I’m back from my travels in Europe. It took me a couple of weeks to find my rhythm and to tackle a mountain of personal items that I have long neglected. Last Saturday I ventured to my KGBO to buy and to try the wines that interested me from the October 15 and October 29 Vintages’ release. It turned out that these two releases provided an opportunity to do a little contrasting.
Humans contrast one thing with another all the time. For example, “I like the painting on the left more than the one on the right” or “I’d rather poke my eye with a sharp pencil than go to that meeting.” The contrasting technique is helpful in not only figuring out wines you like but also figuring out why you prefer one to another.
Before we go down the contrast path I have a couple of value white wines for your consideration.
First up is a wine from Portugal called Nortico and the bottle contains fermented juice from Alvarinho grapes. You would be correct if you are thinking that Alvarinho is the same grape as Spain’s Albarino. I’m a fan and you will find Vintage’s tasting notes of “crunchy apple, white grapefruit and peach wrapped in a ribbon of bright acidity” to be pretty accurate (although I’m not sure how one would make a ribbon of bright acidity. Good grief). The bottom line is that this wine is a bone dry & food friendly and it has some complexity. This wine sells for $14 and is a great buy.
To find the second bargain stagger into Vintage’s French section and look for the Mas Reserve Marsanne.
The KGBO’s tasting notes are contrived on this one…” Apple and starfruit aromas and flavours are joined by suggestions of pineapple and yellow cherry”. When I tasted I did get a lot of tropical fruit such as pineapple and starfruit and I did also note the apple. These are pretty good descriptors of what I experienced in tasting this wine. But, “yellow cherry”? I don’t believe I have seen a yellow cherry much less tasted one. Good grief number two.
What they missed in the notes is probably to most important element. The wine’s finish has a slight bitterness probably resembling what you experience from mistakenly tasting an apricot pit along with its sweet fruit. I like some bitterness in a white wine and I find the bitterness in this wine to be pleasant. If you are not a fan of bitter don’t part with the $14 that this bottle costs. For me, this wine is a bargain.
The first contrast to consider is the $30 2009 Marques de Caceres Grand Reserva with $30 2002 Heredad De Baroja Grand Reserva.
Taste the Heredad first. Yes, it is nice wine and you will be happy with the wine and think that the wine’s description on the KGBO’s website is not bad. Now pour of taste of the Caceres. Again, the critic’s words that describe this wine are fine but I also think you will notice a dimension in the Caceres that is missing in the Heredad. The Caceres has a level of sophistication where the fruit, secondary elements and tannins are working together. People often describe such wines as “smooth” but that word is so overused and does not do the subject justice. But if you want to call it smooth than rock on.
I’ve collected Marques de Caceres for a long time and have enjoyed bottles that were nearly 30 years old. This wine is good now and it will be good years and years from now. Buy the Heredad if you want to impress your friends with a wine that is 14 years old and good. Buy the Caceres if you want a wine that is great now and will be great in the future. If you beat me to the KGBO please leave a few bottles of the Caceres for me.
The second contrast to consider performing is the $35 2010 Bersano Nirva SCO Barolo and the $30 2013 Sottimano Langne Nebbiolo.
Now this is a different type of contrast. Both are made from the Nebbiolo grape. These wines come from the same grape but from two different villages in the Langhe region of Piedmont and from two different producers. The 2010 vintage was one of the region’s best. Wines made that year normally need many years in the bottle to truly express themselves. For this reason, I didn’t think that the Bersano would be approachable. In contrast, wine classified as “Langne Nebbiolo” either comes from younger vines from within the regions of Barolo or (in this case) Barbaresco or from vines grown outside of these region’s boundaries. Wines labeled Langne Nebbiolo are rare at the KGBO and finding one typically represents an opportunity to buy a good value, food friendly wine that should be drank when the wine is young.
In the case of these two wines, this conventional wisdom would be so wrong.
The Bersano is a decent Barolo. It’s not a great Barolo. The price of great Barolo is $100 or more. For $35 you will get a wine that is drinking nicely now and has the fruit, acidity, structure and food friendliness that I love in Nebbiolo based wines. For me, this wine is a buy.
Sottimano is an old-school producer in Barbaresco. I have visited them many times and I collect their wines. They are very traditional, they are blessed with excellent crus and their wines are very expressive. The 2013 Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo is a big wine that needs time in the bottle. If you have ever wondered what a wine critic means when he or she uses the word “closed” go buy a bottle of the Sottimano and have a taste. My guess is that your first taste may offend you and by the third taste you will start thinking “this wine has all the right elements…there’s potential here.” The wine is closed up presently and myy guess is the Sottimano would be a gem in five years.
Buy the Bersano to enjoy now. In 5 years this wine will still be good but I don’t think it would be much better. Buy the Sottimano and drink a small amount to experience a closed wine. Then decant the wine and wait at least 24 hours (I’m not joking) or leave the bottle open for a day. This wait will give you a decent clue on what this wine might be in five years. The Sottimano is a wine to cellar and enjoy later.
If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive it please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list. Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine (the locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on www.vintages.com). Remember that Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. You are the customer.
The next Vintages’ release is Saturday November 12. I typically try to buy and taste the wines that interest me on the Saturday or Sunday. If you are interested in joining me send me an email and I’ll try to coordinate a small gathering. It would be great to get the views of others that are interested in finding gems in the vast and confusing offerings of the KGBO.