Budget Wine Review: Domaine Du Bouscat Caduce Bordeaux Superieur 2010

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domaine du bouscatI found this lurking in a liquor store in Salt Lake City for $13. Such finds are to be treasured, not because this is a great wine (it’s not) but because it’s an honest wine sourced from average grapes (the vineyard is near Fronsac), albeit from an excellent vintage, and not manipulated to taste sweet, soft, or smooth. In France, even ordinary wines are sometimes made with the assumption that the buyer may lay the wine down for a few years. The wine is allowed to develop on its own schedule without the new world’s obsession with making wines that are ready to drink as soon as theyre bottled.

It’s always interesting to see how inexpensive wines designed to age turn out. I imagine this was a beast when young but after several years of bottle age it’s developing a soul, albeit a soul with an irascible core.

An aromatic dark knight with scents of black cherry, black plum, dry autumn leaves, and a hint of barnyard, immediately identifiable as French.

In the mouth, an overlay of gravel and dark chocolate buries  the lush, ribald fruit and a seam of hard acidity gives the wine a truculent, unyielding personality. But it has personality–like your curmudgeonly uncle whose candor you find refreshing. There’s a lot of savory flavor, black olive and bitter herbs, and eight years after vintage date the tannins have a sandy texture that don’t grip, propelling a long, mouthwatering finish.

A bittersweet wine, like a rough hand, tender and calloused. Night Driver by Tom Petty shows the best side of this wine.

Technical Notes: A blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. Cold soaked, and then fermented in unlined cement vats, macerated for 25 days, and aged on the lees four months before aging in new and used demi-muids.

Score: 89

Price: $13 (not much of this left but check out Wine Searcher for other vintages that might be worth purchasing)

Alc: 14.5%

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Wine Blog Daily is Going Away

My daily summary of wine blog activity is no more. With spring semester looming and new writing projects to launch, I need to find more hours in the day, and WBD is simply taking too much time.

I have enjoyed reading and discovering new wine blogs and I know there are some dedicated readers who visit the site regularly for their wine blog fix. I am profoundly grateful to those readers and I hope my backing away will not inconvenience you.

I will of course continue my usual posting on wine and food aesthetics.

When a Chef Becomes an Artist

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imageJust as Van Gogh revealed the secrets of the landscapes near Arles in his paintings of Southern France, culinary artists reveal hidden dimensions of ingredients and dishes, dimensions that previous cooks overlooked that create a new way for that dish or ingredient to be. The idea is not merely to create a fantastic concoction or to add a new flavor note to a dish. It is to capture the essence of something that has hitherto gone unnoticed and to impress upon the diner that there is something here to be explored and understood. Unlike craftwork, art works reveal some new treasure that solicits our attention and demands the kind of studied focus we give to the visual arts or music. A chef who has mastered the craft of cooking will prepare food that squeezes every bit of flavor from her ingredients. The chef who is an artist will challenge a diner and provoke a revelation that will be arresting, illuminating—and ultimately pleasurable.

salmon-and-rhubarb-editWorks of culinary art, it should go without saying, must be pleasurable as well as revelatory. Pleasure is the seducer that makes knowing the secret worth our efforts. But the chef’s intense focus on giving pleasure is not peculiar to the edible arts. Music or painting that is flat and inexpressive will fail as art as surely as a watery, under-seasoned bisque. We would not be discussing Van Gogh today were it not for his voluptuous brush work and color palette.

Thus genuine culinary art creates something in addition to pleasure—a revelation that not only tastes good but is arresting and illuminating.

Even relatively simple dishes can be revelatory such as Rod Butters’ Grilled & Smoked Pacific Salmon with rhubarb broth, and rhubarb jam from Raudz in Kelowna BC that revealed rhubarb’s affinity for smoke, or Chef Massimiliano Alajmo’s Risotto with Saffron and Sorbet of licorice and rosemary from Le Calandre near Padua, Italy  that brought out the licorice note in the saffron.

saffron-risotto-with-licorice editFor more on the philosophy of food and wine visit my Monday Column archives on Three Quarks Daily

Wine Blog Daily Thursday 11.15.18

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burgundyA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Alder Yarrow urges all wine lovers to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign to get the consumer’s voice heard in the upcoming Supreme Court case concerning interstate wine shipments.

Kathleen Willcox reports on the disabilities law that is causing problems for some wineries.

Lisa Johnston speaks with the Bourgogne Wine Board’s Amaury Devillard about the latest news from Burgundy.

