Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Épico Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Bookmark and Share
Versión en español

I was really pleasantly surprised to find this well-made Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon at a startlingly affordable Price.    The Épico Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (made by Odfjell Vineyards) is deep red-garnet in color.  An initial whiff finds red and black fruits of stewed plum and blackberry jam accented by cedar, cinnamon and clove.  After fifteen to twenty minutes of aeration the wine really starts to develop some complexities, the note of cedar becoming more reminiscent of cigar box with hints of green and dried tobacco leaf.  There’s also a rich, deep note of cardamom, and all of these aromas combined with the jammy fruits notes soon had me thinking of Christmas fruitcake and plum pudding.  All in all the Carménère is more obvious in the nose than the 10% indicated on the label.  The wine is rich on the palate with a nice streak of inky cassis complementing the jammy fruits, but a good level of acidity keeps the wine balanced.  The rich flavors end with a satisfying note of dark roast coffee beans.  Pair this wine with a range of grilled savory meats and sausages, and hearty stews.  Serve at a temperature of 16 - 17ºC / 61 - 63ºF.  This wine is a tremendous value for the suggested retail price of S/. 18.00!

For the detail-oriented:

Épico Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin:  Maipo Valley, Chile
Vintage:  2006
Grapes:  90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carménère
Alcohol:  13.5%
Bottle size:  750 ml
Closure:  Natural cork
Suggested retail price (Peru):  S/. 18.00

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Night of Canadian Wines

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, the 8th of April, I had the pleasure of tasting Canadian wines at the Canadian Embassy in Lima.  Accompanying me were my sommelier friends Giovanni Bisso, wine consultant for Supermercados Peruanos, and Israel Iñigo, now working on a personal project before returning as sommelier to Restaurante Central.  The event began with an introduction by the Canadian ambassador, Richard Lecoq, who confessed we were going to taste four wines from Niagara Peninsula although his favorite Canadian wines were those of British Columbia.  He went on to say that the country produces small quantities of wines, and that the idea of the tasting was to show the quality of Canadian wines and not necessarily promote their sale.  After his comments two gentlemen guided the tasting: Tom Findley, president of The American & Canadian Association of Peru, and Nicolas Drouin, president of The Canada Club.

The Wines

 Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery Viognier 2007 – VQA Niagara Peninsula – 13.0% alcohol – Type of closure: natural cork

Pale yellow in color with flashes of green.  Very clean in the nose with notes of white peach, kaffir lime leaf, orange blossom and a mineral note of chalk.  On the palate the wine is medium weight and has a touch of residual sugar balanced by a refreshing level of acidity.  There are notes of peach, lemon and orange blossom, and the wine has a medium finish.  The note of refreshing acidity was a pleasant surprise as Viognier has a tendency towards low acid levels.

Pelee Island Winery “Barrique” Chardonnay 2005 – VQA Pelee Island – 12.5% alcohol - Type of closure: natural cork

Pale yellow in color, somewhat unexpected from an oak-aged Chardonnay of nearly five years.  Clean on the nose with notes of baked pear and citrus notes accented with cinnamon and clove, a touch of vanilla and minerality.  Dry on the palate and of medium weight, with notes of apple pie, pear preserves, spices and a touch of butter.  Good acidity.  Personally I do not like wines with such a strong aroma and flavor of oak, and I believe the wine was overwhelmed by the sensation of oak.

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2007 – VQA Twenty Mile Bench – 12.5% alcohol - Type of closure: Stelvin

Dark purple-ruby in color.  Clean and medium intensity on the nose, with notes of fresh fruits like black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry and Red Delicious apple with hints of cherry lozenge, dried herbs, clove, and crushed stones.  On the palate the wine is dry and of medium body.  The tannins are a bit immature but don’t bother me.  The acidity if refreshing and calls for food.  The finish medium to long.  Fortunately, we began with the next wine before I had finished this one.  After thirty minutes in the glass the wine had begun to show more complexity, and thirty minutes more the wine was much more complex and had developed a very pleasant note of rose petal.  At the end this was my preferred wine of the event.

Château des Charmes “Droit” Gamay Noir 2007 – St. Davids Bench Vineyard – VQA St. Davids Bench – 13.0% alcohol - Type of closure: natural cork

Deep and dark ruby-red in color.  Medium intensity in the nose with red fruits like cherry, plum and apple with a note of green peppercorn.  This wine has a strong note or iron, and fans of minerality will love this wine.  On the palate the wine is of medium body and dry, with notes of red fruits although I felt a touch of blueberry.  It has pleasant levels of tannins, alcohol and acidity.  It’s interesting to find the Gamay grape outside of France, and this was a particularly interesting wine.

Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario (VQA) is a regulatory agency of the Canadian province of Ontario responsible for maintaining the integrity of the denominations of local wines and compliance of their vinification and labeling.

The International Sommeliers (left to right): Gregg Smith (USA), Giovanni Bisso (Peru), Israel Iñigo (Mexico)

Thomas Findley discussing the Peninsula Ridge Viognier

Diego Anchaya, sommelier at Central Restaurante

Friday, April 2, 2010

Grüner Veltliner - The Groovy Grape

Bookmark and Share

Version en español

In the sea of wines available today there are some that exhibit truly interesting characteristics. One increasingly popular variety is Grüner Veltliner, an indigenous variety from Austria. This variety has silently infiltrated the world of wine lovers, those looking for something different than the wines with the ubiquitous vanilla flavor. Grüner, as it’s known among its fans, exhibits a wide range of scintillating aromas and flavors and refreshing acidity.

The origin of Grüner Veltliner is not exactly known although it was already found in Roman times. The grape was documented in the eighteenth century with the name Grüner Muskateller (grün = green). Today it is the most-planted white grape in Austria, accounting for more than 36% of the vineyard area there and principally found in the regions of Weinviertel, Kamptal, Kremstal, Wagram and Wachau. Although other varieties have similar names, Grüner Veltliner is botanically unrelated to Brauner Veltliner, Roter Veltliner or Frühroter Veltliner. DNA testing has shown that one parent of Grüner Veltliner could be Gewürztraminer although the other parent remains unknown and probably is not found in modern Austria.

After the second World War, Austria sought productive varieties that didn’t require much attention. Grüner Veltliner was a good selection in this regard as it thrives in various types of soils, and even at high yields it produces light and spicy wines. When grown in poor soils like those in Kamptal, Kremstal or Wachau, and with a restricted yield, the wines develop intense aromas and profound flavors and maintain a refreshing acidity. And thanks to this acidity the best examples, like the best Rieslings, can mature for decades in bottle. The lighter examples of Grüner Veltliner have a refreshing acidity with notes of fresh apple, citrus and grass, but the aroma most associated with Grüner Veltliner is white pepper, called pfefferl by the Austrians. The best examples are dry, full-bodied and with aromas of pepper and lentils and with bottle age can develop characteristics typical of white Burgundy, soft and nutty. The vast majority of Grüner Veltliners from Austria are dry. Look for the word “trocken” on the label which signifies “dry” in German.

On 9 June 2002, Jan Paulson of Rare Wine organized a competition, sponsored by VieVinum, of the best Grüner Veltliners of Austria and the best Chardonnays from Burgundy and California. The results were astounding, with Grüner Veltliner winning all three categories. Even more astounding was that the Burgundies appeared at the bottom of the list of 37 wines. Although one could criticize the competition on various grounds what is important is that the competition showed that Grüner Veltliner can produce wines of world-class quality, and that serious wine lovers who are unfamiliar with it should seek it out.

Just like Riesling, Grüner Veltliner can produce wines in various styles. It’s a popular selection in the production of Sekt, the sparkling wine of Austria and Germany. The young wines can be found in the Heuriger of Austria, the taverns that serve the new wines. Although not typical some enologists have experimented with oak-aged Grüner Veltliner. And in the tradition of dessert wines, Grüner Veltliner can produce excellent Eiswein, Beerenauslesen, and Trockenbeerenauslesen. Grüner Veltliner is excellent with various types of cuisine and is one of the few wines that can stand up to asparagus. The lighter examples are perfect as an aperitif or with various canapés, shellfish and salads. The more full-bodied and structured versions are great with veal, chicken, and fish with complex sauces. The best wines with bottle age can even accompany red meats. The wines are also very good with salmon, trout and Thai cuisine. The late-harvest sweet wines are delicious with apple-based desserts, or for a special taste treat try one of the “stickies” foie gras or paté.

Although Austria is the spiritual homeland of Grüner Veltliner, it is also grown in small quantities in the Pfalz region of Germany where it is known simply as Veltliner; in the Czech Republic as Veltlínské Zelené; and in Hungary as Zöldveltelini. There are also tiny quantities grown in California and in Otago, New Zealand.

Some of my favorite Austrian producers are:

• Weingut Wieninger, Viena

• Weingut Bründlmayer, Kamptal

• Weingut Fred Loimer, Kamptal

• Weingut Nigl, Kremstal

• Domäne Wachau, Wachau

• Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Wachau

• Weingut Emmerich Knoll, Wachau

• Weingut F.X. Pichler, Wachau

• Weingut Rudi Pichler, Wachau

• Weingut Prager, Wachau

• Weingut Rainer Wess, Wachau

• Weingut Setzer, Weinviertel