Sunday, September 28, 2014

My plans were Foillard

Recent wines that I've opened have been uncommonly bad. Technically I suppose all have been perfectly fine - it's difficult to find a technical disaster these days - but stylistically they have been so far from my preferences that I seriously thought of giving up wine and sticking to beer and tea instead. Though my supplies are dwindling, I decided to give wine a chance by opening one more Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2011. And oh my Pikkiwoki is this perfect! Wine as a category is redeemed. It's just Alko's wines that I must avoid at all costs since they are fixated on a single style of wine and that is unjust to the diversity of wine.

Alko tends to favour wines heavy in extraction and oak and which therefore lack typicity of any kind. Most of Alko's wines could be made anywhere and from pretty much any grape.

Foillard, however, is a refreshing change from that technically competent mediocrity and is kind of a ¬Alko wine. This is genuinely exciting. It is a fairly rich Beaujolais but it has loads of character, none of that banana-bubblegum yeast aroma, wonderful structure and despite the relative richness, it is magnificently drinkable. This is a perfect wine and it can only be criticized for being more like a Grand Cru Burgundy than a Beaujolais in its seductive complexity. (Oh, one legitimate gripe: I really hate wax capsules.) I just need to find more before others realize how fantastic this is.

Alko has saved me!

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottá 2008
14,5% abv; 25% new barriques, 75% up to four years old.

The front of the picture shows the reason why I'm interested these days more in the back. This Sottimano is genuinely the most interesting wine I've bought from Alko all year. It's a good modernist Barbaresco. The oak shows a bit. It's a classically styled year so there's much structure, it is lean and mean - though the modernist tendencies appear through much oak, body and alcohol.

It is pretty much the opposite of what I like to see in a young Nebbiolo - it's not a pretty, rosy, delicate, perfumed, aromatic wine with a ferocious bite of tannin. It's rather a brilliantly masked example of the grape, one where the grape is noticeable but the mask of new oak tries to hide its features. Since the mask doesn't totally hide them, I wonder if in 20 years or so I, too, will find this Sottimano wonderful?

Anyway, Alko has a dual, contradictory role. It is our monopoly and is supposed to sell alcohol and make a profit; yet it is also supposed to limit Finns' drinking on the whole. Well, considering how shitty Alko's wines in recent years have been, I've certainly limited my purchases from Alko. Instead I've spent my time raising tarantulas and reading about spiders in general. So I guess Alko has achieved its goal with me: I'm buying less alcohol from Alko!

And I'm of course not buying any wines from elsewhere because non-Alko shops just don't exist! :D

Thank you my lovely Brachypelma smithi, Maraca pulcherrimaklaasi and Xenesthis sp. blue for saving me from the evils of alcohol. (Oh, wait, one could order from abroad?)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bionzo journalism

La Spinetta Bionzo Barbera d'Asti 2005

Barbera can be really lovely: tangy and savoury and deliciously acidic. But most examples we have seen here have been of the "super-Barbera" variety which was intended as a more serious wine. Serious, sadly, generally means that oak and extraction have been pushed up and that elegance, varietal expression and, most crucially, drinkability have been obliterated.

Barbera is generally considered a relatively early-drinking grape variety so I was interested in trying an example of the super-Barbera -style with a bit of bottle age. Had it morphed into something interesting? Had the oak integrated and the extraction lessened? Had the varietal aromatics breached the oak-sea? Had it become drinkable?

No, no, no and no.

This was kind of a sucky wine.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Potassium Syrah wasn't quite Oxygen Potassium

K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah 2011 - Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla, Washington
14% abv

Seems like a fairly standard new world Syrah: it doesn't go to any extremes yet does tone down the grape's meaty, gamy aromas to make it something quite neutral.

There's a fair bit of toasty oak on the nose and lots of sweet, bright fruit. It isn't quite jammy but is a bit too close for comfort.

The palate is fairly innocuous as well. Plenty of sweet fruit, not too much concentration or structure.

The whole is safe. And quite frankly, the result of so many safety features in a single wine is boredom.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I won't be Ruchéng out to get more

Montalbera Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOGC "Laccento" 2012

This was a bit weird. It smelled very sweet and raisiny and despite some attractive herbal tea aromas, it wasn't a refreshing scent. The palate, also, was pretty sweet and raisiny but at least had a good level of density - i.e. it wasn't thick and syrupy but was fairly light on its feet - and had a touch of structure. But it is a weird wine. I haven't had many Ruchés before but none were like this. If there's such a thing as Light Coke, this was like Light Amarone. As a whole, it's not unpleasant, but neither is it hugely interesting or memorable.

So I went to Alko's website and they describe this as made from 95% over-ripe and 5% under-ripe grapes. Why? Why not just pick grapes when they're ripe instead of making a raisiny mess and correcting it with a bit of under-ripe grapes?

When grapes go past a certain level of ripeness they cease to show varietal character and instead all grapes merge toward a raisiny style. This is what has happened here, methinks.

And the worst part is that once again Alko has shown that it doesn't really care to get diversity on its shelves. It cares only for the lowest common denominator and got an easy, unrepresentative wine - but since its from a rare grape it must be interesting. Alko: when will you understand that what is on the label isn't enough? You have failed again.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pégaü-boo, I see you!

I've long tried to learn to like Southern Rhônes. It's been difficult but some fantastic bottles have kept up my hope that I would eventually begin to understand this area. I remember reading that Pégaü makes a relatively traditional style of CdP (is that true? who else makes a traditional style?) so when the opportunity came to buy a bottle I did.

Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2011
Infanticide. But what I liked about it is that it almost smells of Musar. It doesn't have Musar's volatility nor do I have to look at my soles to see if I've stepped in something canine though there is a slight stink to it, but otherwise the aromas of ripe but savoury, sunny fruit are similar. There's more to this than jammy fruit, in other words. But it is also rich and ripe and low in acidity - but at least it has some tannin so it can't be classed among the invertebrates.

It's that extra dose of acidity and volatility that makes young Musar so moreish to me and since those are lacking, I must confess I found this good and interesting (not in the euphemistic sense of being bad) but two small glasses were enough for me. However, unlike with many other S. Rhônes I've tried, I can see myself enjoying this one tremendously once the fruit fades a bit. I suspect once that happens, I'd happily drink Musarish quantities of this!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Erbaluce and Weißer Burgunder

Here are a couple more leftovers from an AOC51 tasting. These were tasted on day two open, but were still very vibrant and showed no adverse effects from exposure to air.

Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure 2013
I have never tried the white Piemontese grape Erbaluce before. This wasn't a passito style sweet wine though most references I have seen of the grape are such; this was a dry table wine. It smells very strongly of lees. And with a citric, appley, petrichor aroma in addition to the leesyness, this seems almost like Muscadet. Very tasty wine.

Kranz Weißer Burgunder Trocken 2012
This was an attractive Palatinate Pinot Blanc. This is a delicately floral wine but with plenty of pure, elegant fruit. Citric and bracing despite the purity of fruit. Piercing, biting style despite some richness and weight. Good stuff!