Monday, December 20, 2010

Argentinan Wine Continues To Gain Popularity

Did you remember the Nielson family? I remember back in the 80s the whole notoriety about the Nielsons and how the marketers tracked their spending and purchasing habits. It was this kind of bizarre tracking of them to get a better understanding of all of us. Little did I know that years later when I’m working in the wine industry, that the Nielson data would remain the best way to track wine purchases in the U.S.

As of last month, the Nielson report shows that this year has been a big – big year for Argentinian wines. As you probably do remember, I’ve written about the growth of the Mendoza region multiple times in the past few years.

I guess that all my soothsaying has come true. This year has seen explosive growth for those Nielson people drinking wines from that country. They are now only second to New Zealand in U.S. market share growth. What does that mean? Well. It means that you are about to get a bunch more Argentine wines on your market shelves.

What is making Argeninian wines so popular? It is the fact that they can make really good wine, bottle it, export it, and have it delivered to store shelves for a lot cheaper than local wineries.

One such winery sent me a sample bottle this past week. Bodega Septima is a winery located in the heart of Mendoza Argentina. At the base of the Andes mountains, the building and the vines are in prime location for making some of the best Malbec in the world.

Bodega Septima is owned by the Spanish Codorniu Group. A very large family-owned conglomerate that offers wines from both Spain and Argentina. The family has wine making history going all the way back to the 1500s. They offer a full range of varietals from sparklings to Pinot Noir on both continents.

Just getting into the U.S. market, Bodega Septima relies on a marketing and PR firm to develop distribution here. Their local contact, Donna White asked if I would like to try their wine, in hopes that I would talk with all of you about it.

I received the 2009 Malbec, along with a bunch of data and tasting notes for the winery’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m thinking that they might have messed up and sent me the wrong bottle, but I’m glad I received the Malbec over the Cab.

The bottle is quite attractive, with the label design being from the ancestral method that the winery was built by stacking natural stones. Pouring the wine into the glass, the first thing that becomes very notable is the wine’s dark, almost bluish color.

The 2009 Malbec is very soft on the nose. Its gentle subtleties of anise and dark berries mix very well with the earthiness from the oaking process. The flavors are quite gentle as well, as opposed to the almost bombarding approach by Malbecs in this region. Dark, rich berries, mix with anise, plum, and soft tanned leather. The finish is silky and smooth.

If this wine prices in at the same as the Cabernet Sauvignon, which lists at $12.99, I can see why the Nielsons are grabbing the stuff up. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to taste this wine soon as the distribution channels become available in this region.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Vertikal Riesling 2007

Along the Mosel river in central Germany lies some of the world’s most successful Riesling vineyards. The Mosel region is renowned for producing very high quality sweet white wines due to its reasonably temperate climate and steeply sloping hills.

A few years ago Precept brands acquired the importing and bottling rights to the Vertikal brand. Vertikal offers several different types of varietals including Spatlese, Auslase, Muller Thurgau, and Pinot Noir.

The 2007 Riesling Qualitatswein was the result of optimal growing conditions in Mosel that year. The blooms came on heavy and early, giving the grapes plenty of hang time before harvest. The sugar levels were just right. It was truly a “boom” year.

Because of the great harvest, the winery was able to produce 2001 cases of pretty good juice. This lowers the supply and demand curve, making this wine very reasonable for the quality.

My impressions of the 2007 Riesling were very pleasant indeed. Definitely sweet, but not overly cloying, the wine comes in at about 2.5 percent sugar with a relatively low alcohol level of 9.5%. This makes the wine well balanced and full of flavor. A nose and flavors of fresh peaches and pear, with a nice clean finish balances the wine very nicely.

I got this bottle from Grocery Outlet. The cost is a great $3.99 per bottle, and the Kennewick store has about 10 cases left. I suggest you get there and make your purchase soon. Also, realize that this is a 2007. It needs to be consumed in the next few weeks or months. White wines do not usually increase with age. This is no exception.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hard Cider An Alternative To Heavy Holiday Drinks

I used to own a 1972 Olds Toronado. That car was amazing! It was front wheel drive with a 400 V8 and 4 barrel carburetor. The hood was as big as a football field, and the trunk wasn’t much smaller.

My friends and I had a little experimental station going on in the back of that car. During football games we’d go across the street to the local Safeway, and purchase a gallon or two of fresh apple cider. We’d pass the jug, along with a couple dozen raspberry filled powdered donuts.

Whatever juice was left from our little snack went into my trunk. After a few days we’d look in the back and burp the jugs to make sure that the foam wasn’t going to blow the tops. And, after a few weeks we’d have a nice jug of apple cider to share again. This time with a little added zap!

