Our story so far: Rickee aspires to be a wine critic and professional wine critic and cigar aficionado James Suckling agreed to coach him on his writing. Rickee and James are together tasting wine…
James: Okay let’s start with this red wine from Portugal. Look, smell, taste, and tell me something about this wine.
Rickee: Right, it’s color is ruby, it’s clear, I detect some vanilla on the nose, which means the wine seen some wood and the taste [pausing for sip]…the taste is primarily red fruit. It has some tannins that provide some structure but I the tannins don’t hold up to the fruit’s intensity.
James: And, what about acidity? Is there acidity that provides refreshment?
Rickee: Yep. Actually the acidity is probably the best thing about this wine.
James: So, Rickee, what words would you use to describe this wine?
Rickee: The wine is a basically a raspberry fruit bomb that lacks structure.
James: [in a pensive tone] Ooookay, I see we have some work to do. People don’t like reading negativity, wineries don’t like negativity, nobody likes negativity, and you can make money with negativity. Understand? So you have to word things in a more positive way than “fruit bomb”.
Rickee: For example?
James: For example, you could write that the wine has “ripeness” and instead “lacks structure” you could say that the wine has “soft tannins”. And, remember the wine’s acidity. You were positive about that aspect of this wine so you could write that the wine is “juicy”.
Rickee: I guess all that is “kind-of” true but I’m struggling to understand how the positive approach helps people. Normal people just want to go to the store, avoid bad wine, and buy something decent at a reasonable price. To be honest, I’m quite confused right now.
James: Trust me. I’ve never used the words “fruit bomb” and my success as a wine critic speaks for itself. Let’s try another wine and see what you think. Here a young Nebbiolo that I have decanted over an hour ago. Pour yourself a glass and describe the wine to me.
Rickee: The wine appears clear and bright, it has cherry aromas and, on the palate, yes, the cherries come through in the taste and there is some spiciness aspects as well.
James: Go on.
Rickee: The spice is minty and it has menthol aspects. The tannins on the finish are really aggressive. Going back to the wine’s flavor, I’ve experienced this combination of flavors previously. Give me a minute or two to think about it.
James: So, see we can work with that. You could write that the wine has “red cherry flavors” and the floral aspects are “rose petals” and the menthol is “juniper”. The wine made you think about an experience and that’s a good thing. So, you could say that the wine is “thought-provoking”. The tannins, well, the tannins are “muscular” and therefore would work well with “meaty pasta dishes or grilled red meats”.
Rickee: [with great enthusiasm] I got! I figured it out James! This wine is best described as “Hall’s Cherry Cough Drops” with tannins that make your mouth pucker.
James: Don’t give up your day job. You’re fucking hopeless.
The April 29 Vintages release is rather bizarre. I thought about directing the satire of this post towards the disconnect between the KGBO’s (a.k.a the LCBO) selected theme on showcasing wines from Washington, Oregon and Germany and the lack of appeal in the actual product offerings of wine from these fantastic wine producing areas. How so? Well, about 10 people participate our bi-weekly tastings and we taste about 20 wines. People read the catalog and pick a wine or two (or more) that interests them. They buy those wines and bring them to the tasting. So, one would expect that the wines that people buy for the tasting would be dominated by wines from the KGBO’s theme. Sadly not. One lonely wine from Washington was included in Sunday’s tasting. To our tiny market segment, the KGBO’s thematic product offerings lacked appeal.
Let’s start with the winners.
We tasted two whites. Both come from Burgundy. Both are decent but not fantastic wines. I preferred the $27 Domaine De La Denante Saint Véran Les Maillettes 2014 (491738) to the $23 Domaine Le Verger Chablis 2015 (181289). I favor minerality over fruit and the La Denante delivers on that profile better. It has stone fruit flavors (peaches) and honey flavor on the finish. If you favor fruit over minerals than save yourself $4 and buy the Le Verger. This wine has a tropical fruit flavor profile with minerality in the background.
The Release also contained several Rosés and we tasted the $19 Carte Noire Rosé 2016 (319384) and the $20 Brancaia Rosé 2016 (490953). Both are decent wines. The Carte Noire is a lively wine with red fruit flavors. It has a slight cotton candy taste on the finish that I found distracting. Still a decent wine that I enjoyed so I struggle to understand the local wine critics panning of this wine. I will admit that I preferred the Brancaia. This Rosé has some structure (some tannins on the finish) and I have learned that I favor Rosés made in this style (dry, nice fruit & acid, a little pucker on the finish). To me, the Brancaia delivered those elements. I could drink this wine on its own and the profile is such that it would be a food friendly wine.
The $17 El Maestro Sierra 15-Year-Old Oloroso Sherry (330571) was really enjoyable and a hit will all the tasters. Sadly, Sherry congers up images of professors in tweed, octogenarian ladies sipping something sweet and syrupy , and Niles and Frasier Crane being pretentious. The Sierra is dry and complex and would work with many Spanish style foods. You have to like oxidized wines to like Sherry and, if you do, this wine a real treat.
There are two clear red wine winners to highlight.
The first is the $30 Urbina Selección 1999 (482158). Yes, thanks to Spanish wine practices and the KGBO you can buy a wine that is nearly 20 years old that’s ready to drink. Like most old wines, this wine started out in the glass with leathery aromas and flavors. With some time the exposure to air brought out the fruit flavors. Once you open the bottle, don’t be in a hurry to drink this wine and instead enjoy the experience of the wine evolving and changing in your glass. Do be in a hurry to buy this wine. There not much left in the KGBO system and you may want to request an in-store transfer. If you don’t have access to aged wine here’s a great opportunity to partake in that experience.
If you are able to store and age wine then head to your KGBO store to buy the $30 Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva 2009 (976670). Doctor C brought the 2004 vintage of this wine from his cellar, so we were able to contrast the 04 & 09 in our tasting. The 09 is a good wine now but the contrast illustrated that it will be a better wine in a few years. Like an awkward teenager, the 09 is a little disjointed presently and needs time for everything to grow into place. I’ve enjoyed aged Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva from the 80s, 90s, & 00’s and this wine has not disappointed.
Value red wines included the $21 Torres Celeste Crianza 2012 (210872), the $23 Burgo Viejo Licenciado Reserva 2008 (370023), the $18 Dios Ares Crianza 2012 (305912), and the $17 Luis Cañas Crianza 2014 (336719). All are decent wines for your table and likely would be crowd pleasing wines.
Wines to avoid? Well, there are few that caused us grief.
The $16 Abad Dom Bueno Mencía 2008 (291989) is fruity and spicey and not exciting. The $16 Periquita Reserva 2014 (488007) is a fruit bomb. The $22 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot 2014 (486936) is over oaked and just didn’t push our group’s buttons. The $17 Domaine des Houdières Fleurie 2015 (342725) has strong fruit flavor and it’s missing the earthy elements often found in wine from this region. Even though the local wine critics love this wine I would avoid it and look for the Fleuries and Morgons highlighted in my previous blog posts.
But, I saved the best (meaning the worst) for last. The wine that was Hall’s Cherry Cough drops (and the whole group came to that conclusion) was the $24 Renato Ratti Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 (475913). We decanted the wine and gave it lots of air time but the taste profile worsened over time and our tolerance eventually expired. The local wine critics loved this wine and gave it great reviews. We had a bad bottle? Maybe. But, I will not risk my money on this wine.