Enough About Politics! Back To The Wine!

The Elegant Bastard acknowledges that many who read these posts are beneath the legal drinking age in their various jurisdictions. However, we force young people to pick their careers before they can have them, learn about cars before they can drive them and draw plans of bridges before they can build them. Why not introduce them to wines before they can drink them? In fact, when better?

I received an amusing letter yesterday. It commented favourably about a recent post concerning Toronto’s mayor but then concluded by saying to me, “Ok, we get it. You don’t like Rob Ford. Now let’s get back to the wine talk.” In other words, enough with the gripes. Get back to the grapes.

I agree! It’s time. For now there are no more mayors. With our corkscrews in one hand and our Riedels in the other, let us all go forth and together be wise. Here is the first of a series of reviews about white wines currently available in Ontario. (They are also likely accessible in other regions.)

Rabl Kittmansberg Gruner Veltliner (Austria) 2011, $14.95: When I first sniff a glass of wine, I do so with all the delicacy and finesse of a dog greeting a new best friend. My nose is not near the glass; it is in the glass. My inhalation is not subtle. It’s deep. I am a man looking for metaphors; let no one interfere.

As per usual, the first sniff of this wine suggests fruit. Is it apple-y? A tad. Pearish? A bit. Then the truth arrives. It’s peachy – the restrained suggestion of an under ripe peach that danced quite closely with an overripe melon while holding a flower in its teeth. (Yes, I know peaches don’t have teeth. If you’re going to be like that, go away.) The aroma is not at all cloying but I still worry. This much fruit on the nose might be a warning that the wine is sweet, and I generally do not like sweet.

Then another scent begins to manifest in the glass and now I get eagerly and noisily nosey. The epiphany strikes on the third inhalation. It is suddenly a bracing spring morning on the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and I am there, breathing in the familiar odour of old wet stone.

The first tastes confirm my hopes. The fruit is mellow and almost rich but there is no hint of syrup.  The wine is dry but not at all puckery. There is no hint of the unpleasant astringency that turns so many away from white wines. Instead the combination of fruit and minerality gives the wine a balance rarely obtained at this price point. There’s even a hint of pepper contributing a pleasantly subdued “burn”. The taste lingers and seems to cleanse the tongue with each sip.

As many wines must, this one had to do duty a second night. One day later, it was still intriguing, not bad given that so many wines go flat within a couple of hours of being opened. Day one it paired with basil and lemon braised chicken; on day two its tangy undertones went well with a sage and tarragon flavoured smoked turkey and split pea soup.

When friends and I encounter a new wine, we will often assign it a “personality”. We decided that if this wine were a person, it would be a pleasantly witty and slightly acerbic dining companion (or an advisor of some sort) who arrives dressed in a sophisticated version of business casual. The talk would be all about interesting events and unusual people, with perhaps some wry political commentary tossed in to keep the mood light.  Were any business to be done, it would of course be dealt with successfully. (Professionalism always shows!) The two of you would then stroll together through the light rain to the nearest subway station where you would part, already looking forward to the next encounter.

Cheers!

(This wine is currently available in some Toronto LCBO locations. Its product number is 346007. Rabl is the producer. Gruner Veltliner is the grape and this was my first – but hopefully not my last! – encounter with this varietal.)

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As always, I love your comments. There are also two earlier wine pieces.  “All’s Fair in Love and Wine” is at  http://wp.me/p3cq8l-3M and “Of Red Wines and Dancing Partners” can be found at  http://wp.me/p3cq8l-23

All’s Fair in Love and Wine

In which the Elegant Bastard learns to say “Yessss” Again

Yes, I eavesdrop.

It’s not an admirable habit, I know. In effect, I am stealing other people’s words.  In my defence, I don’t do it everywhere and I don’t do it all the time. I mean, think about it. How much of what you hear daily on the street is really worth the effort?

But I always do it in wine stores when something unusual is happening.

“Unusual” includes any moment when an anonymous unshaven baseball-capped guy wearing a “Militant Meat Eater” t-shirt asks the sales clerk for a case – yes, a case – of something called Ringbolt. The two of them immediately set off, the attendant ambling and t-shirt guy moving as if he were approaching Nirvana. I follow discretely.

A few seconds later I am watching 12 fairly non-descript bottles of the cutely spelled ring . bolt (in elegant lower case letters) being reverently loaded into a cart. T-shirt guy seems almost furtive, as if expecting interference, and hating to see him disappointed, I interrupt with a casual, “So? Is it that good?”

He looks at me as if I’ve questioned the greatness of God.

“Yes!” he moans, and the “yes” extends in sibilant excess, like something whispered in the aftermath of orgasm.

After he leaves, I buy two. I haven’t said “yes” like that in far too long.

When I get them home and observe more closely, I discover I’ve purchased a 2009 Australian cabernet sauvignon so I smile. The red cabernet sauvignon grape is generally my favorite. What they do with it in California is enough for me to forgive the U.S. for both Walmart and American Idol (though not for Donald Trump or Paris Hilton).

This wine, however, comes from Margaret River, a wine region in Western Australia and a little research reveals that many critics consider it to be Western Australia’s premiere region, famous (fortunately) for its elegant cabsavs, a bit of good news that makes up for the corny “Hold Them Fast Work Them Hard” motto circling the bottle’s neck.  The 2009 vintage is apparently highly regarded, as is the great glistening hunk of leg of lamb I scored at “The Meat Department”, my little heaven on Toronto’s Danforth.  The dinner menu is instantly decided.

About an hour before the meal, I open the wine and sniff. “First sniff” is both a favorite and a nervous ritual moment for me. Taking in a pleasant aroma from an under $20.00 bottle is a chancy bet at best and I’ve had a few “first sniffs” that made smelling anything afterwards difficult. But I remain heroic and so goes forth my nose.

The aroma is very pleasant: soft, supple and not at all astringent. I get hints of blackcurrant, butterscotch and smoke. A few minutes later, I sniff again and now there are whiffs of red cherry and vanilla cream. My nose declares itself to be in love and it leads me back for periodic fixes while the lamb roasts.

When we finally taste the wine, it does not disappoint. It doesn’t have the overwhelming “mouthfeel” that big California cabsavs sometimes do, but it’s definitely robust and really quite elegant. The tannins are soft.  There’s a rich red fruit tang on the tongue along with a hint of strawberry and even a taste of what I can only call red licorice. Later in the meal, hints of chocolate and of almond join the mix. The menu includes a goat cheese and avocado appetizer; the wine responds to that in friendly fashion.  What it then goes on to do with the lamb is best described in words that children should not read.

In short, it’s an easy wine to drink and an even easier wine to talk about. Again, I’ve had bigger and better cabs but few were priced at $19.95.

Will I buy more?

Yesssssss

(In Ontario, Ringbolt is easily available: VINTAGES 606624)