Story by Manos Angelakis
Tasting: Wines From My Cellar
Folio Wine Partners is the importer of an interesting line of wines from Argentina called Crios, that is very well priced (MSRP $15). Susana Balbo, the winemaker, makes wines that are fruit driven and easily recognized as a product of the Argentinean higher altitude vineyards in Luján de Cuyo and the Uco valley. I received 5 of her less pricy wines: a 2016 Torrontés white, a 2017 Rosé, a 2015 Red Blend, a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2015 Malbec. All are made from hand-harvested grapes.
The first bottle I opened to have with a Greek-style spaghetti bolognese -- i.e. with lots of cinnamon and allspice in the sauce -- was the 2015 Crios Cabernet Sauvignon. It is fermented in stainless steel with a few inner oak staves and then matured in third-use barrels as the aim is for a fruit-driven wine with minimal oak presence. The nose offers plenty of plums and dark cherries, spices and balsamic aromas and notes of aromatic herbs. The wine is fresh, with good acidity and balance. The tannins are polished with a velvety texture. Paired very well with the aforementioned spaghetti and later in the evening, the bottle was finished accompanying a farm-style Stilton. For an MSRP $15 wine, that I have seen discounted to under $13, you can’t beat the price to quality ratio.
Another day I opened the Crios Rosé of Malbec. This is not an eye-of-the-partridge rosé, it has a darker rosé color with intense floral aromas of strawberries and young red cherries with some spice notes. It has a clean dry finish with surprising hints of minerality but without excessive tannic astringency.
Another excellent South American wine that I recently opened is Concha y Toro’s 2015 Marques de Casa Concha. Much of the wine is made from fruint not used in Concha y Toro’s iconic Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a wine that needs some aging to reveal its beauty. It has concentrated flavors and aromas of currants, cherry and blackberries with hints of tobacco, cedar and smoke. The full body is dense and spicy. Though the 2015 is considerably young, it shows firm but silky tannins and considerable freshness. As I indicated above this is a wine to be cellared, for at least 4 more years.
Just like Malbec, Argentina’s signature red wine grape which is nowadays rarely seen in its source French vineyards, Carmenère is another French cultivar that is also very rarely seen now in France but has come to its own and is now seen as Chile’s signature grape. Most Chilean winemakers now offer wines from Carmenère grapes either as monovarietals or in blends most times replacing Merlot -- with which Carmenère was confused in early 20th century Chilean viticulture. I just received from Concha y Toro’s Peumo, Cachapoal Valley cooler vineyard their 2015 Grand Reserva Carmenère. This smooth and silky, medium to full bodied wine has lush aromas of plums, black cherries, blackcurrants, cedar and a hint of black pepper. It is long and flavorful with a rather austere finish but it is preferred by some of our tasters because it has an excellent price/value ratio. If purchased now, hold for another 4 or so years as it will smooth out and improve with more bottle age.
Moving on to Italian wines.
The Frescobaldi family produces some of the best Tuscan wines available in the US market. As far as I’m concerned, their winemakers understand the different Sangiovese clones planted throughout Tuscany so well that practically every Sangiovese-based wine they produce is a star amongst the wines of the region. Even the non-Sangiovese Bordeaux blends they make, like the wines of Tenuta dell' Ornellaia, are stars in the international wine market.
I received a bottle of 2013 Montesodi from Frescobaldi’s Castello Nippozano. This is a Chianti Rufina wine and I visited the winery a few years back. Made from one of the better Sangiovese clones, this vibrant red wine has aromas of violets and black woodland berries with balsamic and new leather notes. The fat and opulent palate offers ripe red plums, crushed raspberry, wild cherry, anise and a hint of white pepper. It boasts youthful polished tannins and bright acidity that give it a good ageing structure. Give it a few more years in cellar to come to a peak. It is also very well priced for the quality it represents.
And on to Israel.
My past experience with Israeli kosher wines has been that they range from drinkable to avoid-at-all-costs; that’s for the Mevushal version. It is only during the last few years that I found producers that are offering wines good enough to compete in the international market with the non-kosher products from other countries.
The 2012 Bravdo Merlot, from the Karmei Yoseph Winery is one wine that, though kosher (kosher for Passover), has not been mistreated by making it Mevushal (i.e. using flash pasteurization). It is 100% Merlot. Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels this medium to full bodied wine is deep dark ruby with slight brown tingeing at the edges. When tasted it was soft and showed rather prominent tannins and hints of herbs and ripe red berries with star anise and vanilla aromas and flavors. It exhibits some acidity that runs through to the long finish so it should be paired with strong-flavored dishes such as a long cooked brisket in an onion and mushroom sauce. As I understand, there are better examples of the Bravdo red wines in the market, but the importer did not send any of those samples.
For the Thanksgiving turkey, I opened another kosher bottle, a 2016 Psâgot Viognier from the Judean hills of Israel. Viognier is another French cultivar that is often overlooked in favor of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Yet this is a highly aromatic and fresh wine with floral notes that pairs very well with simpler dishes. It is a wine with no pretensions in the under $20 range; clean, well balanced and fun to drink.
To your health!
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