Wine (Good for Women)

Seen today on a menu in Sapa, Vietnam. The differences weren’t clearly explained, only that the sex-specific wines were distinct types made of rice, and the ‘strength’ one from apples. I didn’t try any but now regret that decision.

Four hours to kill at Vienna Airport?

There’s only one reasonable option, the delightfully Austrian-sounding Wine & More.

wines & more - but the wine is enough

It’s a comfortable and snazzy wine, cheese and specialty food shop/café with a decent sized offering of wines by the glass. I tried three but only took notes on two cuvees:

Reinisch Reserve 2007 – A cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend from the Johanneshof Reinisch Estate, located just 30 km south of Vienna in the village of Tattendorf. It’s a beautiful shade of ruby, with blackberry on the nose and delightfully chocolaty on the finish. Well-balanced and slightly edgy tannins give it some backbone to store well for the next few years. That’s what I convinced myself when I decided to take a bottle home. Reinisch is particularly known as one this area’s best red wine producers. Their website is here.

Gesselman Opus Eximium 2007 Cuvee No. 20 – This was certainly more ‘Austrian’ in style, given its composition: 60% blaufrankisch, 20% St. Laurent and 20% zweigelt. These aren’t reds you see everyday – unless you’re regularly passing through eastern Slovenia, western Hungary or southeastern Austria. But they do work together exceptionally well. More on Gesselman is here.

Oh, and there’s also a little smoking booth inside, a clean one, where you can enjoy your over-priced Monte Cristo.

Roman Baggage.

No visit to Italy is complete without a quick wine shopping trip to push the limits of my baggage weight allowance. Any thoughts, suggestions, notes, and/or observations would be most graciously appreciated.

Above: La Braccesca (Antinori) – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2006

- Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2005


- Bersano Nirvasco Barolo 2006


- Masi Brolo di Campofiorin 2006

Tasting notes to follow, eventually.

And no, that’s not an original by contemporary Chinese painter Yue Minjun, whose works have sold for as much as $5 million. It’s a rip-off I bought in Shanghai for about 30 EUR.

La Braccesca (Antinori) – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2006, originally uploaded by pirano.

Slovenian wine notebook

Actually, not really. But hopefully this pic taken yesterday in a friend’s cellar will act as reminder to catch up with a small stack of tasting notes assembled in recent weeks.

This cellar is in the village of Vodol, near Maribor. I was kindly invited to select and take home any three, a most wonderful gift and pleasant surprise. To be honest, I don’t have particularly high hopes for the wines. They’re all local dry whites, 10-20 years old. But I do hope to find at least one surprise.

Maribor wine route 011, originally uploaded by pirano.

Early Warning: 11th Slovenian Wine Festival set for November 19-21

I won’t be there (out of town) but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. No complete details available yet, but recent editions featured well over 300 wines for festival goers to sample, by any measure a good way to acquaint yourself to Slovenian wines. If you’re near Ljubljana that weekend, there’s no excuse not to attend.

Limited info on the festival website here.

Hotel Slon, Slovenska cesta 34, Ljubljana
Wednesday, 19 Nov (trade, media, invited guests only, tbc)
Thursday (20) and Friday (21), 1-9 pm.

A Wine Writer’s Existential and Epistemological Challenges

“It’s like a puff of dust in the back of your throat.”

That’s how a salesman at a trade tasting once described a wine he was pitching. No, I didn’t buy it. Nor do I remember the wine. I only remember wondering why he would choose to elicit gagging when describing one of life’s greatest pleasures.

While his was a pathetic example, it does illustrate the sometimes maniacal metaphoric mangling that language is subjected to when wine writers tackle wine descriptions. There is a wide-ranging glossary of accepted terms used in the trade which winos eventually learn to use as their tasting experience expands. But in the end, do they really mean that much at all?

In this brief essay in The New English Review, Colin Brewer, armed with a Malbec 2004 from South Africa’s Paarl, examines what it all might mean:

Wine is always described as being like something else. This is appealingly post modern. If a chardonnay tastes a bit like a peach, what then does the peach taste like? A chardonnay? And if so, what does either taste like? If you must describe the Van Loveren 2001 limited edition Merlot as being “chocolately”, does it mean that chocolate tastes like the Van Loveren Merlot?  And if we like the Merlot on account if its tasting like chocolate, why don’t we eat chocolate instead of drinking wine?

[Language, truth ... and wine]

chardonnay, originally uploaded by pirano.

‘I want to have this with ostrich!’

I’ve mentioned Wine Library TV before, an informative and entertaining wine tasting program hosted by New Jersey-based Gary Vaynerchuk. With more than 80,000 viewers a day, it’s a popular program, and he’s already been making the rounds and spreading the word through various (US) national TV appearances.

Last week he took on three Croatian wines: 2006 Vivoda Malvazija, 2006 Kutjevo Mihalj Gracevina, and the 2004 Zlatan Otok Plavac Mali. The latter varietal, from Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, is widely accepted as a close relative to zinfandel. And he was thoroughly impressed.

