From a giant of coffee discernment, notes on wine

October 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

My Portland Press Herald wine column this week brings on a guest taster, and he’s not even a wine guy. He’s Matt Bolinder, of Pownal, Maine-based specialty roaster Matt’s Coffee. Matt roasts gently and attentively, using only Maine sap and fruitwood in his vintage Italian roaster. The coffees are available locally at various retail shops, and now you can taste Matt’s approach to brewing at The Speckled Ax, a terrific coffee shop on Congress Street.

Matt has an amazing palate, and I thought it would be fun to taste wine with him. You can read more about the encounter in my column, but the wine notes there are almost entirely factual and flavor-based. If you’re interested in the broader context of the wines, read on.

Aizpurua. B Getariako Txakolina 2011. Txakoli is the great Spanish Basque white, usually drunk with abandon alongside easygoing, casual food and amidst happy, lighthearted people. Some people call it the Spanish Vinho Verde, but good Txakoli is much more substantial than almost all Vinho Verde. Like the latter, it’s usually low in alcohol, dry, lemony and spritzy. But there’s a surprising stoutness to the Aizpura’s body, and tremendous muscular energy. Drink it with soft cheeses, raw shellfish or fried seafood.

Suavia Soave Classico 2010. Poor Soave. It got its name debilitatingly sullied by all that box-wine sugared crap you used to see on TV ads. But Soave is an exciting DOC in Italy’s Veneto (there’s even a DOCG for Soave Superiore), and the indigenous Garganega grape used to make Soave is capable of surprisingly complexity. (Soave also sometimes uses Trebbiano Soave [aka Verdicchio], Pinot Bianco and even Chardonnay.) This Soave from Suavia hails from the restricted “Classico” subregion, whose limestone soils retain heat and endow the wine with a fuller body than more generic Soave.

Chateau Halie Bordeaux 2008. The vintage has been overlooked by those who herald 2009 and 2010 for their richness and blossom of fruit. The euphemism is, 2008 is a “restaurant year”. But I think it’s a sleeper, and wines this well made will reward patient cellaring with far more characterful wines 7-15 years from now. Right now, it’s frankly a little tight, and not yet fully giving. Fans of very dry, austere and classically “French” Bordeaux will love it now, and its $16 retail price makes it an easy experiment. But it’s just as easy to lay it down in your cellar for a few years; when you return to it you’ll be thrilled.

Schreckbichl Colterenzio Lagrein 2010, $18 (Easterly).  The great red grape of Trentino in Italy’s far northeast, Lagrein is hard for me to nail down. Sometimes it’s raw and aggressive, other times it’s supremely ripe and lush (but only after long periods of barrel maturation). It’s almost always tenacious, persistent, dense and emotionally unyielding. Firm tannins speak to its ageability and imbue the wine with immense structure. The Colterenzio is firm and savory, with pronounced minerals, and screaming for a meal that includes bloody meat.

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