Reds worth trying include spicy and organic blends

May 19, 2019

Those who enjoy spicy red wine which is well made and won’t break the bank may wish to look for a bottle or two of Caliterra Tributo Carmenere 2015 from the Colchagua Valley vineyards of Vina Errazuriz in Chile. It is a collaboration wine with R. Mondavi established in 1996. People familiar with Mondavi will remember his moves in the ‘90s to collaborate with other famous vintners to produce such labels as Opus One, Luce and Almaviva. Don’t panic, amigos, Tributo, unlike those collaborations, can be had well under $20 and gets a McD 89 points. I have seen some ads at $17 with free shipping on a case. If you find it at $17, add 2 price points. It has 98 percent Carmenere and 2 percent Carignan; it was cold fermented and aged in stainless to provide a very fresh, no-oak red. Of course, it also holds down production costs to age in stainless. Carmenere is typically made without use of oak to allow its spice and olive notes to shine through. Spicy nose of black pepper, licorice, and cloves glides into a palate loaded with dark fruit, more of the spices and olive notes.

A better buy if you can find it is the Reserva 2015 around $10. In fact, they produce quite a few excellent Reservas in the $10 range. Most rival their Speciale and Single Vineyard labels. The Bordeaux blend Caliterra Limitada A 2012 gets 92 McD points around $40. The 2011 is also around and in the heart of its drinking window. You can buy it under $40 but will need help. It has 52 percent Malbec and 48 percent Carmenere, aged 18 months in 50 percent new French and U.S. oak. Very dark cherry in the glass. Spicy, dark fruit flavors with a hint of mint. Carmenere fruit is defined very well on the palate, accented with oaken-sweet nuance, leather and char. All of these will go well with that burnt meat so many serve to open the summer grilling season or when clearing out the last of the venison.

Regulars are aware I’m reluctant to jump on the “organic,” “biodynamic,” blah blah. Not because it isn’t a great idea to eschew as many chemicals as possible, but because many of the places claiming the title occur in locations long farmed or herded or as next-door neighbors to others using airborne chemicals and runoff-prone fertilizers. I am more concerned that many of the claims are specious. Having worked for several years in an FDA plant, I’m less than enthusiastic that their methods are as exacting as most of the public has come to accept. Think about this. List all the “gubbermint” agencies that you think work at 85 percent. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too; 85 percent isn’t an exacting standard. In case you missed them, have you seen all the recent outbreaks and recalls caused due to foodborne illness? After the public has been dramatically sickened.

Well, Domaine Bousquet has built a true chemical-free (in the sense that no outside junk is sprayed or spread or introduced to their never previously farmed vineyards), FDA-approved red blend. The location is the very high-altitude desert of Argentina in Alto Gualtallary, a subregion of Tupungato in Mendoza, at the foot of the Andes. Domaine Bousquet Virgen Organic Red Blend 2018 is the result of an effort begun in 1997. It is worth looking into for those who love red wine but can’t handle the sulfites and heavy metals used in so many vineyards to control various pests and molds. Please don’t misconstrue my thinking here. I’m fortunate to not suffer these allergies. And, at 77, I’m starting to think it is just possible those chemicals have prevented, in me, mold, mildew and other pests that shorten lives of teetotalers. A story for another day. The 2018 grapes were cold soaked, and all three varietals were crushed together. Bousquet says this was to make a more thorough blend, as opposed to separate vinifying and then blending. I’m unsure about that! Please be aware grapes do have naturally occurring SO2 . Virgen is a dark-violet blend of 35 percent Malbec, which delivers blackberry and red fruit flavors, and Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 percent, which provides depth and structure. The 30 percent Cab Franc provides and fruit and violet nose, accented with herbal spicy notes. Best of all, this 87-point lovely can be had around $13.

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