Moscatel de Setubal 2004 Jose Maria da FonsecaJokes in Canada
Someone once told me that receiving ice wine is a joke in Canada. Doesn’t seem like much of a punch line but in that quaintly Canadian way, even being the butt of a joke has an uplifting quality. Apparently though, ice wine is the most re-gifted present that exists in the frozen north. People just don’t open these rare treasures known as dessert wines.

Awkward Morning on Wednesday
I get it though – it’s high alcohol, they spoil easily and they’re really expensive. Even half a bottle of these dessert wines run pretty consistently in the $40-50 range. A nice present to be sure, although probably not what you’re opening on your own on a Tuesday with pizza, especially since finishing a bottle on your own could be pretty terrible for Wednesday morning.

Affordable Liquid Dessert
Being a great fantasizer about dessert wines of all kinds though, I am happy to identify that there are at least a couple of affordable, small bottles available. Moscatel de Setubal certainly qualifies – the bottle that I bought was $12 I believe. The empty bottle you see above is one that my brother and I polished off on our front porch in Chicago on a sunny day, the occasion for which I have long since forgotten.

Memories… of Men and Moscatel
This weekend reminded me of that time though as that brother, along with all of my siblings, parents and significant others, came to visit. And yes, we had lots of beer, treats and wines. Moscatel de Setubal of another bottle was drunk and we left the bottle similarly empty at the end of the weekend. Apparently, Canadians don’t invite their relatives over very often… or (more likely) their relatives refuse to visit because it’s Canada. Just kidding – we all love Tim Horton’s.

Taste
Apricot, candied, rich, long finish. Some bosch pear and wildflower honey. The other one we tried this weekend (not this brand identified) also had a cool tea finish to it.

Detail Up!
2004 Moscatel de Setubal DOC, a fortified dessert Wine by Jose Maria da Fonseca in Setubal, Portugal

Random Googles:
* There are 9 types of Moscatel currently recognized by Wikipedia: Moscato Bianco, Moscato Rosa, this Moscatel de Setubal, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Ottonel, Black Muscat, Orange Muscat, Muscat Crocant and Moravian Muscat. Four down, five to go.
* Setubal is only 30 minutes outside of Lisbon – about the same as going to Sintra, the famous tourist destination thanks to Lord Byron’s poetry, just in the opposite direction
* Juan Maria da Fonseca also makes a really good dry red, Periquita. 🙂 for those who learned the word through slang in Brazil.

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grecanico 2010 sicily di giovannaOde to Motorino
Una pizza napoloteana was an epic pizza place on east 12th street in the east village, until its owner moved cross-country to san francisco and left a whole in the hearts of quite a few pizza-lovers. Rumors abounded about a new pizza place taking over their storefront, and that the new owners might have even bought the oven from the emigrating owners. Years have now passed since that transaction took place and the new store in town is a well-seasoned restaurant with a deserved following. Excellent pies, good wine list and a few subtle surprises make it a go-to restaurant on bustling east 12th.

Anchovy Pizza
The build-it-yourself delivery pizza isn’t exactly a favorite of mine since it involves making your food – exactly the activity you are trying to avoid when ordering delivery… In the case of the white anchovy pizza however, there is an exception to be made.

Cristom vs. Cristom
Earlier that evening was a tasting of some red wine from two different years (2009 and 2002, I believe) that we had bought in Oregon and saved to share with friends who would also geek out about trying the same wine, from the same plot, from two quite distant years. Surprisingly enough, it was pretty easy to tell the difference (even if nobody was really going for a scientific, blind tasting). Fruity and colorful, versus dusty and subdued. Might have been reading too many wine books but it certainly seemed to match what people have said about how wines age.

Clutch Pour by Selenho
Anyway, once the white anchovy pizza arrived, it seemed like some white acidic wines were in the offering, and Selenho happened to have a bottle open and chilling. This is what constitutes a great friend – not the years of knowing each other and shared memories, experiences and folly, or the ability to dig into novels, sports and shared interests – it’s the ability to pull a fantastic, open, chilled bottle of wine from the fridge that matches the impromptu pizza you just purchased. And so it was…

Taste:
Lots of acidity to punch back at the white anchovies draped across the top of the pie and long long finish to keep you remembering how to spell the word “salinity.” Light, crispy, acidic white wine. Not much nose. Lemon and green apple. Surprisingly long finish. Excellent with white anchovies.

Detail Up!
Di Giovanna Grecanico 2010 with 13% alc. from Sicily, Italy

Random Googles:
* Sicilians call it “Grecanico” while the rest of Italy calls it “Garganega”
* Grecanico forms the base of Soave, from the northeast of Italy, in Veneto
* Element 34 is Selenium. Yes, it’s entirely unrelated to the rest of this post.

