Saturday, April 22, 2017

Costa di Bussia Tenuta Arnulfo Barbera d'Alba, 2010

In the Piedmont area of Italy, Barbera is the go-to wine when the pasta course comes to the table. Pasta is our main course tonight, and this Costa di Bussia is a perfect match.

Medium deep garnet. Has been aged in barriques but the influence in terms of aromas and flavors is minimal. Beautiful smells of dark cherry plus herbs, spices and grilled tomatoes that blends perfectly with the pasta sauce. Deep and dark but typically Barbera. Not as bright as the Trifula we had last night (see below) but deeper and richer. Dry and peppery on the finish. Has more tannin than your typical Barbera d'Alba. This is probably my favorite medium-priced Barbera, and this 2010 is showing well tonight. I try to buy at least a few bottles every vintage.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trifula Piemonte Rosso, 2014

This wine is a real find: a blend of 80% Barbera and 20% Nebbiolo for $12.95. With a screw top and a cartoon photo of a dog on the label, Trifulo Rosso is not designed to impress your dinner guests...unless they are knowledgeable and appreciative of well made wines from good vineyards. According to the cartoon on the back label, Trifula is a truffle dog who stumbled upon the largest truffle ever found--one that sold for a million dollars and made the dog famous enough to have a wine made after him. The story, according to the label is "to be continued..." The wine, Trifulo, is also to be continued--purchased in quantity and enjoyed frequently.

Bright garnet with amber Nebbiolo tones around the rim. Very aromatic: dark cherries, mulberries, flowers and the dark tones of Nebbiolo. Beautiful. Much the same on the palate. Coats and teases the tongue with ripe fruit flavors. The tannins are not obtrusive and there is plenty of Piedmont acid to bring you back for taste after taste. No need to age this wine; it is so enjoyable right now that I could drink it every night.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape, 1988

You could argue that this wine is overly mature. In fact, my wife argued that, and I brought up a bottle of Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz (2003) for her Easter dinner. So much more pleasure for me! For my taste, this is old Chateauneuf du Pape at its best.

The color is very light, almost copper colored but still bright and clear. The nose is a bit muted at first and definitely has a note of oxidation. Grenache oxidizes relatively early, but that can actually be a plus for well constructed blends of Chateauneuf du Pape. The sweet crinkly Grenache is supported by the firm structure of Syrah and Mourvedre. Within a few minutes, this note of oxidation blends in beautifully with all the other facets of mature Chateauneuf du Pape--tobacco, sea salt, dried fruit, herbs and minerals. Flavors are even better. Very savory, very smooth, very complex. A hint of sour butter that is unique and very attractive.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Les Vignerons d'Enclave Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas Cuvee Prestige. 2013

For $5.99 at Trader Joe's, this Cotes du Rhone Villages is one of the best values in Southern Rhone wines. It's produced by a cooperative, Les Vignerons d'Enclave at Tulette, and some buyers might be turned away by the back label description of "candied fruit aromas and flavors." In fact, I find very little that I would call "candied" in this wine, particularly in the 2013 vintage.

Yes, it is ripe and has smells and flavors of Grenache red berry. But, like other good Southern Rhones, the ripe fruit is supported and framed by black pepper, spice and tobacco. Tannins are pleasingly rustic, and there is good balance of fruit, acid and tannins. I should buy more of this wine.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Chateau de la Font du Loup Tasting at Russo's in Grand Rapids

Anne-Charlotte Melia-Bachas, owner and winemaker at Chateau de la Font du Loup in Chateauneuf du Pape, brought her wines for a tasting at Russo's International Market in Grand Rapids. I liked the wines and appreciated the opportunity to talk with the winemaker.

In his Chateauneuf du Pape book, Harry Karis describes Font du Loup as "semi-modern," but I am not sure I agree. Ms. Melia-Bachas stressed that she does not like what new oak does to Southern Rhone wines and uses none. Following tradition, the Grenache is aged in old oak foudres; in more semi-modern tradition, she uses twice-used barriques for Syrah and twice-used demi-muids for Mourvedre. Neither of these seem to affect the traditional aromas and flavors of her wine.

The white Chateauneuf is impressively robust-a wine for rich, buttery dishes. If you like it fruity, as it is now, she says, drink it in the first five years after the vintage. Between ages 5 and 12, she says, it becomes "a troublesome adolescent." After 12 years, it begins to blossom. That was new information for me. I have been decidedly disappointed by white Chateauneufs that I thought were over the hill when, in fact, they were probably just undergoing an awkward stage. I have long known, of course, that red Chateauneuf goes through this kind of development.

Font du Loup's white Cotes du Rhone is fresh and vibrant. The red Cotes du Rhone (50% Grenache and 50% Syrah) could pass for a CDR Villages or even a young Chateauneuf. It comes from vines just outside the CdP appellation. Cherries, black fruits, lots of spice.

My favorite of the three red Chateauneufs was the Cuvee Hercule--a special blend (55% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 15% Syrah) that included the best lots of each variety. Lovely wine right now; I'd love to taste it in a decade or two. It was named in honor the late father of wine importer Chip Delsener who collaborated with Melia-Bachas in designing this cuvee.

The Font du Loup Puy Rolland Chateauneuf is bound to be a special wine. It is 100% Grenache from vines that are over 100 years old. For a wine with this kind of delicacy, though, I can't find much with such a small taste. To judge it fairly, I would need to sit down at a meal with at least half a bottle.

The regular Chateauneuf is about 2/3 Grenache plus Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, vinified separately. It has all the qualities I look for in a young Chateauneuf, bold but not over-extracted.