Drunken Cyclist has the latest news on the lawsuit against WTSO *Wines ‘till Sold Out, a case he’s been following for some time.

Sarah Lehman reports on the sweet wine wines of Bordeaux, including Sauternes.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

1 Wine Dude reports on the little known Tuscan region of Orcia.

Luscious Lushes witnesses the biodynamic transformation at Troon Vineyards on Oregon’s Applegate Valley

Crushed Grape Chronicles describes a mystery dinner and a tasting at Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla Washington.

Brianne Cohen visits Kiona Vineyards and Winery in Red Mountain AVA, Washington.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Jamie Goode reviews the Beaujolais Nouveau from Châteaux de Vaux

The Wine Curmudgeon’s wine of the week is the Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2017

Reverse Wine Snob lists the best Thanksgiving Wines.

Kelly Magyarics gets to know the other Cab, Cabernet Franc, and reviews several from California, Virginia, and New York.

Miquel Hudin reviews Finca Barqueres 2016, a Carignan from DO Costers del Segre in Spain.

Tom Lee profiles River’s Marie, a small winery in the Napa Valley.

Vino Sphere reviews Dave Phinney’s Department 66, a French Grenache.

Good Vitis reviews the 2016 Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours le blanc Bonhomme, a white Bordeaux.

Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 11/14/18

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madeira vineyards

Vineyards of Madeira

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Tom Wark asks consumers to donate to a GoFundMe project to support getting the consumer’s voice heard in the upcoming Supreme Court case supporting interstate wine shipments.

Mike Veseth, the Wine Economist, recounts the history of Madeira.

Amanda Barnes tells the story of  Mendoza’s Clos de los Siete, an enclosed vineyard owned by several producers, unusual in the new world.

The Wine Curmudgeon has the stats on his blog visitors for 2018 and is giving away more prizes for Birthday Week.

Allison Levine profiles the the Crus vineyards of Beaujolais.

Foxress is an advocate for Albarino for Thanksgiving dinner.

Susannah Gold continues her series on Italy’s indigenous varietals with Nieddera Nero, which is grown primarily in Sardinia.

Vino-Sphere profiles the wines of San Diego County, an emerging wine regions with increasing quality.

Austin Beeman shoots a short film covering harvest at Cristom Vineyards in Willamette Valley.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

Wine Country Getaways profiles the city of Bordeaux.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Amber LeBeau calls New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc “the Coldplay of the wine world.” Ouch.

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Scheid Vineyards Chardonnay 2017, Monterey,

Jamie Goode reviews the Champagne Castelnau Réserve NV

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the La Posta Paulucci Malbec from Mendoza.

The Drunken Cyclist is drinking Kir Royale these days, the cocktail made with sparkling wine, using Route 23’s flavored simple syrups.

Tom Lee reviews the 2012 J. Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc Old Vines from Russian River Valley

Michelle Williams reviews several California Zinfandels.

Wine Tasting, Subjectivism and Nonsense

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wine evaluation 2Philosopher Barry Smith’s recent article in World of Fine Wine magazine hits all the right points about the rampant, mistaken view that wine tasting is thoroughly subjective. I highly recommend the whole article.

The heart of his argument for a modest objectivity in wine tasting is that even when disagreeing about a wine, we’re nevertheless responding to something in the wine:

Much of the trouble here is the flawed idea that the taste of a wine is purely subjective: wholly a matter of the sensations we undergo when tasting. The idea of taste as sensation has it that what we taste is just a private experience, in which everything is given to us immediately. It allows for no gap between what I am tasting and my experience of it. And yet, as experienced tasters know, a wine does not give up its secrets all at once, or to just anyone. It takes time, knowledge, and experience to figure out what is going on in it….

The experience of flavor depends on inputs that may vary from taster to taster depending on whether one has the tongue of a supertaster, a taster, or a non-taster. Each of us is likely to have a specific anosmia, meaning that we are “blind” to particular odors. (I know of two food and wine scientists who are insensitive to TCA, or cork taint.) It is little wonder, then, that tasting judgments diverge. But this doesn’t mean they are idiosyncractic or inexplicable, nor that they are subjective and independent of the flavors in the wine. Were one to take the line that tastes just were just the sensations of an individual—based on ignorance of the science of the taster—one would readily understand why judgments of taste would seem like mere opinions, answerable to nothing but an individual’s socially mediated responses. But that’s not how things are.

