White Graves need air time before drinking

June 30, 2014

Thought I’d answer some requests this week. Jane asked, “Why don’t you write about White Graves?”

Good question, Jane. The main reason is so many complain of its “off nose” because they don’t allow the wine to breathe in the glass or decant it. Many Graves exhibit the smell often described as cat urine in polite wine-drinking society. Those who enjoy the best White Graves realize they need air time before swilling. Go here: for an excellent NYT article - after you’ve read the entire paper, of course. Please don’t skip the ads. We all gotta eat. Best buy in my opinion is 92-point Chateau Bouscaut Blanc Pessac-Leognan 2010. You will need to have it ordered in. The window is 2013-18. Be careful in this realm because the wine is driven more by locale and winemaker than vintage.

James asked about Banyuls. I have written of them before as the best chocolate lovers’ wine. Here is a brief recap paraphrased (stolen) from Snooth. Banyuls is a sweet, fortified wine, around 17 percent alcohol, produced since the 13th century, when Arnaud de Villeneuve discovered mutage, adding grape alcohol to halt the fermentation to preserve the wine’s natural sweetness. This is similar to the method used for Port and Madeira. I recommend Domaine La Tour Vieille Rimage Banyuls Blanc 2012. Black cherry, raspberry and blackberry jam and some cocoa notes. Goes great with goat and sheep cheese, red berries and bittersweet chocolate. For true sybarites add a bit of black cherry jam to the cheese. Yeah, Buddy! The easiest find would probably be Domaine de la Casa Blanca.You can find a case of 12 750s under $300 and your wine store buddy can eat. Deep, rich wine with layers of flavors - cooked plums, dark berries, chocolate and spice. The finish is long and clean. Now through 2016.

Marley emailed, “What about the Argentinean blends?” Love your name. Reminds me of one of my fav music genres. Marley, every writer and commentator is all over these. My best comment is: Recently, highly regarded Euro and Cali winemakers have been hired to “advise.” This tells me the potential is there, but even the big-time money is not backing most of the current releases. Great wine takes a confluence of many factors. While “terroir” is critical, superior farming practices, trellis management, timing of harvest, vinification expertise, blending, decisions on cooperage and aging are also important factors. For these reasons, I think with rare exceptions, many of these wines are not showing to their best advantage.

I am reluctant to review wine I have not sampled. From time to time, you may have noted, I place reviews by better-known writers side by side to illustrate how dicey accepting others’ critiques can be.

I also try to review wine that most folks drink that is a good QPR. Most that are highly rated immediately escalate in price and are poor value. I don’t wish to diminish some of the wonderful blends coming from the Argentine; there are several, but they are too pricey in my opinion, in most cases. You may wish to try Alta Vista Alto if you enjoy Malbec. These are being produced by some of the former owners of Piper Heidsieck, the famous Champagne house.

My best answer for Marley at this time is a $40, 91-point Dominio del Plata BenMarco Expresivo 2009, 50 percent Malbec, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Syrah, with Tannat and Petit Verdot. It opens dark purple with a complex bouquet of ripe currants, black cherries, some smoke and sweet vanillin. On the palate, layers of currant and black cherry are highlighted by brown sugar, cocoa, nutmeg, dark chocolate, and hints of sandalwood supported by fine tannins, Very nice balance and concentration; finishes cleanly. Best 2017-30.