Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The Nashville City Paper has an interesting column up about cork taint.

The author's main complaint is that the vast majority of wines on the market — particularly the budget wines — would do well to consider entering the screw-top world instead of hanging on stubbornly to the notion that serious wines have corks.

If winemakers and wineries would do what seems obvious to me and change to alternative closures for almost all white wine, all rose, most merlots, most pinot noirs, all gamays, most shiraz, etc., the quality of the cork would improve so much that this problem would disappear. So, the next time a wine merchant or wine steward offers you a bottle of wine with a screw cap, don’t turn up your nose!

I couldn't agree more. I've had bad cork experiences only a few times, but each time, it's profoundly annoying.

Sure, some of the pomp and circumstance is lost when you remove the corkscrew from the equation, but there's not a lot of pomp involved in a $9 bottle of California drunk swill anyway, is there?


Sunday, February 25, 2007

My first Bordeaux

I've been reading up on Bordeaux, so when the first sip of Chateau Trocard Bordeaux Superieur 2003 hit my mouth, its flavors made perfect sense. There was that unmistakable flush of smoke and tannin that comes with a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon. But the full-bodied onslaught is tempered somewhat by a soft, round finish — to the point where I want to guess that there's some Merlot in there somewhere. I can't find the blend specifics online anywhere, and they're not listed on the bottle, so I'm sort of guessing.

I like this wine. For the price — $10! — it's sophisticated and complex. Its coloration is a gorgeous plummy purple, and the nose is divine and smells almost exactly like it tastes. I imagine that if I could actually afford $80 bottles of Bordeaux, I might have found my signature wine. But I'm actually holding out that designation for a fabulous Burgundy. And I think I might have to skip the pond to find it.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Big Mamma's house

The nose on Big Mamma's Negro Amaro 2003 is deep and bold, with an actual heat to it. There's a sweetness there, though, a sugary coating on top of the essences of plum and cherry. It's not unpleasant, but it smells a little too sugary for my taste in reds.

The smell makes much more sense when you take a sip. It balances out with some much-needed acidity although the wine seems to lack an essential foundation of flavor. This pretty much keeps its finish clipped and uneventful. No grand revelations, no change of heart. Just sugar and alcohol. Maybe a little too much cherry.

I kind of wish I had a big plate of something — something Italian — to help coax out this wine's personality.

Postscript, while on glass No. 2: This wine has a beefy quality to it. It almost reminds me of jerky. There is an underlying meatiness to it. And the color is red-brownish. It's almost dirty-looking, which kind of lends to its homemade-by-mamma aesthetic, I guess.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wine waste

I have a problem.

I absolutely hate throwing away bottles. It seems wasteful.

But since I can't very well continue to let the damn things accumulate in my apartment, which is cramped enough as it is, I supposed I better do the best thing and recycle.

Memphis has five recycling drop-off centers for apartment dwellers and others who can't take advantage of curbside pickup.

Recycling Drop-Off Centers

Downtown — Located in the gravel parking area on Mud Island Drive at the North entrance to Mud Island Park.
East Memphis — Located on Moore Ed, approx. 300 yards off Germantown Parkway So., just south of the Shelby Showplace Arena at the Agricenter International.
Midtown — Located on the corner of cooper and Walker at the First Congregational Church.
Southeast — Located at the Hickory Hill Community Center at 3910 Ridgeway.
FCR — 3197 Farrisview Blvd. (located off American Way just west of Lamar intersection) This is the City's recycling processing facility operated by FCR of Tennessee. Place recycling material in carts located just outside the gate.

The site also says, "All empty clear, brown and green bottles and jars are accepted. You can leave labels attached, but remember to remove lids. Rinsing is not required."

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ride the White Truck

Well, shit. This bottle passed by me so quickly that I had no chance to think about it. Basically, I was trying to push the whole Louis Guntrum experience out of my head. Because that wine is truly awful, and the remainder of the bottle will sit, ignored, in my fridge. I should give it to a bum or something. To help keep him warm.

Anyway, White Truck 2005 Pinot Grigio is an excellent value. Under $10, it's got plenty of acid and structure and just a hint of sweetness. It's mostly just a surprisingly fruity pinot grigio with a coasting finish and a beautifully pale straw coloration.

