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.

Anonymous said...

Burgundy wine
(French: Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France.[1] The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as Burgundies - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wine are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of Appellation d'origine contrôlées (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy go back to Medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry. The appellations of Burgundy (not including Chablis).

Overview in the middle, the southern part to the left, and the northern part to the right. The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north down to Mâcon in the south, or down to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wines and Saint-Bris, which produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc. Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated. The Côte d'Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. T

he best wines - from "Grand Cru" vineyards - of this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the "Premier Cru" come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary "Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region's white Grand Crus are located in the Côte de Beaune. This is explained by the presence of different soils, which favour Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well known than their counterparts in the Côte d'Or. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made from Gamay. Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy.
You can find more info at: http://www.burgundywinevarieties.com/