Tasting Notes : Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2012

Cantine Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2012

Region: Italy, Sardinia

Grape: 100% Vermentino

Price: around $15 online

Costamolino Vermentino

I had diner at Taranta, a Southern-Italian / Peruvian fusion restaurant in Boston’s North End. My friend ordered Amazonian white fish and I had orrechiete with spicy sausage. The food was excellent and I chose this wine mostly out of curiosity because I didn’t know the grape variety, not even by name. Vermentino is native to the Mediterranean, mostly the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, but also on the mainland like in Tuscany or Southern France (where it is called Rolle).

This particular wine comes from Sardinia, one of the three major Mediterranean islands (and the only one I haven’t been yet). The Vermentino grape is actually responsible for the first Sardinian DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, premium classified growing region) Vermentino di Gallura. The majority of the production, like the Costamolino I’ve had is sold under the basic DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) Vermentino di Sardegna. So, appellation wise, it’s an entry level wine, as the price reflects.

Eye : clear, pale to medium lemon with a tinge of green

Nose : clean, low to medium intensity. Citrusy notes along with a slightly herbal quality I can’t quite place, overall it’s very pleasant, one whiff of the nose and you feel like the first sip is going to be refreshing

Palate: medium acidity, light to medium body, low to medium length of finish

Yep, I was right, refreshing it is. The wine is very crisp, clean and refreshing without being too harsh. The lighter body and acidity are balanced and the flavors are a little surprising, the citrus  is there but there is clearly some white peach or other stone fruits. It makes the wine a lot fruitier than I expected without ruining the crisp, refreshing quality of the wine.

Food pairings: I had it with pasta in a creamy sauce; it worked out well because the freshness of the wine would cut the rich cream sauce. My friend was extremely satisfied by the pairing with a white river fish. I’d say this wine would work with a surprisingly wide array of dishes, I would stay away from red meat though.

Overall opinion: My discovery of the Vermentino grape was a pleasant one indeed, especially for a supposedly entry level wine. It’s a definite winner for summer days and evenings.

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Drinking alone, a quandary

Wine is a social thing, that’s what I was raised to believe. Wine is for lunches with my dad, family gatherings and dinners with friends. There is no greater feeling than looking at your friends with an empty bottle in your hands, your head lightly cocked to the side as you make sure that “yes, let’s open another one.” To me, wine means good times, and by extension, it means the people I love.

That’s why it’s a little unnerving to me that, with my classes and this blog, I find myself opening a bottle on my own, to have a glass and take notes. I mean, I can hardly learn about wine without drinking some. Besides, on a purely practical level, it’s a lot easier to take drinking notes when by yourself. It hardly makes for good company to hammer away tasting commentary on your smartphone while having a glass of wine on a date or during a family dinner. I’m far from being a social butterfly, but I know at least that!

So, I made the ruling that a glass of wine by myself from time to time is OK. I love being judge and accused at the same time. I also love making blanket statements like that. Everything is OK, it’s for my studies, and it’s for my blog… God, it really sounds like I’m making excuses…

On the plus side, if I ever go off the deep end, the moment I became an alcoholic is documented and can be tracked back. Small comforts, speaking of which, where is my corkscrew?

My winners from Wine Riot Boston

As promised, here are my four favorite wines from Wine Riot Boston. There is a little bit of everything, I tried to track the prices for each so that you can get an idea of the kind of wines there were at the event.

Douglas Green Rib Shack Red, Western Cape, South Africa

A blend of Shiraz and Pinotage (a South African variety known for its smoky flavor) that would be great with any red meat. Spice notes from the Shiraz, smoke notes from the Pinotage and a retail price around $11 make for a great value wine.

Rib Shack

Henkell Trocken Sekt, Germany

A German sparkling wine, Sekt means sparkling wine and Trocken means dry. A very good and fruitier alternative to Champagne for under $10. It was available at the “Bubbly Bar” along with Cava, Prosecco, Cremant and of course Champagne.

henkell trocken

90 + Cellars Lot 90 Rosso Toscana, Tuscany, Italy

This wine merchant has an interesting concept. They buy wine from premium wineries around the world, bottle and label them and sell them under their name, without naming the original winery. You trade knowing the actual wine maker for an arguably better price. Their Tuscan Red in any case is like drinking velvet. A bottle retails for $29 instead of $65 at the original winery.

Lot 90

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Chardonnay, Washington State, USA

A nice, clean, refreshing unoaked Chardonnay at $12. Not much to say about it except that it was one of the first wines I tried all night and I still remembered it as being good at the end, it must count for something !

GE Chardonnay

In other news, I took my Intermediate wine exam yesterday, it was a lot harder than I expected. The more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn. I still think I’ll get a passing grade but I need to step it up.

Wine Riot

I went to the opening night of Wine Riot Boston last Friday. Wine Riot is an event organized by Second Glass a company created in 2008 who now hosts wine events all across the US. The stated purpose of Second Glass was to create fun, easy, accessible occasions for people to get into wine (and for wine to get into people) without being overly concerned with jargon, labels or the general fussy trappings of the wine tasting experience.

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As you can see on the pictures this is a pretty sizable event, lots of producers from all over the world, including some local Massachusetts producers and some French importers. On top of the tasting opportunities at the different booths, there was also a set of short, 20 minutes classes on various topics.