If you ever encounter a crappy wine and need to remind yourself of what good cheap wines taste like, you might ought to opt for this stuff.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Liveblogging the Louis Guntrum 2004 Dry Riesling experience

Louis Guntrum 2004 Dry Riesling has an odd scent to it. Most wines I've tasted can be described in purely fruity terms; I've only once encountered a wine that I could describe by using terms other than those describing things kept in the crisper (that was a sauvignon blanc that I described as extemely grassy). That is, until tonight.

This Riesling's nose can be described as medicinal. Plastic. Sterile. I was actually hesitant to take a sip, so I've let my glass sit and settle for a while (after a few good swirls) and only now are some fruit scents coming through.

While I'm waiting to taste, I'm doing a bit of reading up on the vintner. The Guntrum family has been at it since 1648. That's a hell of a long time to be making wines that smell like medical supplies.

Okay, I've put it off long enough (seriously, the smell is not enticing at all). It's time to taste.


It tastes just like it smells, except there is a solid underlying structure that allows the weird taste to dissolve and give way to a more traditional Riesling finish — moderately long with hints of bright fruit, like apple and apricot. I wish the finish carried over into the initial taste, but I guess this wine doesn't work that way. That oddness, it's still there, upon every sniff and every sip. It's almost woody, in a way. Very organic. You know, it's almost grassy, the longer I sip on it. It just seems outdoorsy. And unlike any other Riesling I've ever had.

In fact, I'm wondering if this is because it's a "dry" Riesling. I suspect that most Rieslings I try are off-dry, meaning there's enough residual sugar in them to make them lightly sweet. This wine is supposedly bone-dry, though I doubt that its the dryness that is bringing out such an odd attribute.

Jesus, what if I'm ingesting arsenic?!?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Nothin' to 'em

The good thing about sampling lots of different wines is that even if you encounter some that don't tickle your bean, they will still get you drunk if you keep at it long enough.

This week's offerings have been weak, unfortunately, but it's my sworn duty to let you people know what's up in the wino world. The cheap wino world, of course.

First up is the Cycles Gladiator 2004 Pinor Noir. I should have known that this wine would be sub-par simply by what the label told me: Jack shit. Click here to read the label text. Completely unhelpful, right? It's not often that I tolerate that kind of bullshit label from a domestic wine.

Cycles is strongly alcoholic — gird your nose hairs — and not all that complex. There's more alcohol than fruit, which is okay after a glass or two, but it signifies an inferior wine, as far as I can tell. There are much better wines to be had for the cheap-o $10 price.

Next up is this Blue Fish 2005 Riesling — a cute little concoction in a fun bottle with a name that just makes me think of the many dining establishments in Memphis — Bluefin, etc.

I was actually expecting a lot more from this wine than it delivered. The nose is subtle and supplies hints of apricot, but the actual taste is weak and the finish is so short that it's practically non-existent.

It's hard to even get a read on the taste before it's washed down and evaporated.

Oh, how I long to love the wines with cute labels and logos, but I can't recommend this one, despite its super cheap price (less than $10). It's a screw-top, which you know I love, but if I'm gonna drop $10 on a Riesling, I'm going with Relax.

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Oenophilic thievery

Kristin sends along this fascinating story to me, about a huge wine heist in California in which more than 400 bottles were taken from a private collection, totaling about $100,000 in value.

Unlike missing art and antiquities, hot wine has no official registry. “Something like an Amber alert would be very useful,” said George Derbalian, the president of Atherton Wine Imports, an importer of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Theresa Lawless, a manager for the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, in Novato, Calif., one of several major American insurers of private wine collections, said loss of wine was typically a result of fire or power failures, not theft. “But this will definitely make people think twice,” Ms. Lawless said.

Wine cellar designers are increasingly installing fingerprint and voice recognition systems and crisscrossing laser beams that trigger alarms (à la the movie “Entrapment” with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones), said Tod Ban, a wine cellar designer in Atlanta who recently completed such a cellar for a private collector with 27,000 bottles.

I like wine, but I just can't imagine a bottle of anything — liquid gold, even — that would merit such measures. Can someone explain to me what makes a wine so valuable that it would require Hollywood-inspired security measures?

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