July 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
And then there are the wines of Sébastien Riffault, a young winemaker in the Loire Valley who makes Sancerre unlike any you’ve ever had. His single-vineyard Sancerres are rich and fibrous, knotty and earthen. Riffault farms biodynamically by hand, with horses to pull his tractors. He harvests his grapes a full month later than most of his Sancerre compatriots.
The single-vineyard wines — Auksinis and Skeveldra are available in Maine — receive no sulfur whatsoever, while his cuvée, Les Quarterons, gets a tiny treatment at bottling. They all undergo full malolactic fermentation, which along with the late harvest endows them with a startlingly rich intensity.
In my Portland Press Herald column a few weeks ago, I wrote
The mineral landscape of the wine is inhabited by all sorts of life forms: meringue, clafoutis, sun-baked straw, bees, strange flowers. Little in the wines is citric, nothing is green; all is amber and almandine, copper, soft yellows.
Wines this special are not to be missed. They’re why I drink wine at all.
July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
A few weeks ago, I riffed off an old Asimov column in the New York Times on two metacategories for wine: sweet and savory. I’d been feeling that there’s a third aspect that’s just as important: freshness.
It’s real, but hard to pin down. In a wine that expresses freshness, fruit jumps out of the glass, only faintly distracted or veiled by tannins. There’s a kind of potential-energy tension, brought on by acidity so tuned it suggests (and sometimes delivers) effervescence.
You just feel big life, in the wine itself. Summer is the right time to look for freshness, and it was in drinking the J. Hofstätter Pinot Nero 2010, from the Alto Adige, that I felt the urge to write on it. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love this wine.
May 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
Last week in the Portland Press Herald, I went polemical. Halfway through my column, I wrote:
Do not make comparisons. Do not grade anything. Do not assess movies. Do not compare children. Do not evaluate romantic conversations. Do not appraise sunsets. Do not organize your thoughts. Do not classify wines. Do not spend time with people who do any of those things.
The only salient criterion for wine is whether it’s true or false.
Like anything else, wine is either real or representation. That it’s so hard for us to discern the difference speaks only to our cultural confusion, our substitution of advertising for communication.
The signposts of our cultural decline (decried by name in the column, and I’m pretty sure on every other non-porn page on the Internet) are everywhere, and they’re so permeating and nigh-intractable that ya gotta start small. I’m going to start (and stay?) with wine. Maybe that will give me the armor to prepare for the larger war…
May 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve been so excited by so many wines lately that I’ve fallen a bit behind in committing them to 0s and 1s, pixels and screens. That’s a slippery way of excusing myself for failing to post to this-here blog in as timely a fashion as I’d like.
A couple of weeks ago now, in the Portland Press Herald, I wrote about a winemaker in Alsace who has exploded my notions of Alsace. That’s because Mélanie Pfister is carrying on her family’s wine tradition in the Bas-Rhin, the more northerly outpost of vineyards in this most distinct of France’s wine regions. As Mélanie herself explained to me, the Bas-Rhin compared to the Haut-Rhin is akin to Côte de Nuits as compared to Côte de Beaune, or Cornas as compared to Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. More mineral, more precision, more finesse and focus. Haut-Rhin has the better known wineries, and I love ’em, those rich, ripe Weinbachs and Zind-Humbrechts. But try Pfister’s wines from the Bas-Rhin if every once in a while you like your wine a little bit more scalpel-like.
May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment
Dependable. Kind. Interesting, with a subtle edgy streak mostly kept under wraps. I usually want adventuresome wines that set me off kilter. Sometimes I don’t. That’s what Dry Creek Vineyard wines are for: when you want something very good but very consistent.
Ruffle feathers tomorrow. Today, settle in and settle down. Here’s my take on a benchmark-y, stable, classic line-up of wines from California that will break few-to-no balls, bones, habits, relationships or banks.
April 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
That’s a pretty snotty headline. But there’s something to it, as I hope my most recent column in the Portland Press Herald makes clear: the testy dance of tannin, mineral and plump fruit; the not-entirely-settled question of whether brains or brawn or beauty is to emerge triumphant. Sagrantino, the indigenous grape of Umbria in central Italy, offers so much hard-n-old along with amazingly yummy fruit.
Any good Sagrantino di Montefalco is rare, expensive, and requires many years in bottle before its two sides come together. But Montefalco Rosso is the (cheaper) first step: Umbria’s famous grape, blended with Sangiovese and some other stuff. Easier to love, but still emotionally intoxicating. Read all about it…
April 13, 2013 § 1 Comment
Latest Portland Press Herald entreaty is to enter the strange, sometimes wacked but usually fascinating and often elegant world of dry Muscat. Make that worlds, not world, since there’s so much variety. And the wines are made all over the world, rarely if ever oaked and therefore-ish exceptional windows into terroir. In the article I mention Alois Lageder’s beauty from Alto Adige, plus a surprising Malaga Muscat, Botani, from Spain. And Bonny Doon’s Ca’ Del Solo Muscat is Adige-esque but does its own thang.
Fruit, flowers, and spices galore: there’s no better way to welcome spring
I do pull out a “two-night stand” metaphor because for me Muscat drinks like sex, lusty and sweaty with someone new, but you wake up in the morning and still want to hang. Yeah!