This is exactly right. In fact no one in the business of making or studying wine really believes it’s subjective. If they did they wouldn’t bother doing what they do.

In philosophy we have a concept called a “performative contradiction” which helps explain the problem with the claim that wine tasting is thoroughly subjective. Essentially the idea is that actions taken by an individual would make no sense if that individual’s statements were true. For instance, if I were to say “I am no longer capable of forming a coherent sentence”, that would be a performative contradiction since my uttering the coherent sentence contradicts the meaning of my statement.

Similarly, when winemakers or sommeliers say wine tasting is subjective they are guilty of a performative contradiction.

When winegrowers make adjustments to their canopy in order to  enhance ripening they don’t believe wine appreciation is subjective. They believe there is a standard for ripeness in grapes that, if not met, will harm the wine. When winemakers choose to punch down three times a day rather than two, it’s because they believe doing so will improve the wine. There is a level of extraction they seek which can be met or not and not doing so will be a mistake. When sommeliers studying for their exams strive to discern the identifying characteristics of a Barolo from Serralunga they do so because there is a standard they’re trying to achieve, and they can fail to achieve it or succeed.

In each case they are responsive to a standard that is independent of their beliefs about it. These standards are not arbitrary, subjective, or entirely personal. If they were there would be no consequences to not meeting these standards. You could choose any standard you wanted and if you fail to meet it choose a different standard. That just isn’t how we operate.

To believe that wine tasting is subjective is to believe that there is no expertise in winemaking or wine tasting because there is nothing to get right or wrong.

As Smith says, “But that’s not how things are.”

For more on the philosophy of wine visit my Monday Column archives on Three Quarks Daily

Wine Review: Walter Clore Columbia Crest Private Reserve Columbia Valley 2013

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columbia crestWhen large industrial wineries, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, owners of the Columbia Crest brand, pause long enough in their quest for market share to make wines of genuine quality they should be praised. Neither blockbuster nor rebel, this reserve level wine is just variations on a familiar theme but it’s a well-made wine with some distinctive virtues.

Blackberry with a charming kiss of red fruit,  vanilla, chocolate and baking spices for a sense of warmth, and dusty earth for the obligatory Bordeaux reference. The nose tells you right away it wants to be taken seriously.

On the palate, the dense, lush entre turns a bit woody as the  mid-palate energy gathers, but there is no hint of sweetness to flatten the wine’s verve. In fact,  the acidity is impressive driving a steady crescendo that peaks on high tones, the tannins a presence but lurking in the background. Very dark 80%chocolate emerges to set off a red berry note, giving the medium length finish some interest. It needs a bit more oak integration but the elegance comes through nevertheless.

Lush, sophisticated, warm, stylish and  agreeable, it would make a very good date even if you had no intention of marrying someone quite this conventional.

It resonated nicely with Steely Dan’s Josie though the lyrical Josie, “a raw flame and a live wire” seems to have had a bit more game.

Technical Notes: A blend of Merlot (64%) Cabernet Sauvignon (34%) and a touch of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, aged for 26 months in mostly new French oak. The wine is an homage to Walter Clore a pioneering viticultural researcher in Washington State.

Score: 90

Price: $45 (Purchase here)

Alc: 15%

Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 11/13/18

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A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

carbonic macerationTom Jarvis has a complete guide to carbonic maceration.

The Wine Curmudgeon lists his most popular blog posts for 2018 and conducts his first Birthday week give away.

James the Wine Guy asks “How Many Wine Grape Varieties Exist?”

Jeremy Parzen sends his best wishes to victims of the fires in California.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

The Drunken Cyclist is eating and drinking his way through Prague and Budapest

Selected Wine Reviews:

Madeline Puckette has several suggestions for Thanksgiving Wine.

Fredric Koeppel reviews the  Zuccardi Serie A Bonarda 2016, Santa Rosa, from Argentina’s Mendoza region.

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the 2015  Badgerhound Zinfandel from Ammunition Wines.

Amber LeBeau reviews the Cavit Lunetta Prosecco

Jameson Fink reviews the Champagne Henriot Cuveé Hemera 2005

Food Wine Click reviews the Paetra “K” Riesling Willamette Valley 2015 with food pairings.

The Wine Daily reviews the Viader Proprietary Red Blend from Napa Valley.

Aaron Nix Gomez reviews several wines of Brunello di Montalcino from the 1980’s.

