The Terroirist: Wine, Wine, Wine

A fortnightly look at the best of the new Vintages products

The Terroirist is continuing to try out new formats and ideas. If you have any suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear about them. Please send me an email (stdan@blogTO.com) with any ideas.

Pinot Noir is, with the possible exception of Nebbiolo, perhaps the most esoteric of grapes. If nurtured - in both the vineyard and cellar - properly, they can be the best of sublime and supple, with silky tannins, and earthy tones, along with bright fruit and food friendly acidity. If not properly taken care of - or if the climate just wasn't co-operating - they can be dreadful, or worse. The flipside to this is that if you're going to be drinking Pinot Noir, it is - more than any other grape - advisable not to scrimp and save. Generally a Pinot under $20 is chancy at best, and the really good ones regularly see the $50 price point from above.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to that rule, and The Crossings Pinto Noir 2004 (Marlborough, New Zealand, $24.95, 694471) is a value priced Pinot that really punches far above its weight. New Zealand is known for making world-class, Burgundian style wines, and this one is no exception. A pale ruby colour shines in the light, and the nose is full of raspberry, tar, spice, and earth. In the mouth, it is medium full with gentle tannins and crisp acidity, joyfully complementing the blueberry, raspberry, earth, tar, and smoke flavours on the tongue. Great now or in the next few years, and would match beautifully with veal or beef stew.

Those who read my column regularly know of my admiration for the wines of Jerez - sherries. With a range of styles, they can complement any food, and with such a low price, they can be enjoyed by any budget. However, for wines like these, Jerez isn't the only game in town. Nearby, and also in Andalucia, is the region of Montilla-Moriles, which makes sherry-styled wines, but with a difference. That difference really shows in the Fino en Rama 2002 (Montilla-Moriles, Spain, $13.95 (500mL), 687087) which is unusual even for a Montilla in that it's a vintage dated Fino. Made from the Pedro-Ximenez grape usually reserved for sweet wines, this bright yellow-gold wine offers up layer after layer of nuance. To the nose, it is richly full of almond, lemon, sea salt, caramel, and toffee. In the mouth, it is very dry, but weighty, with flavours similar to that of the nose, although even deeper and more complex. This is one of those wines that really blows you away and could make a sherry lover out of anybody. I'd enjoy it the next hot day, with some salted almonds and Spanish cheese.

One of the wonderful things about the world of wine is the amount of sharing (some would say copying) that goes on. But as ideas (and grapes) travel from one corner of the world to another, they change, they evolve, and the styles are never the same as they were when the left. Then those styles travel again, and the evolution continues. This release shows two stunning examples of taking Rhone Valley ideas and transplanting them to the New World. Tthe Zaca Mesa 'Z Cuvee 2003 (Santa Ynez Valley, California, $25.95, 687483), a Chateaneuf-du-Pape style red from California, and D'Arenberg 'The Money Spider' 2004 (McLaren Vale, South Australia, $19.95, 656710), a Northern Rhone style white from Australia. The former is a big, ruby coloured wine, with lots of earth, pepper, spice, eggplants, cherry, and a touch of beet on the nose, with a full, rich, boozy mouthfeel and abundant cherry, raspberry spice and pepper on the palate. The later, bright yellow in colour, is much more elegant, with aromas of apricot, rosemary, pepper and spice, alongside a full palate of apples, tea, spice, herbs, and peach.

Both are distinctive of their origins, but also of their history. I'd love to have the red with nice rare tuna, and the white with some lobster.

Know your tastebuds, but also know when to experiment. Always enjoy your wine!

The Terroirist is published every other Thursday


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