Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Everybody's Hot New Fave-Malbec Altos Las Hormigas 2011

It seems like everybody is on to Argentinian Malbec lately. Yes I know it's not "new" in any sense of the word, but everywhere that I've been lately it seems that people ask me about it or tell me about a bottle they had that they loved. And let's face it, for most folks a good Mabec delivers the goods. They can range from good simple fruity quaffs to more complex examples, sporting earth and spice elements in support of ripe fruit. 2011 Malbec sales in The US market were up an incredible 46% over 2010 and this trend seems to be continuing. I think that part of the reason for the growth is twofold. One is the new world up front fruitiness of the best everyday examples of Malbec. The other is the desire for fans of the style to find bottlings beyond the familiar Californian and Australian wines that they've been buying for years.

In an industry where decades or even hundreds of years of winemaking are not unusual, Altos las Hormigas is a venture whose 1995 origin belies it's year after year consistency. Even for me, a confirmed old world wine fan, Argentinian Malbecs can be a wonderful midpoint of style between Europe and the new world. The 2011 entry level Malbec from Altos las Hormigas is a great example. Ruby/dark purple colors and beautiful aromas of roasted berries, coffee and peppery notes are more complex than you expect from new world wines. The berry/plummy flavors are never heavy or over ripe tasting and the pepper and spice notes repeat on the somewhat short but soft and pleasant finish. This everyday winner sports wonderful balance and nary a hint of it's 14.2% alcohol. Try it with red meat stews or a simple roast chicken. At a miserly $11.99, you can't go wrong. Cheers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Extreme Holiday Value - Varichon & Clerc Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is for some reason almost never on my radar which, I suppose, is the same for a lot of folks. It creeps back into our consciousness when special occasions are at hand and, like now, when the holidays are upon us. There's so many choices with regards to sparklers nowadays that it can be hard to decide which way to go. As far as inexpensive sparkling wine goes, there's the domestics, some of which are wonderful if slightly to the sweeter side. Some people prefer that style. There's the Italian Proseccos, many of which are very good and also more to the fruity side. And there's the Spanish Cavas, which are usually a bit drier and nuttier than the aforementioned wines. Champagne of course, real champagne, is the benchmark for sparkling wine.

My favorite value sparkler hands down though is a little known wine formerly made in the foothills of the French Alps, but now made in Burgundy by Varichon & Clerc. Made via the Champagne method as it is called, where the secondary fermentation takes place in bottle after the addition of yeast and sugar, the result is the effervescence. This wine is non-vintage, which means that a blend of vintages make up the still wine that forms the base for this bottling, and three grapes make up the wine, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc. It retails at my local store for just $9.99. The bubbles are small and the aromas are dominated by nutty/yeasty tones with supporting elements of apple and lime zest. It's got a wonderful steely mouth feel and taut white fruit and toast flavors backed by zingy acidity. Imported by one of my favorites, Maximum Wine Co. , this wine is absolutely a great value at this price point. And it's a nice package also. Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Maculan "Brentino" 2009 - Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

I've stated many times that I will always skew old world in my wine tastes. France, Spain and especially Italy produce the most types of wine that I love. Because of that, the so called "international" varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can sometimes fall by the wayside when it comes to my wine consciousness. I just always gravitate toward indigenous grapes when I'm shopping. Cabernet and Merlot of course are indigenous to France in the form of Bordeaux blends and these wines are often world class with the price tag to match. Thus, they sometimes slip past my frame of everyday wine reference. In Italy, these two international varietals are rarer, but still make some world class wines. Tenuta San Guido's Cabernet based "Sassicaia" and Castello di Ama's Merlot "L'Apparita" are examples of collector worthy wines.

But today I've got a truly delicious $12.99 Merlot/Cabernet blend from the Veneto region of Italy for you. Maculan is a wonderful producer whose whites I have enjoyed many times. But when I got to finally taste this entry level red comprised of 55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet, I was truly impressed. From gravelly soils and aged half in barrel and half in stainless for 12 months, this wine delivers the goods. Plum and smokey cherry aromas are supported by earth and herbal notes, a nuance I always look for from Cabernet. The flavors are fruity and bold and finish quite long with spice and earth notes. Imported by one of my favorites, Winebow, this is one you Cab and Merlot lovers should seek out. Cheers.