The geography of grapes
Looking for the next hot terroir
By Tim Protzman†email@example.com
Do you ever feel you were born too late? Or too early?
I would have made a great apprentice cabinet maker, if only I had entered the world in 1684. Yeah, Iíd be long gone now, but my stuff would still show up on Antiques Roadshow. Or if Iíd been a son of baby boomers instead of a boomer. Then Iíd have had a chance to win one of those geographic contests similar to a spelling bee. My sonís friend reaped a bundle of prize dollars by knowing stuff like ďhow many states end with the letter A?Ē They didnít have that stuff when I was in school. But Iím pretty sure I would have won.
Iíve always been good with maps. Maybe itís because Iíve lived in more than 20 places or because Iíve traveled extensively. I have this knack for almost never getting lost. I know where west is at all times.
And it helps with wine too. Almost as important as the wine bottle label is a good map that shows where the grapes were grown.
Jumilla is the newest rage in wine. Itís warm and dry and known for its intense reds. Lately, Iíve had some really good wine at decent prices from Jumilla. But looking at a map it seems nothing special. In fact it looks like a bit of a backwater on the road from Madrid to Cartagena. But the soil and climate are similar to those of Californiaís central coast region, like the Santa Cruz Mountains or the Paso Robles, where the ocean is close enough to create microclimates with cool night and warm days, low moisture and a long growing season.
2004 Juan Gil ($14.99) is an outstanding wine made from 100 percent Monastrell grapes.
Monastrell is known as Mourvedre on the French side of the border, where itís primarily a blending grape in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc & Roussillon. I was initially a little suspicious of wines made from what I consider supporting actor grapes, but the power and finesse of Malbecís from Argentina put me in the mindset to try.
I wasnít disappointed. This wine had absolutely no tannins present on first sip. The finish had a definite structure with dry, youthful tannins that would become striated and moderate with age. There were cherries, plums, oak, chocolate and a faint flavor of tobacco. This wine comes out once a year in the fall and is usually gone by February.
While not worthy of Cru or Cult Cab status this wine was one of the best semi-special occasion wines I tasted this year.
Even with my newfound respect for the ďless than noble grape varietiesĒ it was hard for me to spend $17.99 for a wine made from 100 percent Petit Verdot. But the 2003 Casa De La Ermita was worth the suspense. It was dense with a tiny touch of sweetness and a big fruit flavor that was girdled by a very rigorous tannic border that gave the wine edge, but not too much. These two wines show that medium-sized, family-owned bodegas can put out a dynamite product and avoid the temptation of succumbing to the Spanish Wine Rush that so many other smaller producers are cashing in on by slapping a cutesy label on a bad wine and shipping it to the United States.
If youíve ever turned on the TV or rented a movie you know just how much stuff you donít want to watch is out there. And lately Iíve felt same way about wine. There really is a dearth of mediocre everyday wines. And sometimes itís disheartening to slog your way through the wine trenches. But every now and again, as in the cases of the Juan Gil and Casa De La Ermita, it pays off.
This week I went out on a limb and tried an inexpensive Italian table wine that a store clerk recommended. And even though he nearly queered the deal by saying, ďOpen it an hour before you serve it.Ē I threw caution to the wind and snapped the sucker up.
It was a Rosso Piceno Superiore. This is a type of wine from Italyís Marches region. Again the sea, this time the Adriatic, moderates the climate. The grapes are typical Italian, though, using those time-honored stars, Montepulciano and Sangiovese.
The 2003 Rosso Piceno Superiore Vigna Monteprandone is produced by Saladini Pilastri wines located in the town of Spinetoli in the region of Marches known Ascoli Piceno. Itís 70 percent Montepulciano, 30 percent Sangiovese. It had the fragrance of violets and the taste of fine leather, cognac and elderberries. It was perfect with pizza and salad and the $8.99 price made it not just good, but great.
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