It is time for another edition of “Random Samples”–I occasionally get samples from marketing agencies and/or producers, and these can often be grouped together into some sort of over-arching theme: Drink Them and It Will Come, Summer is Here, So That Means (More) Rosé, If It Doesn’t Sparkle, It Doesn’t Matter.
Other times, I get just a bottle or two that do not have any apparent connection or link. Instead of holding on to those bottles until the “right” combination comes along, I decided to link all these “random” bottles together, making their own category (and, being the math geek that I am, “random sample” has a bit of a double entendre….
2014 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Chile: Retail $22. From the biggest producer in South America (and one of the largest in the world), dark fruit abounds on the nose, with tons of blackberry and black currants. On the palate, some smokiness and secondary flavors of black and green pepper, mocha, tobacco, and pencil shavings. Not much to speak of on the tannin front, which indicates this is for near-term consumption. Throw some beef, or better yet, lamb, on the barbecue and go to town. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2014 Tenuta di Fessina Erse Etna Bianco DOC: Retail $18. 80% Carricante, 20% Catarratto and Minnella. Pale yellow with some green on the edges, it oozes citrus from just about every pore. On the palate, this is one of the tartest wines I have had in a while: mouth-bracing, enamel challenging acidity on this one–hence the need for food. We paired this with a creamy shrimp pasta and it was a fine match. That tartness mellowed out quickly and melded with the pasta very well. On its own, this takes a bit of understanding, but with food, this serves a nice accent to the meal. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2014 Heinrich Zweigelt Burgenland: Retail $20. I am honestly not sure how I feel about Zweigelt. On one hand it comes from a country (Austria) I love, it is one of those relatively “trendy” varieties espoused by the hipster sommelier crown, and it is incredibly fun to say (go ahead, try it!). On the other hand, it often tastes like ass. To be more precise, it often taste likes diluted, thin ass. At least to me. Is that too harsh? Probably, but Austria has so much going for it, why make so-so (or worse) wines just because they are hip and fun to say? Well, that is clearly not the issue here. Although it did take a bit to open up, once it did, it was nothing short of delightful. Dark and stormy in the glass with a bunch of blackberry, cassis, and the ever so slight funk (yes, “funk” is positive, while “ass” is decidedly not). Really fruity on the palate with flashes of dark chocolate and pepper, followed by plenty of mouth puckering acidity. This has served to re-center my opinion of Austrian Zweigelt—at least until I open the next one. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin: Retail $30. 100% Chardonnay. I have a tough relationship with Burgundy. The wine (and region) of Burgundy was my gateway into wine appreciation, and I think there is no finer wines than the great white Burgundies. The problem? White wines from the southern part of the region tend to oxidize prematurely—before they reach that state of nirvana. It does not seem, however, that the wonderful wines from Chablis (in Northern Burgundy) suffer the same fate. Thank goodness. Flinty with a bit of citrus on the nose, and that continues onto the palate, with considerable body. I am usually loathe to consume white Burgundy this young, but this is so tasty right now: light and lithe with plenty of verve. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore DOC: Retail $15. 80% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, 10% Sangiovese. Right after visiting Tuscany, my wife and I drove up to the Veneto (actually I drove and she slept), where we tasted many a Valpolicella. When this showed up on the doorstep, it immediately took me back to the beautiful region in Northern Italy. The nose is certainly reminiscent of Amarone, and giving that the blend is dominated by Corvina, that makes sense. Rich and full, this is an opulently juicy wine with hints of forest floor and just a smidgen of funk. This work incredibly well with our grilled steaks, so much so that my wife was fighting to get a couple more bites of my beef to finish off her wine. I was perfectly content with the wine after finishing off the cow, too. This hits on many angles (including price). Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.