“I want to have this with ostrich!” he said. That’s a good thing, by the way. Check out the episode here.

One small glitch: he describes Croatia’s Istra as being near the Italian border. True, it’s not very far. But there is a tiny country, with lots of good wine of its own, squeezed in between the two.

90 Second Udine Advisor

I had but one regret when I finally visited Udine last weekend: that I hadn’t made it there before.

The center of northeast Italy’s Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, this charming town of just under 100,000 has a lot going for it. Its historic center is well-preserved and maintained; it’s missing lots (most?) of the grit that is common in many Italian cities; great food is a way of life; pretentiousness seems to be a foreign concept; and, oh yeah, it’s in the heart of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia wine country, and its Slovenia name is Videm.

From relatively narrow confines –beginning at the the sprawling Piazza Primo Maggio (May 1st), up and over castle hill, through the Piazza della Liberta and ending at the airy Piazza Matteotti– there is something for everybody. Some buildings date back to the late 12th C., and 15th C. Venetian influences are nearly as common as restaurants and wine bars. One solid recommendation is the Caffe Contarena, next to (or part of?) the 15th C. Logia del Lionello at the Piazza della Liberta. Not cheap but not outlandish either; I can still taste the polentina and the mushroom-stuffed ravioli. Ambiance is incredible, worth a visit just to enjoy its art deco interior (the right half) and the arch-shaped wine bar (left half).

Castle Hill (castello) is a must. The castle itself took its present shape in the latter 16th C. after the 1511 earthquake and it houses a nice little art museum (admission 1(!!) EUR) and Parliament Hall, one of the oldest such rooms in Europe.

Vino: I lost track of the few dozen wines I tried and note-taking was not usually an option. A few stellar standouts (semi) permanently etched into memory:

- Edi Keber Collio Rosso 2004 – Intense, big, well-structured, and packs a tasty wallop. Plenty of berry, leathery notes, and will certainly improve with age. Of course, there is a Slovenian connection here, not a particularly big surprise in wine-producing terms, where political boundaries mean nothing. Keber is from Zegla (Collio), a village a few hundred meters from the Slovenia’s Medana.
- Livio Felluga Vertigo 2005 – A cab sav/merlot blend, light leather and pleasant cherry notes. Like many wines already on the market these days, this is still quite young, and has the backbone and elegance to live on quite nicely.

This is primarily white wine country, and you can’t go wrong with the local masterpieces produced from the local Tokai Friulano (new EU regulations have forced producers on the Slovenian side of the border to change the name of the grape), a bone dry, elegant white.
- Mullino delle Tolle Tokai Friulano 2005. I can’t say enough about this wine, so I’ll keep it simple. From its light gold color to it wildflower aromas to its savory and delicate almondy taste, this is a nothing less than the wildest of fantasies in a bottle pleading to be uncorked. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Getting there: There are regular rail connections via Trieste and Venice/Mestre, nearest airport is Friuli Venezia Giulia Regional (aka Trieste or Ronchi, about a 30 min drive), and it’s a leisurely two hour (160 km) drive from Ljubljana.

Plenty of Udine pics here.

Udine 19, originally uploaded by pirano.

 

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60 second Primorska cab sav mini-challenge

challenge0001.jpg 

Well, it took a little longer, but not much. For this inaugural mini-challenge, we pit a pair of cabernet sauvignons from Primorje (a quick overview on Slovenia’s regions here and open this in a new tab for this evening’s challenge theme song):

The 2005 from Dolfo (Medana, Goriska Brda) against that of Primož Štoka (Krajna Vas, Kras), 2002. Brda, the established international red area v. the uppity Kras, seeking respect for their classic varietals. 

Both came off the shelf at Mercator, one of Slovenia’s three major grocery chains, for EUR 7.99 (USD10.91/ GBP 5.39), and 8.72 (USD 11.91/ GBP 5.81) respectively, basically solid mid-range offerings that should give you something in return. Both received ample air before any quaffing ensued, but from the get-go, it was fairly obvious that Štoka was going to kick some western Slovenian ass here tonight. It was more of a romp.

The initial leathery raspberry aromas eventually turned jammy and pleasantly plummy, with great fruit on the palate and a nicely-balanced finish. I have no idea how Štoka’s wines age, but this one will be even better in a year or two, and has enough backbone to last longer.

By comparison, the Dolfo was flat. Significantly lighter in color and body, the upfront fruit simply wasn’t there on the palate, and it ended with a hint of unripe sour cherry –if you bothered to search for what was lurking behind the tannins. This 2005 is obviously still young; the tannins should smooth out and it’ll fill out a little more in the next year. But not much. For 73 cents, the difference should not have been this dramatic.

No contest. Štoka will return in the Piran Cafe Winter Less-Mini-Challenge, where it will fight for the right to move on to the inaugural Piran Cafe BIG Challenge in the spring. Stay tuned.

(If it’s of enough interest, view pic large to see the colors, along with the little flying things that went for a swim who also seemed to prefer the Stoka.)