Honestly, I was always just a little nervous drinking the not-so-fresh cider. It had floating chunks of mold, and god only knows what in it. But, nonetheless I gained a love for hard apple cider.

Hard cider is a serious European tradition. For centuries people have been making the stuff. It is relatively easy to do, as evidenced by my little story above. But, to make cider commercially, and offer it through distribution is a challenge.

One of the brands that I’m most familiar with is our local cidery, Blue Mountain Cider from Milton Freewater. Blue Mountain offers several types of cider. Their Farmstead, and their Cherry cider are my personal favorites.

The Farmstead offers flavors and bouquets of freshly picked apples. Sweet and crisp to the taste, with a nice fresh finish. The Cherry uses Montmorency cherry juice to create a wonderfully sour-sweet combination in your mouth. Great for drinking, or use in salad dressings!

Recently I was given a couple of bottles of a new cider that is out on the market here locally. Crispin is a cider company from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They also offer many styles of cider, from old-world artisan, to draught, to a line of 12 oz. bottles.

I was given samples of the Original and the Brut styles to try. Crispin promotes their brand as being “crisp over ice”, however I really wanted to taste the cider and not the funky city water that my ice is made from. So, I put them in my cooler near the ice and drank them neat.

The first to go into my glass was the Crispin Brut. According to Crispin this is the “Champagne” of ciders. Extra dry to the nose and the palate. Crisp apple bouquet on the nose, a long yet fresh finish.

The Crispin Original was more to my personal style. Sweet crisp apples on the nose and on the tongue. The added sweetness really set it off for me. Both offer lotts of tight little bubbles to caress the tongue right to the last sip.

This holiday season, if you want to offer your guests something refreshingly different other than beer, wine, or mixed drinks I suggest picking up one of these great ciders. Your guests will love the crisp alternative.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weird Wine Gifts for 2010

Ho Ho Ho! It’s Christmas time again. Like the snow and ice, the inevitability of having to buy things for other people who really don’t appreciate your efforts has come again. But, this year, rather than buying them that same old bottle of ’69 Amarone that you bought them last year, I have come up with some new ideas.

Like most weeks, when I do my articles, I did a little web surfing and found several good ideas that I thought I could take to the extreme. Of course, being the “localfile” that I am, I am going to try and make this as “home-town” as possible.

Adopt A Barrel - I’ve been seeing this more and more lately. Some wineries in Europe have changed their wine clubs up a little. Now, rather than simply being a member of some snobby wine club, the vintners are offering the opportunity to adopt a barrel of wine.

You get your barrel at an early age. Usually, just after initial fermentation. This allows you the opportunity to get to know your wine for a few years before you get to drink it. Just think. A gift that lasts almost as long as the credit card debt it takes to buy it!

The real benefit is that you will have further gift giving opportunities that come out of this. A barrel of wine will make a few hundred bottles worth of the good stuff. So, the next few years after your initial purchase you can be putting it toward racking and storage space for your loved one’s new one-of-a-kind juice.

I’ve talked with a few local artisan winemakers who are more than happy to do this if anyone is interested. The cost is about the same as a good used Hyundai car.

Adopt A Pig, Lamb, Goat, Cow or Other Edible Creature – Now we’re talking! Yes, I did find this as an interesting option for wine lovers out there. You can adopt a farm animal for your friend or lover with the whole intention of that person getting to eat the animal in the next few months or years.

Of course, most real wine lovers are also serious about their proteins. Afterall, you can’t pair a good bottle of wine with Tofurkey or Soysauge. Why not give somebody the opportunity to see the animal they are going to be pairing with that bottle of Cayuse or Leonetti that they have been saving.

There are several organic farms in the area. You could arrange to have the pig photographed and have the farmer write up a short story about the animal. Once the animal reaches full maturity the farmer will arrange to have it made into sausage, steaks, or what ever your true love desires.

Buy Her A Balthazar – Diamonds, shmiamonds! What a girl really wants for Christmas is a really big bottle of wine. Magnum bottles of wine have been around for centuries. Before the advent of the box, bulk wine was served in biggie sized bottles.

Big bottles come starting at 1.5 liters and go up from there. I have personally seen a “Solomon” sized bottle, which is an impressive 20 liters. A little tough to pour, but makes an impressive lamp. It is probably more reasonable to buy that hard to please wine lover a nice 3 or 5 liter bottle. Most local wineries offer them, and you can even get them artistically engraved. You can get magnums in most local wine shops as well just by asking.