Saturday, January 31, 2009

Airén: A Vin from La Mancha

2007 Bodegas Sierra Virgen AirenAirén is grown in huge quantities in La Mancha. In fact, by hectare count it's Spain's — and possibly the world's — most heavily planted grape, and yet we see little of it in the States. Perhaps that's because much of it is turned into brandy, and perhaps that's because it reputedly makes for a dull wine, as you might suspect from a white grape grown in a torridly hot region.

And yet, the 2007 Bodegas Sierra Virgen Airén is a dry, $10 airén that shows some decent character. All hail temperature control: the wine's freshness is immediately apparent, and this does have good acids to compliment its medium body. The aromas feature honeysuckle and honeydew, while its mouthfeel is simultaneously round, clean, and refreshing, with mouthsmacking acidity. It's on the finish where this airén distinguishes itself, thanks to the hint of fresh herbs, especially tarragon and sage, that linger.

Interestingly, the airén grape is also known as manchega — and that's also the name for the sheep from whose milk Manchego is made. I didn't try this wine with Manchego, but I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a good pairing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The 2004 Caparone Aglianico is Terrific

Calling Dr. Debs and her fans! For $14 to $18 the 2004 Caparone Aglianico from Paso Robles is a hell of a wine, muscular and pretty like a gymnast. The aromas are exciting and intense: leather and violets for days, a beautiful Northern Rhône-like perfume. The wine shows excellent balance on the palate, with muscular and masculine tannins, robust and true acidity, good minerality, and exactly ripe black fruit — some fleshy plum, some sweet berry. There's even some cool mint here, which makes me suspect that cabernet sauvignon plays a bit part. Overall, this Caparone Aglianico shows complete presence from the front of the palate to the back. And it went well with the lamb kefta I brought home from Sultan's.

Did I mention that this clocks in at a mere 13.2%? Yep, even in Paso Robles a winemaker can produce powerful, complete wines at relatively low alcohol levels, if s/he is intelligent, wise, and blessed with good terroir and harvest conditions.

Now, this wine ain't profound. It ain't even complex. It also lost just a bit of steam by night two, so I'm not sure that you should keep this around longer than 3 to 5 years. But this wine does have a lot of unconfected character, and for that I have a smile on my face.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


My recent silence ends tonight. Back to blogging.

On a night like tonight, though, it's hard to put my feelings into words. And while I can try to find a wine for the occasion, there's no way that a wine can be as profound as Capital-H History. But I can try, right? So out comes the 2002 Mandois Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru Champagne.

This is a reserved, low-dosage vintage Champagne that at six years old is marvelously young, precise, and pure. The nose shows hazelnut, granny smith apple, and wet gravel, yet it's on the palate where the wine really shines, with a mousse that simultaneously subtle and vigorous and a finish that just goes and goes. Hints of toast and fabulous, mouthwatering acidity. Its minerally, laser-like focus unfolds in wave after wave of pure rock and delicate fruit, and in my mind compliments our new president, who is always the man we've seen him him to be, and yet who continually reveals himself to be that same person.

The wine ultimately leaves me speechless, as does this day. So I'll just say, "Here's to our future."