Quick reads on a variety of worthy wines

June 15, 2020

According to the Johns Hopkins website, there has been a general resurgence of COVID-19  in the states that reopened early, but it appears to be mild. Whether to wear masks or not is still blowing in the wind. Is it social distancing, hand washing, disinfecting surfaces or sheltering in place that’s working? There are several other rationales, such as herd immunity and sunny, longer days being responsible. Others claim the uptick is due to a large increase in testing finding more cases, although not the projected high levels. This seems logical. I am unsure but delighted the panic level is abating. On a positive note, the police brutality protests in the beach area appeared to be peaceful; to date, little damage has been reported. Kudos to the locals for acting responsibly. Let’s all hope and pray for a quick return to better times.

Backsberg Estate Cellars was the first South African producer to become recognized as a “carbon-neutral winery” in 2011. This led to a Greenpeace award for Climate Change Leadership. I was sent an info piece by Natasha Jaramillo writing for Colangelo PR back in April and am finally getting around to it. Backsberg Pinotage 2017 was interesting. Pinotage is a varietal cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault developed by Abraham Perold in 1925. This cross lay fallow until 1943 when it began being propagated extensively. Pinotage struggled for years because it is difficult to grow and winemakers often produced wine that had unpleasant burnt rubber or acetone aromas. Persistence paid off when it was discovered the wine had been fermented at too-high temperatures, causing this unpleasant characteristic. Since the 1990s, winemakers have tamed the beast. Backsberg Pinotage 2017 rates 89 McD points under $18. Another South African Pinotage is 2017 Simonsig Redhill. I’ve seen it under $40 McD 92. Look for black currant, pie spice and cedar nose plus a pleasing palate of plum and cassis with vanilla notes; fruit balances acidity. Still a tad tannic from 15 months on new oak.

Did a lot of work this week, so the following reviews will be terse. Trapiche Medalla Cab from Mendoza was a  surprise. A $17, 89-point McD Cab is tough to find. Complex bouquet of blackberry and cigar box (tobacco and cedar) and oaken spice. Blackberry repeats, riding a soft tannic frame. Zenato produced a tasty Alanera Rosso Veronese 2016 for $17. Look for cherries, cigar box and an earthy wine with oak and leather hints, 88 McD. Another Italian from Alto Adige, J. Hofstatter Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano 2014, 92 McD, will set you back $70 but is worth every penny. A Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) with proper aging. Still dark ruby, so allow aeration then look for raspberry and sour cherry with vanilla and barrel spices. The acidity is accurate and mild tannins say, “I’m ready!” Lovely cool-climate PN. Domaine Anderson Estate PN 2017, from Alexander Valley, Mendocino in good old USA, is dark garnet-colored. Opens to roses, blackberries, strawberries, then slides into black cherry and currant flavors. Well-balanced acidity and smooth tannins support all through a long, clean finish.

Renata asked about Amarone. I’m happy she did. These are often-overlooked, delicious wines. Unfortunately, they demand long aging. Since time is money, few will pay $500 for a bottle of unknown possibility. I covered this four years ago, but here’s a reprise. Amarone della Valpolicella is a rich, dry, ripe, bold red wine normally made from Corvina grapes. Processing causes price escalation. Following harvest, the grapes are air-dried into raisins, concentrating the sugar and flavors. The process, named “appassimento,” also provides the elements necessary for long aging, 40 years and much more. The good news, Renata, is those who are just starting their cellar can buy the wine in its youth for around $60 and be able to drink a $500 bottle of wine in 2035. The 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone Classico Riserva rated 97 by R. Parker is now going for $725 and just entered its 2020-50 window. It came in at $71. In most cases, Amarone Riserva wines aren’t released until they are several years old. The most recent Quintarelli release is 2012. This producer does not release the Riserva in every vintage. If you are shopping for price, look up Sergio Zenato Riserva, which can be had around $125 and rates 90-92. Keep in mind that 2013 was generally not a top vintage in Valpolicella.

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