I must say I had a great time. I’ll post tomorrow about the wines I liked best but for now I’d like to focus on the general atmosphere at the event. The low-key, fun vibe advertised by Second Glass was definitely there, it’s a younger crowd, there’s a DJ playing, balloons dropping, a temporary tattoo parlor and some funny photo booths. It’s definitely different from the more formal French wine salons I have attended in the past. I think it’s a good thing as it makes wine less intimidating and cuts through the snobbishness to focus on the fun and the actual wine.

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I really liked the fact that pretty much every producer was really nice and ready to discuss even when things got a little hectic. I got a few business cards and I’ll try to interview some of these contacts for the blog.

On another subject, I’m taking the exam for the second level of my wine diploma tonight, I hope it goes well and I’ll post tomorrow about my favorite wines from Wine Riot and the wines that ended up being the more popular there.

Did you know : Monticello to St-Emilion

Did you know… that a famous American was responsible for the first classification and documentation of the Bordeaux vineyards ?

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The official classification of the Bordeaux vineyards was released in 1855, however, when visiting the region in 1787 Thomas Jefferson actually wrote a detailed documentation of the estates, practices and products. He later became the third US President. I wonder if he was prouder of having written the Declaration of Independence or that Bordeaux wine treaty ?

Tasting Notes : Terra d’Oro Deaver 2009

Terra D’Oro Deaver 2009

Region : California, Amador

Grape : 100% Zinfandel

Price : around $25 online

terra-doro-deaver-zinfandel

This wine is kind of a double unknown for me. Not only do I have limited knowledge of US wines, I also have no knowledge of Zinfandel whatsoever. Unlike Pinot or Chardonnay, Zinfandel is not cultivated in France. It is in Italy though, under the name Primitivo, but I don’t think I ever saw it in a French wine shop. All I know about Zinfandel comes from my classes so I opened this bottle with an open mind. Actually, that’s not true, I opened it with a corkscrew. It’s really hard to open a bottle with your mind, empty or not, it doesn’t matter. Trust me on this one, use a corkscrew, it will go faster.

. One thing of note is that this wine is made with grapes from old vines, 125 years old vines to be precise. It’s usually a sign of quality as older vines have smaller yields and better grapes.

Eye: clear, medium to intense ruby color with hints of purple

Nose:  clean, medium to pronounced intensity. Red fruit notes like cherry or red plum and spice notes like cloves

Palate: low to medium acidity, medium tannins, light to medium body

In terms of flavor I feel the spices notes are more obvious than the fruit ones. The clove notes are especially present and it’s a flavor I really like for some reason. Fruit is more subdued than expected; it’s more plum than cherry in my opinion.

I have a hard time finding anything to say about this wine, nothing stands out, it, honestly, feels a little weak to me which is strange because the tannins are present and “soft” but the wine lacks a bite. I would say it’s subdued but almost too much.

Zinfandels have a reputation as “fruit bombs” but in that case, the really old vines are probably the reason the flavors are a lot more subtle with more spice box notes than orchard ones.

Food pairings: steak, any red meat really

Overall opinion: I can’t point anything wrong with it but I can’t say I’m wowed by it. I wish I had something even remotely interesting to say about this wine. All that I have is that it is really easy drinking because of the present but subdued spice notes. I’ve been drinking it as I write down these notes  with a Red Sox World series game broadcast in the background and the experience is nothing but pleasant.

I’m not a snob, I’m just French

There is an inherent risk for wine lovers to turn into wine snobs. Wine snobbery is a documented, legitimate, and extremely annoying disease. When I say to people that I love wine there is a 37.4% chance they might assume I’m afflicted by this disease. The number might seem high to you, it is also imaginary. While I was at it, I bumped it up a few imaginary levels too because of my being French, since it’s a natural reaction to label French people as snobs. The French thing and the wine thing, I’m really not helping my case, am I?

Oh well, if you ask me, I don’t think I’m a snob, at least not a wine snob. Of course that’s my opinion and I might not be in a position to judge, but still. I’ve seen wine snobbery. Back when I was living in Paris I had a friend who would turn up his nose at every bottle not coming from the two most celebrated wine growing regions in France: Bordeaux and Burgundy. That annoyed the crap out of me because I love wine from “lesser” regions, like the Rhone and Loire Valley wines, that tend to be cheaper, simpler and also extremely easy to enjoy compared to the more classic stuff. For the same price you could get a very boring Bordeaux or a really fun to drink Vouvray. I know which one I’m choosing. In that case being a wine snob gets you inferior wine, counterproductive to say the least.

And that was a debate about two French wines. Imagine what it would have been if I considered a “New World” wine! This being said, it’s true that I do not have a lot of experience with US wines. It’s not a conscious choice on my part, it’s an availability thing. In France finding US wines is hard. You’ll find South American, Australian and South African wine a lot more easily than Californian wines. I think it’s mostly a commercial issue, the Chilean and Australian wine sectors are geared towards exportation, the US one targets a more domestic market. I you also take into account the local production from France, US products will only have a small market share.

That’s why I’ve been mostly drinking US wines in the two years I’ve been living here; it was time to discover a whole world of wine I knew next to nothing about. I really want to plan a trip to the Pacific Northwest to hit some wineries there, and some breweries while I’m at it.

Finally, if starting to take wine classes is teaching me something, it’s that the less you learn, the more you realize you know nothing. Realizing that makes being a wine snob a lot harder.