A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Odds and Ends - Sparkling Malbec, Botrytized Rkatsiteli, White Pinot Noir, Rufete Rosado and Pignoletto Redux

Today I'd like to introduce a new erratic feature where I provide a few tasting notes for some unusual wines that I've come across lately that I either don't want to write a whole post about or which feature grapes that I've already written a full post about and just don't want to fully revisit.  The former group mostly features wines made from common grapes but made in unusual styles and while I enjoy drinking these wines, I find that I don't have much to say about them, so when I go to write a new post, I tend to skip over those entries in my tasting notebook for those featuring novel grapes.  I'm starting to accumulate quite a few notes like that, though, so I decided to unload some of them here.  I also have a tendency to buy bottles made from unusual grapes I've already covered here so that I can compare them to the wines I've previously written about.  I used to just updat those prior posts with these new tasting notes, but since new posts get more readers than old ones, I thought that those notes may be missed by many readers, so I decided to include them in this little feature as well.

The first wine I'd like to write about is the NV Domaine Augis "La Rosée" sparkling Malbec from the Valency region of the Loire Valley in France.  Though Malbec is currently the superstar grape of Argentina, its original home is France and in many French areas, including this one, the grape is known as Côt.  This is a traditional method rosé sparkler that I picked up for around $17 from my friends at the Wine Bottega.  In the glass the wine was a fairly deep violet pink color with vigorous bubbles.  The nose was somewhat reserved with aromas of fresh cut strawberries and crushed raspberries.  On the palate the wine was light bodied with fairly high acidity and smooth, creamy bubbles.  There were flavors of bitter cherry, fresh strawberry, red currant and crushed red berries.  I found the wine very clean and refreshing and enjoyed it with a pan seared swordfish steak.  I think it's a tremendous value for a traditional method sparkler at less than $20 a bottle and would recommend it unreservedly.

The next wine I'd like to talk about is the 2006 Satrapezo "Gviani," which is a dessert wine made from botrytized Rkatsiteli grapes (retail around $30 for 375 mL).  I've written about Rkatsiteli many times (here and here and here), but this is the first dessert wine made from the grape that I've been able to try.  The grapes for this wine were grown on the banks of the Alazanis river in Georgia where mists and morning dew from the river combined with warm afternoon sun provide the ideal conditions for the development of botrytis cinerea, which is perhaps better known as noble rot.  This fungus infects the berries by piercing the grape's skin, causing much of the water in the berry to evaporate, leaving a dense, sticky, sugary liquid behind.  This liquid is fermented as much as possible and, in this case, aged for a short time in oak barrels prior to bottling.  In the glass the wine was a fairly deep lemon gold color.  The nose was fairly reserved with aromas of apricot, mint, orange marmalade, vanilla and pineapple.  On the palate the wine was full bodied with fairly high acidity.  It was very sweet with flavors of apricot, orange marmalade, honey, red grapefruit and peach cobbler with a clean, minty finish.  I found this wine pretty shut down at fridge temp, but much more generous and open at cellar temp.  I enjoyed this wine and thought it was a reasonable value, but it really lacked the complexity of fine Sauternes or BA/TBA wines from Germany.  Fans of botrytized wines should probably check this out, but connoisseurs may want to skip it.

Next up is the 2008 Trenz Spätburgunder Blanc de Noir from the Rheingau region of Germany, which I picked up from my friends at Curtis Liquors for around $18.  Spätburgunder is the German word for Pinot Noir and while German Pinot Noir certainly isn't that unusual, white wines made from the grape are.  I took a look at a Cabernet Franc wine (and a Nebbiolo wine) made using this method a few months back so readers looking for technical information on how the wine is made are referred to the Cab Franc post.  In the glass the wine was a medium lemon gold color.  The nose was fairly intense with funky, leesy aromas of candied strawberry, watermelon and candied apple.  It smelled more like a rosé than a white wine, which is what I also found in that Blanc de Franc.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly high acidity.  It was off-dry with honey, peach, candied strawberry, candied green apple and lemon curd flavors.  It was bright and zippy and walked that line between sweet and tart that the Germans are so fond of exploring.  I've had a few other Blanc de Noir style Pinot Noir table wines before, but this is definitely the best that I've ever had.

Next up is the 2008 Vina Salamanca Rufete rosado, which I also picked up from Curtis Liquors for around $13.  I wrote about the Rufete grape a few years back, but at the time, the only wine I could find containing the grape was 50% Rufete and 50% Tempranillo.  This wine is from the same producer, but is made from 100% Rufete grapes.  In the glass the wine was a light salmon pink color.  The nose was moderately intense with funky, leesy aromas of strawberry and not much else.  On the palate this wine was on the lighter side of medium with fairly high acidity.  There were flavors of red cherry, fresh cut strawberry, raspberry and a touch of leesy funk.  This wine was definitely in decline a bit as it was a few years old by the time I got my hands on it, but it was still crisp, fruity and refreshing, which is all I really ask of my pink wines.  I know that there are red wines made from the Rufete grape out there, but I have been unable to track any of them down thus far.  When I finally do, you can bet that tasting note will be up on the site somewhere.

The final wine that I'd like to write about was the 2008 Branchini Pignoletto from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy (which I picked up at Panzano Proviste for around $18).  I wrote about the Pignoletto grape a few months back and took a look at two wines from Alberto Tedeschi which were very good but were hardly what you might consider traditional.  When I came across this example from Branchini, I decided to try it out to see what a regular table wine made from the grape might be like.  In the glass the wine was a fairly deep lemon gold color.  The nose was somewhat reserved with ripe apple, lemon and mint aromas along with something vaguely floral.  On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with medium acidity.  There were flavors of white peach, mint and Meyer lemon with a bit of nuttiness on the finish.  The citrusy lemon notes were dominant at fridge temp, but the peachy flavors woke up and became a bit more generous as the wine warmed up.  This wine was probably a little over the hill, but it still provided an interesting counter point to the more avant garde efforts from Tedeschi.  Overall, I thought it was OK, but probably not worth the price tag.  The Tedeschi wines were much more interesting and characterful and only a few dollars more than this example, thought they're also probably more of an acquired taste.


Emily H. said...

Dig the new feature. Keep up the good work!

WineKnurd said...

Agree with Emily, I like these quick notes on the "fringe" wines. I have to seek out that botrytized Rkatsiteli now!

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