Saturday, April 18, 2015

High QPR Casual Summer Sippers

High QPR Casual Summer Sippers

After conducting a public tour at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, in Oak Park, as a volunteer docent interpreter, I joined the staff in a member's after closing birthday celebration on the patio. Happy Birthday, Mark! A casual light hearted affair under the unseasonably warm spring late afternoon sun, we tasted a trio of well selected easy drinking, high QPR (quality to price ratio) sippers ideally suited for such an occasion.

It is worth mentioning and featuring these three selections for summer every day drinking, as they also qualify as respectable selections for dining or even special occasions.

Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja 2013

We don't normally drink Grenache varietal wines, or Garnacha as their Spanish selections are called, especially at this price point, since it is such a rarity to find this quality and enjoyable drinking in this class. Even the eponymous Robert Parker says, “If you have not yet discovered the great values of Bodegas Borsao, it´s about time you do”.  Wine Spectator cites them as “One of the Top 100 wineries of the world”. Voila! Its was news to me! Grenache tends to have bold forward characteristics that I normally prefer as part of a blend such as in a Chateauneuf du Pape, rather than as the 'main course'.

This is the second label of Tres Picos, which is the producer's flagship old vine Grenache, but at a fraction of the price. While not complex, polished or sophisticated, this is great value for keeping at hand in the cellar for everyday drinking with pizza, barbecue ribs, perhaps riccota cheese and pasta. Its not for the feint of heart, its a bold wine which will go best with food for the more timid red wine drinker. This blend of 75% Garnacha and 25% Tempranillo is not for cellaring or aging, but instant gratification pop and pour drinking.

Dark blackish garnet colored, medium to full bodied, bold, concentrated deep flavors of black berries accented by smoke, creosote and tobacco, with earthy spice tones and a modest dry finish. 

RM 88 points.

Domaine Lafage Novellum VDP (Vin de Pays) des Côtes Catalanes Chardonnay 2013

"Novellum" is Latin for "fresh" and is aptly named for youthful early drinking. From the Languedoc Roussillon region in the south of France, this is another incredible value that at around $10-12 is a great buy for keeping around for casual easy sipping, yet worthy for respectable serious pairing with food.

Straw colored, medium to full bodied, not necessarily complex but what Wine Advocate calls 'exotic', with predominant forward bright vibrant white peach fruit flavor with floral, creme, brioche and almond nut flavors with bright acidity, soft smooth finish.

RM 89 points.

Matetic "EQ" Coastal Casablanca Valley (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Another nice selection for casual enjoyable every day drinking at a great QPR value. There is always a place for Sauvignon Blanc since it is the grape varietal that is the most true to its sense of place and source, a simple basic wine that is not subject to adulteration or extreme notes, hence approachable and acceptable to all comers.

This comes from the Casablanca Valley in Chile, an emerging wine region adjacent to the coast so that the cool moderate coastal breezes make for ideal conditions for moderate white wines. The grapes for this wine come from estate vineyards in the area of “Valle Hermoso,” (beautiful valley) located about 8 miles from the Pacific.

Straw colored, light to medium bodied, ripe green apple predominates with tones of lime and passion fruits and melon with creamy notes and bright crisp acidity on the clean finish.

RM 89 points.

Azelia San Rocco Barolo 2001

Azelia di Luigi Scavino San Rocco Barolo (Nebbiolo) 2001

Readers of this blog know we don't do a lot of Italian wines. Less than 1% of our cellar is in Italian labels. There are so many appellations and varietals and producers across all the regions, I advise folks to find one you like and focus on a few to develop knowledge and understanding of that area, and then move on. We focus on Bordeaux and Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot...) and Rhone and its varietals (which includes Syrah/Shiraz and thus includes Australia's popular varietal).

I admit, I am not well versed in Italian wine regions and their associated grape varietals. I've written before that in the 'new world', we name or label our wines based on the primary grape varietal in the bottle. In the 'old world', they, (the French, Italians, Germans), name the wine for the region or appellation, and its up to the consumer to understand the applicable wine grape varietal associated with that area. For example, Left Bank Bordeaux appellations (growing areas) such as St Julien and Paulliac are Cabernet Sauvignon based blends, while Right Bank Bordeaux such as St Emilion and Pomerol are Merlot based blends.

In this case of Italy and Barolo, the wines are based on the Nebbiolo grape varietal.  Perhaps this is obvious, but the neophyte, or even learned wine geeks who don't know Italian wines, don't necessarily know the association of Sangiovese or Nebbiolo varietals and their regions and appellations, Barolo, Piedmont, Tuscany etc.

Skip ahead if this is known and basic, or bear with me if you're interested in learning these fundamentals of Barolo which is a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) (aka appellation in France or AVA (American (Agriculture) Viticultural Area) in America) in the northern Italian region of Piedmont. Barolos are red wines made primarily from the Nebbiolo grape varietal. Within the Piedmont Barolo DOCG are the communes of Barolo, (in this case) Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d'Alba, and parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, Novello, Roddi and Verduno. These sub-appellations as they might be called in America, are mentioned on the label, but are secondary to the region name. To many, me included, this adds to the confusion of interpreting or parsing an Italian wine label.

Barolo wines tend to be bold, full bodied, tannic, firm, concentrated and long lived with tasting characteristics of black fruits, tar, rose petals and smoke.
Readers of this blog will also know that we dine regularly at Angeli's Italian, our local trattoria, and when we do, we're limited in our Italian focused BYOB selections if we want to stay true to the native food wine pairing.

Tonight, for a casual mid-week dinner, I pulled this bottle from our limited Italian selection in the cellar with little foresight or understanding on what to expect in this fourteen year old. Wow, what a nice surprise. This Barolo was a blockbuster, a perfect accompaniment to our entree selections, Portabella Mushroom Ravioli with ricotta cheese, sauteed in marsala wine cream sauce, and the daily special, Asparagus Ravioli.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, expressive complex concentrated but nicely integrated fruits of blackberry and black currant fruits highlighted by tones of tar, anise and smoke, and subdued earth and tobacco leaf notes, turning to firm but smooth polished tannins on the lingering tongue puckering finish.

I will look forward to exploring and adding more Barolo including this label to our wine acquisitions and selections in the future.

RM 92 points.