Thursday, January 27, 2011

What makes a Value wine?

Was the Hugo a good value? It was a car that sold for under five thousand dollars brand new. Is that value or just cheap? You may be asking what's the difference? The difference is quality. The perfect example is Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. It is not a value because it is cheap. Not in price but in quality. I am not saying it is bad wine or criticizing anyones taste, I am saying that the quality of the product does not  match the price. They produce one million cases of Pinot Grigio. Where can they get quality grapes for that many cases to justify the price point? They can't and that is why there is no value. Value is all about quality. A wine could cost $50 and still be a value because of the quality is higher then most other wines in the price point. Here are some other wines to check out that I think really bring a lot to the table.

Ritratti Pinot Grigio
From Trentino in Northern Italy. This is a pinot that has body, character, and quality that far exceeds its price. $15.99

Grayson Chardonnay
This wine is a perfect balance of fruit and oak with enough body to make you wonder why people would spend so much on KJ.

Block Nine Pinot Noir
This is a perfect example of inexpensive of Pinot Noir. They blend in about 15% Syrah to give it a little more weight. This wine is medium bodied with lovely fruit notes of strawberry, raspberry and plum.

Petra Zingari
A blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Alicante this is a home run of a Super Tuscan. Rich and dense with amazing spice notes and a core of rich dark fruit. Great structure and a impressive mouth feel and finish.

These are just a few wines that I think are amazing at their price points. Please feel free to contact me for other suggestions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Priceless Portugal

No country in the world has a longer history of growing, producing and exporting wine than Portugal. They traded with the Romans, Phoenicians, and Greeks. Portugal during the Hundred Years War became the main wine import of the British. Today, Portuguese wines are still very popular in Britain and are gaining popularity all over the world. The Portuguese were the first to implement a quality control system for wine production, two hundred years before the French. With such a long history of making wine, Portuguese wines are still not known very well in the US. Many times when I am speaking to people about wine, I get the most resistance when I try to tell them about Portugal. Most people think of Portugal as where they make Port, the sweet fortified wine. Most of the time things go south when they ask what grapes make up the wine. Soon as names like Fernao Pires, Touriga Nacional or Tinta Roriz are spoken I see their eyes glaze over. Unlike California wine, or France, when a person does not know what grapes are in a Bordeaux, they become comfortable when they find out because they are familiar with the grapes. With wines from Portugal, the names of the grapes are as foreign as their pronunciation. So here is a simple guide to the main grapes of  Portugal and what better known grape they most taste like.

White Grapes

Alvarihno- Known as Albarino in Spain. This is a grape that has intense aroma of peach and full fruit on the palate, think of it like a Gewurztraminer or Viognier

Loureiro- This is a white grape found in the wines of the Vinho Vede Region of Northern Portugal. This grape is known for its intense aromatics of bay leaf and citrus. Think of this similar to a Sauvignon Blanc

Red Grapes

Touriga Nacional- This is Portugal's flag ship red grape. Used in both the production of Port and Still wine. These grapes produce wine that is Dark and rich with flavors of black fruit and intense gripping tannin. Think of this like Cabernet Sauvignon

Touriga Franca- This is also one of Portugal's most widely planted grapes that is used in both Port style wines as well as dry wines. The wine from this grape is also dark, but more fragrant and slight lighter bodied than Touriga Nacional. Think of this like Cabernet Franc.

Tinta Roriz- This is known in Spain as Tempranillo where it makes the world famous wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Shows cherry, berry, character, sometimes showing hints of mint. Think of this like Merlot.

These are only a few of the grapes used in Portugal but they are the main components of most of the wines. So please for yourself try some wines from Portugal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Malbec Then and Now

It is impossible to open a wine publication or a blog without reading something about Malbec. In the past decade I have tasted my fair share of Malbec wines, but my first experience was with a Cahors and that is the one that sticks with me. This was not the wine that most people would think of as Malbec. It was not soft fruity and welcoming, but it was dark brooding and damn near angry with gripping tannins and a structure that taunted me to try and get through it. This was my first experience with a wine made from 100% Malbec and I loved it. This Malbec did soften and open up after a few, well 12, hours and was really beautiful. With the advances in wine making, the softer more approachable wine I had to wait 12 hours for, is now available right when you pull the cork or twist the cap. It was that wine that lead me to learn everything I could about first, the Cahors region, and later Argentina. The Malbec grape in many ways is a bit of a phoenix. Dating as far back as the 13th century, the wines of Cahors were widely held in great esteem with a small interruption in trade with England during the Hundred Years War. Cahors caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson who sang its praises as the "black wine of Cahors." Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries it remained popular until 1885 when almost 90% of the vineyards were destroyed by phylloxera. It rebounded more slowly then other regions that were also crushed by phylloxera such as Bordeaux. The region slowly came back but never reclaimed its former glory. Then in February of 1956, the region was once again decimated this time by frost. As Malbec's star was fading in France, it was being widely planted in Argentina. It was first brought to Argentina by Tiburcio Benegas, along with the most advanced technology available at the time in the late 1800's. Tiburcio Benegas, who was the governor of the Mendoza province, is considered one of the pioneers in the wine industry in the Americas. For the better part of the 19th and 20th centuries, Argentina mostly produced cheap wine for local consumption. It was not until the 1990's when the government stabilized and investment poured into the wine industry. It was in Argentina that Malbec really came into its own. They gained popularity very quickly outside of Argentina and were second behind Chile in exports. Then in 2002, the Peso was devalued and tourism boomed as did investment. What we now see in both the quantity and quality of Argentine wine is a direct result of those investments. Wine luminaries such as the Rothschild family, Paul Hobbs, Michel Rolland, and many others have all invested their time and money in the vineyards of Argentina. Imports of Malbec from Argentina have grown by 40% in just the past few years according to some experts . This is the state of Malbec right now, seeing astronomic popularity and continuing to grow. This is great heights for a once ignored humble grape.