Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Rioja’

Spanish Secrets Under the BQE and the Mountain Goats’ Hyperbolic Sadness

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I’m tasting a bargain Spanish blend, Cataregia Gran Resereva 2001, picked up at my favorite local wine shop, here in my corner of Brooklyn, BQE Wine & Liquors. I don’t mind letting one of my neighborhood secrets out because they neither ship out of town nor deliver locally, so anybody that wants to take advantage of their excellent selections and prices will have to walk in, just like everybody else in the 11222. So much has been said (rightly so) of the 2001 vintage in most of Spain (especially Rioja and Ribera del Deuro) that finding a Gran Reserva for under ten bucks makes me cautiously optimistic.

I’m listening to the Mountain Goats’ (John Darnielle) “Autoclave” from their (his) Heretic Pride album. Mountain Goats is basically one guy, John Darnielle, who always plays as the Mountain Goats, regardless if he’s playing solo or with supporting players. While I know that so many of his long-time hardcores prefer his stripped down man-and-a-guitar stuff, and I can see the slick production rubbing some of these folks the wrong way, but the songwriting remains as remarkable as always. “Autocalve” has the awesome dichotomy of an upbeat, hooky tune and profoundly sad and deeply isolationist lyrics.

Cataregia Gran Resereva 2001 is 70% Tempranillo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and initially it tastes like mature Tempranillo and immature Cabernet in the same glass, somehow not blended; integration does occur, over time. The nose immediately hits with raspberry, which becomes sweet and ripe with some air in it. There are also notes of tobacco, tar, and a dusting of powdered black pepper. The alcoholic bite which initially lingers in the olfactory, integrates after an hour of oxygen contact, revealing a touch of vanillin and wildflowers in the negative space of the glass. This is really quite a nice wine for the fee. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find a 10 year old wine from a marquee vintage for ten bucks. I’m going to go buy a few more bottles before I post this.
Happy hunting!
WineGeist

When in doubt, Go Rioja! A Few Rules for Basic Wine Shopping (and the Absurdity of Linear Thinking)

July 7, 2011 1 comment

There are so many intricacies to wine which can make just walking into a proper wine shop a daunting task for the uninitiated. But one doesn’t have to know all that much to be a good wine buyer. There is method to the madness and ways to make small pieces of information work for you. Like this: When in doubt, go Rioja. The Spanish region of Rioja makes some of the nicest wine in the world, per dollar spent (particularly red Tempranillo), and most wine shops will carry at least a couple of them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you’re in a wine shop that can’t sell you a decent Rioja for $15 or less, you should find another shop. Also, OR pinot noir is pretty amazing stuff these days and in 2008, they had one of their best vintages ever, so you can’t go too wrong with most any bottle from that region and year, and again, most decent shops will carry at least a couple, though the best ones can be costly. There are numerous recent examples of these little generalizations that can help: ’05 Bordeaux, ’09 Sonoma Chard, ’07 North Coast everything.

On a critical level, it’s relatively silly to generalize like that. Every single bottle of wine comes down to the grapes grown in a particular place and time and the choices made by the winemaker who begins the winemaking process with those grapes. But generalizing is like playing the percentages and certainly is no sillier than rating wine on 100 pt scale, implying that linear perfection can be achieved. One of the reasons I drink wine and- to this day- one of my favorite wines in the world is 1986 Dunn Vineyards Napa Cabernet. Some guy named Bob tells me it’s 92 points good. This isn’t far from walking into the Louvre, finding yourself before the Winged Victory of Samothrace, taking in its mass, its setting and the nuances of its construction (and destruction) and proclaiming, “I give it a 93.” Both of these things are artistic expressions in their given mediums and they are each effective on their own terms, to an open recipient. Empirically they are high quality examples of what they are. But assigning them numerical values and insinuating that they have a linear place in a measurable hierarchy from shit-on-Hellfire to absolute perfection is comical. But people like numbers, marketing is important, and anything that can be quickly described as an “A” should sell briskly.