Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baglio di Vincenzo Catarratto Lucido

The Biscardo brothers, Maurizio and Martino, are, as best I can determine, operators of a rather low-profile Italian wine empire. Based in the Veneto, where they make Soave, Pinot Grigio, and Valpolicella (including a very popular and well-priced Ripasso), they also have operations in Puglia, where they make Primitivo, and in Sicily where they produce Nero d'Avola, Merlot, and the subject of this review, Catarratto Lucido. I've met Martino twice now, and he's one of these guys who is always “on,” enthusiastic about his wines and everything else that comes into his line of vision. He's the sales/marketing brother; Maurizio, the elder brother, is the winemaker. Baglio di Vincenzo is a new project for them. Back in the  day, I probably sold several hundred bottles of his Ripasso, and somewhat less of his Primitivo and Merlot. The wines were always good, and often excellent values. The Catarratto Lucido is a lot better than good, and it is a seriously good value. It is grown on a 100-acre property, where the fruit is hand-picked and the wine is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel.

Baglio di Vincenzo Catarratto Lucido IGT Sicilia 2011: Opens with aromas of stone fruit and cinammon; on the palate, intense flavors of a whole Bosc pear, skin and flesh, an undertone of citrus, plus an almost cider-like quality (long maceration, I'm guessing—the grape is famously thick-skinned). The texture is rich, almost grainy. The finish is clean, with a bit of almond showing up at the end. We had this with tilefish (it's been really good lately and the price is right) that the Chef fixed up in the Sicilian style, with tomato, capers, and golden currants. We'd opened a $30 Slovenian Ribolla the night before, and the Cattarratto showed more intensity and complexity at less than half the price. It's brought into the U.S. by the estimable Lukas Livas of CHL, and is available at the Asheville Wine Market. I think it is a spectacular value. Run, don't walk, etc.

You can learn many surprising facts about the Catarratto Lucido grape at Rob Tebeau's Fringewine blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Red Wine From Casal-Garcia. Really.

We have long been fans of Casal Garcia, the gulpable white vinho verde from the Portuguese producer Sociedade Agrícola e Comercial da Quinta da Aveleda, SA. I was in the Wine Market the other day and Larry showed me a red version of the wine. I knew red vinho verde existed, but I think this was the first one I'd ever seen in captivity. “You're not going to believe this,” he said, “but this is good.” He then explained that when the wine was first presented to him, he couldn't help but notice the legend “Smooth and Aromatic” on the label, which is ordinarily, shall we say, a contrary indicator of quality. But the proof, as always, was in the tasting.

Casal Garcia Vinho Tinto NV: This is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (tempranillo); it has aromas of fresh plum, a little berry, and a floral note. On the palate, more plum and red fruit flavors, and a very soft and round mouthfeel. Nothing here exactly jumps out at you, but it has an ineffable pleasantness, which probably has something to do with the fact that it costs $8.99. A nice red to relax with. We drank it alongside little pork sliders stuffed with gorgonzola and slathered with mustard; frankly, I'd sit this wine down next to just about anything—it is exceptionally food-friendly.

The winemaker is Manuel Sores; his consultant is the famous Denis Dubourdieu of Bordeaux and elsewhere.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dumb Wine Story Of The Week

I love reading Eric Asimov, and was unhappy when the Times axed "The Pour." But he did write the dumbest story I've seen in a while this past Wednesday. Titled "Cheese And Red Wine Together Again," it began by debunking James Beard's 1947 observation that "cheese and red wine have natural affinities for each other," then asserted that white wine was a better match, then said that it was still okay to drink red wine with cheese. What made the story dumb was that he never gave the actual reason for drinking red wine with cheese. To wit:

Red wine and tea share a common characteristic: The presence of tannins. Tannins are astringent. You can add all the sugar you want to a cup of tea, and it will not become any less astringent. But if you add milk, the butterfat in the milk softens the tannins; the astringent quality is ameliorated. Don't take my word for it, read Kevin Zraly.

Ordinarily I read something wrong-headed and just let it pass, but I found myself thinking of an old friend, Rick Alles (a sales manager at the Wine Warehouse in San Diego and, among other things, a truly formidable player of stringed instruments) who once remarked that it was no accident that European peasants were so often depicted holding a jug of wine and a wheel of cheese.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Take Me Till The End Of The Terret

You may think Terret is unfamiliar, but if you've ever drunk a cheap white from the Languedoc, especially from Hérault, you've probably had it. In its most common incarnation, it's a cheap blender, light, crisp, and inoffensive. Blended with Clairette and Picpoul, it is a common ingredient in French white vemouth. But there's always somebody who is willing to show how an also-ran can turn into a winner, given enough loving care. Which brings us to Nicole Bojanowski, vigneronne, who, along with her American husband John (and daughter Sacha) grows Terret Gris in St. Jean de Minervois. She grows Terret organically on what she calls “white, blinding phonolithic calcium carbonate rocks,” at an altitude of just over 900 feet. The wine is fermented naturally and aged on its lees for a year in a 500 liter barrel. She's quite a character, and her Ivy-educated husband writes well. The website is absolutely worth a visit. 

Clos du Gravillas “Emmenez moi au bout de la Terret” 2009: Ms. Bojanowski is not much for hewing to appellation disciplines; she's entitled to use “Minervois” on her labels but prefers the lesser “Vin de Pays Côtes de Brian.” This vintage is made from Terret gris, aka Terret Bourret. This is quite yellow in the glass; I thought for a moment it was oxidized. Upon opening, it has a vigorously aromatic nose of clove, allspice, and cardamom. On the palate, yellow fruit, tropical fruit, a note of black licorice, and a minerally, gunflinty finish. After a few minutes in the glass, and served along side tilefish with tomato and capers, it became lemony and not quite so out-there. The wine is imported by Bruno Arricastres at Wine Without Borders; we got this at 3Cups; it cost $22.

Oh yeah: The name is a play on the lyrics to a very romantic Charles Aznavour song. The original line is “Emmenez moi au bout de la Terre” which translates as  "take me till the end of the world."

[Be sure to read John's comments below--he says this is the wine that has made some locals tear up, it so reminded them of wines grandaddy made!]

PS: Has anyone noticed how many women winemakers there are in Minervois? In addition to Nicole Bojanowski, there are Patricia Boyer-Domergue at Clos Centeilles; Françoise Frissant at Chateau Coupe-Roses; Josiane Orosquette at Chateau La Grave; Isabelle Coustal at Chateau Sainte-Eulalie; Emilie Faussie at Chateau de Violet; Mireille Meyzonnier at Domaine Meyzonnier; and Viviane Bellido at Domaine des Murettes.