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RWC Madeira Savannah Verdelho

Least Favorite of the Best
Verdelho might be my least favorite Madeira grape, through no fault of its own. There’s little to dislike about the grape, seeing as it grows on Madeira, has a slightly sweet and mostly nutty flavor, and works with all kinds of foods – more foods in fact, than most grapes on the market.

Not quite taking on Molten Lava Chocolate Cake
And yet, Verdelho doesn’t seem to have a very strong or clear identity. Of the four noble Madeira grapes – Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey – the first and last have clear identities that mark them as the ends of the Madeira spectrum. Sercial has that really nutty dryness going on, and Malmsey has to be one of the truly great grapes in the world. Seriously, I still haven’t found another grape that holds up to the molten lava chocolate cake… and wins.

Process of Elimination
Bual’s a pretty delicious grape too. Granted, it’s not KO’ing any seriously bad-for-you desserts but it’s sweet and complex, and comes in lots of styles from quite a few producers. Tinta Negra Mole has that under-dog image going for it since it’s not in the noble grape category, Bastardo has a name that just makes you want to love it, Moscatel’s all around goodness and Terrantez is really close to going extinct so it’s important to fight for it, even if its taste isn’t the greatest (sample size 1). So sorry, Verdelho – you’re nutty and complex, but it’s just not enough to avoid being the least favorite Madeira grape. Good thing you still beat most of the wines on the market.

Taste
Figs, burnt caramel, custard and brown sugar on the nose. Nutty and almonds but slightly sweet on the taste. Chewy and dry finish, with back of the mouth salivating and cleansing refresher on the tongue and teeth – how Zeus would brush his teeth.

Detail Up!
Rare Wine Company Historic Series – Savannah Verdelho Madeira in Madeira, Portugal

Random Googles:
* Australia has a long history of producing Verdelho in nearly all wine-producing parts of the country, where it has more of a honeysuckle and lime flavor than its European brethren.
* Verdelho is one of 82 permitted grape varieties in Port, and even makes the cut into the “Recommended” grapes for Port.
* Star Mixologists can even use Verdelho Madeira in creating their drinks

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Portugieser 2011 Villany

Portugieser – not from Portugal
Most surprising factoid about the grape called “Portugieser” is that it is found in many countries, none of which are Portugal. Neither is the grape from the Iberian afterthought. Somewhere in the Austria/Germany/Hungary/Slavic world is where this grape thrives and is probably indigenous to.

Famous as an overstatement
Villany in the Hungarian south is where this particular grape makes a bit of Hungarian splash (next only to the Hungarian water polo team of oft-golden Olympic fame). Close to the Croatian border, Wikipedia might call this town “famous” but it seems not to have caught on entirely in the rest of the world. Fortunately, Blue Danube Wine is pushing hard to change our West-o-oenophilic bias and is introducing all kinds of unpronouncable grapes to the Eastern seashore of the USA. Welcome Portugieser.


View Larger Map

Taste
Light body with little nose, bit harsher finish than pinot possibly due to higher alcohol (note- checked bottle and only 12.5% but tastes higher). Dark fruit taste, blackberry especially. Long finish with some tannins. Better with food than on its own.

Detail Up!
Attila Gere – Portugieser 2011 from Villany, Hungary 12.5% alc.

Random Googles
* Portugieser makes #6 on the Top Ten Hungarian Grapes List
* Villany, the town known for its red wine like this Portugieser, is a word derived from lightning.
* Kákoporto – the other name for Portugieser, seems to also have an identity crisis related to Portugual’s most famous Oporto city.

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Image from WHWC

Vin Gris
Gray wine – least appealing way to market a wine and yet, it’s a pretty cool process. So most of the time red wine comes from red grapes, and white wine comes from white grapes – not always, but it’s close enough for grenade range. Vin Gris though, is a white wine that comes from red grapes. You take the red grapes, smash them and then move the liquid quickly before the skins of the grapes have time to start staining the wine red. Theoretically it would seem possible to make it from any red grapes, although wine makers stay away from that and stick to a very limited number of grapes: Moschofilero, a rare Gamay and Champagne made from Pinot Noir.

Old and Greek and Gray all over
Moschofilero is really the true vin gris, both because that’s really what people do with it and because it’s indigenous to Greece who have been making wine arguably longer than anyone in Europe. They didn’t invent wine though – that’s probably the Armenians. Strangely enough though, Moschofilero has gray grapes, rather than red that Vin Gris usually relies on – not entirely sure how this categorization works but apparently it still qualifies as Vin Gris.

Taste
Acidic lime and lemon, long finish like vinho verde. Slightly rounder body. Great for summer

Detail Up!
2010 Moschofilero with 12% alc. by Ktima Tselepos from the Mantinia area in Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece

Random Googles
* Tselepos, the winery responsible for this Moschofilero citric stud, won 2012 Winery of the Year honors
* Moschofilero – not related to Muscat at all. Pretty opposite in taste from the sweeter Muscats too.
* Greece is confusing, Greek wine moreso – have a look at this overview of grapes with a cool map too

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