Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wino Wednesday

I ain’t no wine snob. I don’t know hardly anything about wine except what I like – and what I don’t like. So if I sing the praises of a white zinfandel or wax eloquent about a Little Penguin merlot, then you’ve been forewarned. But I do like to drink wine and I’m trying to train my taste buds a little bit more to distinguish the good from the nearly-vinegar. ‘Course, if you drink enough wine, it all tastes just fine…
Palo Alto Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2008
Price: $13-14 (It’s on sale at Sainsbury’s for £4.99, for my UK readers)
Red, White, or Pink?: White
Pairs with: lighter seafood dishes, salads
Maggie’s Grade: B-

If there’s one thing I can be certain of in my skimming through reviews of the Palo Alto Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2008 from Chile, it’s that nobody agrees. I’m getting the feeling that this is true with a great many wine connoisseurs – or those who style themselves as such.

This pale white wine hails from the Maule Valley in Chile, is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and aged 2-3 months in stainless steel tanks, and is 12.5% alcohol. It won the 2009 Wines of Chile Awards Bronze medal and the 2008 International Wine and Spirits Competition Bronze medal. Good on it! Oh – and it’s got a screw-cap. I think we’ve gotten past the point where the type of stopper/topper indicates the quality of the wine, but it’s worth noting.

So the web sites I skimmed with reviews of their own of this wine list words like:
“refreshing acidity”
“almost no acidity”
“lime, lime, lime”

I definitely tasted the citrus, but not the hay. (Hay?! Lord, wine people are weird.) It’s a crisp, light wine with not a lot of body – to me, there’s not a lot of there there. There’s just…not much to it. It doesn’t linger on the tongue particularly, nor does it provide any nice flavor burst at the beginning. There’s an almost-floral bright grapefruity citrus note right in the middle of the taste, and then in fades to nothing except a memory of the alcohol content.

My conclusion: it’s maybe slightly above average, but not much. You can probably find a more fun sauvignon blanc for the retail price – roughly $13-14 – but it might be worth getting on sale if you’re having a light salad or seafood dinner or don’t want anything too heavy.

La Couronne des Plantagenets Vouvray 2007
Price: £5-6 ($9-10)
Red, White, or Pink: White
Pairs with: dessert, aperitif, heavier seafood
Maggie’s Grade: A-

I really enjoyed this wine. It’s a little bit sparkly, with some rich honey notes – definitely on the sweeter side (the bottle says “demi-sec” - half-dry). The taste is complex; the honey notes linger on the tongue. For once I agree with the few other reviews I’ve seen – complex, drinkable, reasonably priced, and refreshing.

The packaging notes: “this medium-sweet wine comes from the appellation of Vouvray – situated on the north bank of the Loire…Produced from the Chenin Blanc grape…the resulting wine possesses a honey and apple aroma with mellow fruit flavors, balanced by a refreshing acidity.”

Yeah, I’ll buy that.

Conclusion: Nomnomnom. More please.

Sainsbury’s Corbières
Price: £3-4
Pairs with: anything, if you drink enough of it. Or use it in cooking. It’s certainly cheap enough.
Red, White, or Pink: Red
Maggie’s Grade: C

The Sainsbury’s Corbières is pressed from Grenache, Syrah and Carignan grapes from the limestone hills between Carcassonne, Narbonne and Perpignan in the south of France. Reviews use words like “plummy” and “meaty” to describe it – I didn’t get that at all. What I did get was a big ol’ mouthful of tannins that even leaving the glass to breathe for a couple of hours didn’t fix. To me, this wine was far too tart – to the point of being vinegary. I didn’t care for it at all. I’m even wondering if the particular bottle I got was somehow off. I really enjoy a full-bodied red – this seemed…well, it needed some more meat on its bones to be classified as the kind of Rubenesque that I appreciate in reds. It almost tasted burnt.

My conclusion: I may try it again, because the price was ridiculously right, and other reviewers have such a different opinion of it that I wonder if it’s maybe me.

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