It’s Tension Not Harmony that Makes Great Wine

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tense skyGreat wines have dominant flavor and aroma notes that have clarity and focus and exhibit harmony in that they have a sense of cohesion, with each element working together in an overall pattern. But these dominant aromas stand out against a background of hints and nuances, aromas that can be only dimly perceived yet give the wine a sense of depth. Such wines are described as complex because they seem to have many dimensions that persist as a penumbra around the central aromas as our attention shifts back and forth from foreground to background. This is why tasting notes often contain a seemingly endless list of aroma descriptors which can baffle less practiced tasters. The aromas can be so faint they are open to multiple interpretations and are susceptible to perceptual threshold variations among tasters. Yet, even when they cannot be clearly discerned and identified, they contribute to the depth and richness of the wine, functioning much as a mirepoix does in a sauce. The carrots, celery and onion cannot be picked out as distinct flavor notes yet they add richness to the sauce.

These background aromas often develop a character that is in tension with the foreground aromas. Especially as wines age, the dominant fruit, floral and herbal scents are surrounded by aromas that remind us of gravel, tar, barnyard, cat pee, petroleum, musk, sweaty saddle, smoke, gunflint, and bacon fat, not to mention the less prized aromas such as band aid, nail polish remover, and rotten egg. These are not pretty and introduce elements in the wine that are disruptive, deviant, in themselves often ugly.

If we think of wine as exhibiting flavor themes, these deviant aromas are clearly in tension with the dominant fruit and herbal themes. A pretty peach-and-apple-inflected Riesling from Germany’s Mosel region that begins to develop diesel fuel aromas in the bottle is acquiring tension and conflict that adds to the impression of depth. When sufficiently reticent so they don’t overwhelm the dominant fruit aromas most professional wine tasters would argue that the wine exhibits harmony. But there is an important aesthetic difference between a harmony of similar qualities vs. a harmony achieved through balanced tension with qualities that are from a different flavor world.

Beauty is at its highest intensity when there is contrast between the components that make up the experience, when the background elements of an experience are brought into the foreground. For this purpose, contrast is vital.

As the early 20th Century American philosophy Alfred North Whitehead argued:

“Contrast elicits depth, and only shallow experience is possible when there is a lack of patterned contrast.” (Adventures in Ideas, 268)

I’m not sure “harmony” is the best way to describe wines that depend on contrast for their beauty. Great wines are so much more than harmonious.

For more on the philosophy of wine visit my Monday Column archives on Three Quarks Daily

Wine Blog Daily Monday 11/12/18

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cheval blanc

Domaine Cheval Blanc

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Karen MacNeil uses the differences between food and wine to explain the importance of metaphor in wine descriptions.

Tom Wark celebrates his father, a bourbon drinker, on Veteran’s Day.

Jamie Goode argues that drinking a wine at home is a different experience than drinking the same wine in a restaurant.

Tim Gaiser distinguishes great wines from great wine experiences and the describes 5 of his most memorable experiences.

Kathleen Willcox dives into the state of modern cooperage.

Margaret Rand explores the rise of the private wine label.

Alfonso Cevola, On the Wine Trail in Italy, explores what it means to give a “master class” and develops elements that every master class should have.

The Wine Gourd explores the wine regions of Australia.

Richard Hemming works out E.J. Gallo’s share of the worlds wine market.

Amber LeBeau explores the top audiobooks on California wine history. In addition, she writes a thoughtful post on wine blogging and its relationship to other wine media.

Talk A Vino brings us the full force of New England’s colorful foliage

Selected Wine Reviews:

Jamie Goode profiles Lamoreaux Landing in New York’s Finger Lakes.

Allison Levine’s Pick of the Week is the Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the 2016 Winehaven Minnesota Marquette Reserve and reviews the best Rosé Wines for under $20.

Cheap Wine Ratings profiles Washington State’s Maryhill Winery.

Cindy Rynning profiles Carmenère and reviews two from Chile’s Hacienda Araucano.

Martin Redmond’s Wine of the Day is the 2014 Bedrock Wine Co. Heritage Wine Evangelho Vineyard, a red blend from Contra Costa.

Tom Lee reviews the 2011 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard

Joey Casco reviews the 2017 Suhru Pinot Grigio from Long Island’s North Fork.

JvB Uncorked recommends wines for Thanksgiving.

Red Wine Please reviews the 2015 Concha y Toro Don Melchor

Dallas Wine Chick reviews several Bordeaux-style wines from Virginia.

BC Wine Trends reviews a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hidden Chapel in the Okanagan Valley.