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van tillNorton is Missouri’s official grape and, for a grape many wine lovers have never heard of, it has a long, storied history. In the 19th Century, this native of North America went toe-to-toe in competition with many great European wines and often did well. Prohibition ended Norton’s assault on the wine establishment, and today it is grown primarily in Missouri, Arkansas, and Virginia, all humid climates where Norton’s disease resistance makes it attractive.

Norton grapes make a very distinctive wine; there is nothing else quite like it. If you love wine and haven’t tried it, you probably should just because it’s a singular experience.

Always wild and and muscular, Norton is as subtle as a frat-boy come-on. Yet, Van Till’s version has some elegance as well. Intense, massive, musky blackberry on the nose mingle with espresso and new leather highlights, cosseted in sweet oak, not too toasty, very expressive aromatics.

In the mouth, upfront, it’s full bodied, smooth and refined although quite dense, but then a clenched fist of acidity strikes midway and relentlessly pummels the palate. The firm weave of hi-toned acidity and incisive tannins make a very peppery finish, tart with a hint of cider adding complexity. Splendid fruit power and an underlying softness balances that acidity but vinifera fans are to be forgiven if they can’t quite find the center of gravity. The fruit, acidity and tannins feel integrated but sort of like a barrage of well-tuned, power chords from 20 Marshall stacks would sound integrated.

As you can gather this is a very vibrant wine. It sees nine months of Missouri oak, giving the wine just enough warmth to be charming while all Hell breaks loose.

A perfect representation of the grape, it’s not tamed, its wild originality is preserved, yet one craves another glass.

Score: 92 when judged in its comparison class, other Nortons.

Price: $40

Alc: 12%

Pair with Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit for that power chord integration.

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