Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Memorable Wine

I was browsing through tasting notes on CellarTracker and fellow-Tracker drphil described a wine as "more drinkable than memorable."

That got me thinking about wines I've had that remained with me--their color, their taste, their smell--long after the bottle hit the trash and I'd moved on to something else. Happily, many of these are drinkable, too. Recently, I had a wine that was both memorable AND drinkable: the 2006 Frank Cornelissen Contadino. I purchased my bottle from Garagiste in January of 2008 for $17.99. Only 25 cases made it into the US, and I can't find it anywhere, so there are no links for you to follow so you can get some of your own.

Azienda Agricola Frank Cornelissen is located on the edge of the Mt. Etna national park, home to volcanoes and free-thinkers, in Sicily. It's got that mix of progressive while backward-looking agriculture that is making many of us think we are in a time warp as people adopt traditional farming methods in order to preserve the land and their traditions. Here are a few excerpts from their website that help to explain:

"Our farming philosophy is based on our acceptance of the fact that man will never be able to understand nature's full complexity and interactions. We therefore choose to concentrate on observing and learning the movements of Mother Earth in her various energetic and cosmic passages and prefer to follow her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding ourselves. Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be."

So, these guys aren't even using biodynamics because it's too interventionist. You can imagine, then, their perspective on the use of sulphur:

"Our products are made without the use of preservatives (i.e. no added sulphur) in order to be able to develop freely to their full potential. This requires transportation and storage below 16°C. When you open a bottle, we suggest not to decant. Rather, take the wine at cellar temperature (12-16°C), pour into Burgundy balloons, nose immediately, and follow its full aromatic progression as it expands, warms up. If a little frizzante upon opening, keep the bottle cool at 14-16°C, and allow to settle for circa 15 minutes. Our wines have only natural - no added - protection against colour degradation, so if left open a few hours, you will see the colour evolve from granite red to volcanic black ash!!! Don't worry - the flavours become more complex with time, as the colour turns."

I didn't try this experiment. My wine remained hot pink, as shown in the picture, throughout. What goes into this hot pink, take no prisoners wine? 80% of the juice comes from Nerello Mascalese and the remainder comes from Nerello Cappuccio and other indigenous grapes.

So what did it taste like? First off, do you know what an unfiltered, unfined, sediment-laden Nerello Mascalese from Etna is supposed to smell and taste like?? Neither do I. We chilled it down at first from the 58 degree cellar temperature at which it was stored, and then set it in the fridge upright for 12 hours to try to settle the sediment, which was abundant. Then we pulled the cork, uncertain of what to expect.

When opened, this wine smelled of the holidays with orange peel, mace, cinnamon, and clove. The flavors were redolent of spicy cranberry and pomegranate. As we drank it, and the wine warmed, the flavors bloomed and became more pronounced. This was best with food--sausage, cheese, and we thought it would be excellent with pizza. Even though it's pink, it's not a "light" wine at 15% alc/vol.

It was excellent QPR, however--because it was so memorable and different. What was the last memorable wine that you had? It doesn't have to have been expensive or famous to be memorable. It just had to make you sit up and pay attention.


Taster B said...

I don't know what an unfiltered Nerello Mascalese from Etna is supposed to taste like either but, it does sound very memorable in a good way!

Benito said...

A couple of weeks ago, I had the following three wines within ten minutes of each other:

1) Dandelion wine from Ohio
2) Corn wine from Mississippi
3) Fragolino from Italy (American muscadine grapes planted in the north, sort of an underground pleasure these days)

Director, Lab Outreach said...

Madeleine versus grape? Grape wins at the Lab!


Although Proust still dominates on page count.

Andrew said...

A wine that changes colour - to blakc! - with a few hours open... off-putting would have been my reaction if you hadnt raved about its other aspects!

Anonymous said...

Pink wine turning black... what an image! It sounds like the scene in Bottle Shock where the Chardonnay turns brown because it was just "too perfect."

The Young Winos have tasted some pretty distinctive bottles over the course of our short history, but the bottle that truly stands out was the 2006 De La Montanya "1812" Zinfandel (Dry Creek). Due to some kind of fluke, the yeast kept fermenting beyond its normal ability, until the wine had reached a lofty 18.12% ABV. It had the body and intensity of a dessert wine with all the robust flavor of a well-made dry Zin.

Completely unique... and it's gone forever, as the "fluke" only affected a singel barrel.