on my hands with these two South Americans. I have had some very good Carmen wines, especially their reserve series and I usually find them very good values also. Oops. The Chilean Carmen, Merlot, Reserve, 2005 shows raspberries and menthol on the nose. It is surprisingly light bodied - can hold up to chicken but nothing more strongly flavoured. Lots of red berry fruit but no real tannic or acidic backbone. Fun to drink as a lunch wine maybe, but it only merits an "OK" rating. Waste of money at $18.
The out and out winner in this little comparison is the Argentine O. Fournier, Beta Crux, Valle de Uco, 2003. Quite aromatic, I get baked cherry pie. Tons of character in this one - bing cherries, dates, spices - I get cardammon. Unctuous, almost thick with very smooth tannins. Wow. Much better than when I had it in Argentina last year. A steal at $20. Buy a few.
And now for the Dumbo marketing award of the year - our local wine-selling monopoly insists on hiding interesting information on bottle labels printed by the bodega because, get this, there is no French translation on it. You pay an employee to put an obscuring label over the info and then have to peel the damn thing off in the store to know what grapes you're buying....Stupidest thing I've ever seen a store do - if anything, it would STOP me from buying it rather than encourage me.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Role Reversal

Two wines, one 14.5% alcohol and the other 13.5%...which is from California and which from France? Well, I guessed right but for the wrong reasons. The 14.5er as it turns out is from a satellite appellation in Bordeaux (what the !*&#!@! is with this kind of alcohol level from here?). The Chateau Haut Colombier, Premiere Cotes de Blaye, 2005 is from that super Bordeaux vintage - a lot of minor chateaux made good stuff that year. A nice dark stained cork, it comes out opaque in the glass. On the nose it's antiseptic mixed with black fruit, but not in an unpleasant way! This is full bodied and structured - the acids keep it lively in the mouth, there are tart blackberries and the tannins are teeth coating. A good wine, and a good example of "cheap" Bordeaux at $18.
On the other hand, the R.H. Philips, Toasted Head, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, 2003 clocks in at an unassuming 13.5%. But it's unmistakably new world in style - as soon as you open it you can smell the pungent oak wafting out - and it doesn't disappoint if you like the "oak monster" - they char the ends of the barrels (the "heads") as well as the sides to deliver this kind of flavour. There's also cherries and blackberries hiding behind all the toasty oak. However, if you leave the glass for a while and come back to it, it falls a little flat...reminds me of a soft drink - better drink it soon after opening. So, this is a delicious wine (if you like the style), but drink it sooner rather than later once the bottle is open. I rate it "good", and reasonably priced for what it is (one dimensional tasty juice) at $20.