Wednesday, August 1, 2007

RSVP Tasting: Everything old-world is new-world again

Wine Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris
From Chile
Price $17.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 12%
You read that right---a clonal relative of Sauvignon Blanc meant to evoke ideas of SB and Pinot Gris. (Given that the international styles of these respective wines are often indistinguishable, you wonder what the point is, though.) Light color; largish, slightly citric nose. Assertive, almost aggressive palate doesn’t do badly with oysters; but the general anonymity of the flavor lead Fearless Leader to note that “every time I taste this, it tastes different.” Given the all-things-to-all-people ambitions of the international style, mission accomplished.

Wine Vina Chocalan Carmenere 2005
From Chile
Price $12.49 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
A toasty nose (smell that oak!) leads eventually to a stemmy finish, detouring past both body and finesse in between. Carmenere is done better elsewhere (starting with two Concha y Toro offerings at competitive price-points), and this example of it seems to have driven our eminence griese to irrationality: “weedy, tomato-leaf herbaceous… but not bad.” Hell, if that’s not bad, what is?

Wine Tribal Pinotage 2004
From South Africa
Price $10.49
Alcohol Content 13.5%
No nose to speak of; rough on the palate and rocky in the old South African style. Notes on the bottle claim “earthiness”; “ugly” more approximated the consensus of the group. (One despairing taster moaned: “is there any such thing as a good pinotage…?”) Our host’s advocacy of the wine fell on deaf ears and dead palates as the group moved on to vines anew.

Wine Bests Great Western Shiraz 2003
From Great Western, Australia
Price $24.87 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content
“Not your typical hot-country Shiraz!” in the words of one taster. Indeed not: an almost minty quality on the nose; the rest medium-bodied with decent balance, a good deal of finesse, and a lingering finish that doesn’t pound your taste-buds into submission. This bottle is actually two or three steps down from what Bests considers their best; as with a lot of new-world producers, the second wine often provides consumers with relief from the ambitions of the first. Consensus was that the modest weight and ambition of this wine was a virtue.

Wine Altos las Hormigas Malbec 2005
From Argentina
Price $15.95 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 13%
The sages who composed the wine’s back label call this a “terroir-driven fruit-bomb”; which is sort of like promoting a building as a ten-story bungalow. Big, friendly and generic, it aroused mild interest at best; indifference at worst. Wines not aimed at pleasing everybody tend to arouse passions whether they succeed or fail; but when a wine made in the international style succeeds, you only think “I can sell this.” A lot of us shrugged and thought “I can sell this.”

Wine Yalumba Y-Series Viogner 2004
From Australia
Price $17.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 14.5%
Straw color. Then, one sniff leads to an explosion of scatological comment: “This is stinky!” “Arrgh! This smells like burning skin!” “Bad perm smell!” Some confusion as well: a spoiled bottle doesn’t usually smell anything like this, but can this possibly be what its maker intended? If so, it’s very badly botched. In the kindest words the lead taster could summon up: “very disappointing---peroxide-driven rather than fruit-driven.” Tastes batter than it smells, but somehow that didn’t provide anybody much comfort.

Wine Rio de los Pajaros Tannat 2005
From Uruguay
Price $18.95
Alcohol Content 14%
Sharp something-or-other on the nose had tasters sniffing like a pack of bloodhounds. A borderline-gamey nose leads ultimately to a woody finish; in between it begs for food to complete it. Not bad stuff, but much of the conversation ended up being about Uruguay instead of the wine; a sign that tasters lacked the context into which to put the flavors they found. The overall consensus was that everybody wanted to try more Tannats, so it’s at least that successful.

Wine Colonia las Liebres Bonarda 2005
From Mendoza, Argentina
Price $12.95 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 13%
(92 points from Robert Parker and a price of under $13? What can we say here that will possibly make a difference…?) No special nose. Fruit big but not easily recognized; nice tannin on the finish. Fruity but anonymous---it hasn’t developed a language or much of an identity, but it’s introductory words seem pretty friendly.


Peter May - The Pinotage Club said...

(One despairing taster moaned: “is there any such thing as a good pinotage…?”) - yes, but you get what you pay for. A 10 buck -- the cheapest wine in your tasting -- anonymous brand name is not necessarily the best ambassador for the variety :)

Mr. Pounder said...

No, indeed! It's also sad that a lot of it gets sold because of cute packaging. Any suggestions for better 'ambassadors for the variety'?