December 2010

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Thanks to the Latin side of the family and the Feast of the Son of Isis, Christmas dinner is one heap of turkey, two dollops of gravy and papas, papas, papas. Also, there is wine. Lots of wine.

Two Wines, One Christmas Bonanza

This year, two tempranillos made it out from the cellar and they couldn’t have been more different. On one of them, we’re looking at a 2003 Crianza that tasted like it was past its prime but had enough steel-edges and back-of-the-mouth light fruitiness to deserve seconds. The other’s a new one, 2008 Argentine from Finca La Linda, could be liquid jam. Probably blackberry jam or maybe something kinda Rudolph-y but fruit on fruit goodness like this German layer cake that made its way to the dinner table (missed the photo op so h/t these guys). Really, the wines could have been alpha and gamma, or the Yankees and Mets for how they tasted.

No Fluke – it’s the Atlantic’s fault

Judging by a quick wikisearch, this difference isn’t a fluke. It’s an oceanic divide. Old-world Tempranillo is all about Spain. It’s the foundation of Rioja, the dye in the awesome-looking Batalla de Vino and even the origin of that weird Spanish lisp (ok, not that one but the lisp legend is really cool). New World Tempranillo’s all about finding that magical fruit combo and pumping it up into something sweet enough that even Americans will enjoy. Yes, I’m sure that’s a gross caricature – still, based on my undeniable sample size of 2 wines, it’s true.

In sum
Old World oxidizes Tempranillo, New World jams to it.

Detail Up Wine Nerds
* Finca La Linda Tempranillo 2008 – what Luigi says
* Rioja Ordate Crianza 2003 – ok, this is a bit of a mystery wine. no reviews and no real info on who the producer is. only tidibt involves a small coop in rioja that made wine back in 2003 – radio silence since 2003. mysterious rioja, you intrigue me.

Google Randoms
* Tempranillo gets blended with Garnacha to make Rioja (Mazuelo and Graciano show up too, in a kind of Steve Buscemi way)
* Tempranillo means “little early one” in the lispy language of Spain. It’s not derrogatory though, it’s just a cute way to remind you to harvest on the early side.
* Port has a bit of Tempranillo in it but the Portuguese prefer the grape name of “Tinta Roriz” (if in port) or “Aragonez” (if part of that awesome Alentejo region).

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Torrontes is way up on my list of favorite whites, mostly due to how much acidity it manages to cram into a glass. For whatever perverse reason, the higher the acidity, the more addictive it is to my taste buds. They yearn to be ceviche in a future life.

Argentina Hogs Torrontes

Argentina’s somehow managed to draw all praise of Torrontes to itself (does anybody else even grow this grape?), and my sommi friend says Salta’s where all that buzz comes from since it’s way up in the mountains. Thinking some wine guy in Wyoming needs to take a hard look at this grape – it’s not like Salta is close to water either.

Luigi Bosca on the Cheap

Finca La Linda’s from Salta and it’s one of Luigi Bosca’s cheaper (cheapest?) brands and even so, this wine’s pretty excellent. And actually, I’m not sure what an expensive Torrontes would be like. More flowers? More kinds of citrus fruits (granadilla, nectarine)? More what? Bacchus forbid they have buttery notes or vanilla coming through this acid express.

Can´t really speak for all Torrontes, but this particular one has loads of lemon and a nice batch of lime too (notice those limes in the background – blessedly unintentional). Sure, it´s got a nose, it’s a cute nose with flowers (little ones, like in the Sound of Music). It’s a nose sorta like one of those little girl, Drew Barrymore noses back in the ET days, but nothing like a cyrano nose that demands entirely focused attention to the detriment of all else. This wine’s all about searing the taste buds into submission.

In sum
Lemons, lemons, limes – the citric duck, duck, goose from Argentina.

Random Googles
* Argentina’s not content with one Torrontes – they have three types of Torrontes.
* Yes, a couple other places in the Americas grow Torrontes. They even make brandy with it and call the grape “Torrontel” to annoy the Argentines.
* Torrontes blogs in its spare time at this site. James Beard approves.

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Today was the first grape of a thousand grapes. I’ve heard there’s a club that certain wine nerds get to join when they swear that they’ve tasted over 100 different types of grapes. To my mind, and based on my wine consumption, that’s approximately one year of drinking. A solid achievement and certainly one to be commended. But what about outnerding the nerds? We’re talking a full decade (or more) of different grapes, random, obscure, horrible, brilliant, pink, purple, green, black and bacchus only knows what other color grapes. Decade-long challenges – that’s something I can get on board with. Other than maybe raising a child (or six), I’d be hard pressed to even think in terms of a decade. And yet, a thousand grapes demands such thinking.

To begin

Grape 1 of 1,000 – Tannat

No real magic to the choice of Tannat as the first grape. Wifey and I are visiting the Latin half of the family in Peru and got snowed in by the ridiculous Newark blizzard, meaning another day in Lima. What to do with one more day in Lima? Clearly, you eat and eat well. So dinner it was, at T’anta on 28 de julio and the only Peruvian wine on the menu is this Intipalka Tannat you see in the photo (h/t these guys). No idea about year and only found out later who makes this bottle (hint: they own the best old-man bar in Peru). Tried the wine before the lomo y palta sandwich and more than stood up on its own. Better though with the beef.

Tannat’s very heavy (and Uruguyan apparently) according to every ADD’s best friend google, although somehow this Peruvian Tannat’s more of a middle body wine. Think Merlot with another 5 pounds added on from the Christmas season. That’s Peruvian Tannat.

If pressed, I’d put the flavors on the dark side of the sun (that’s a bad quechua pun: see “inti”), in that blackberry and violet haze that good sommeliers could fill a page with. Black fruit puts it in the ballpark but up to you to decide where. Really though, are there that many black fruits? I’m thinking blackberries (yes, it’s got it), black cherries (nope), brandiwine (read too much brer rabbit as a kid – probably not even a berry), craigberries (thanks iceland – yes, these are here), and boysenberry (Aunt Nel cans these – yup, they’re here too). OK, so maybe it’s more black berries than a general black fruit sense.

In sum
Black berries, slightly voluptuous body and really squid-ink color. Peruvian Tannat.

Random Googles
* Tannat is Uruguay’s national grape
* Tannat shows up in Armagnac (kinda weird)
* Nerd wine club that looks awesome

Professionals Say
* Intipalka Tannat
* Rate my Tannat

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