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 Tenuta di Arceno Il Fauno Di Arcanum Toscana IGT: Retail $36. 72% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot. A moderately priced “Super Tuscan” with plenty of fruit, spice, and anise on the nose. The palate is well-balanced with the ample fruit, earth, and tartness all in concert. A bit “dirty” on the finish (plenty of earth notes), but it is lengthy and appetizing. This is my first foray into this wine, and hopefully it will not be the last. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points
2015 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec La Consulta, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $24. 100% Malbec. As I was organizing my samples, trying to figure out what the heck I had, this wine stood out as one of the bottles that I have had the longest. But it is still doing fine, thank you very much. Dark in the glass with black fruit aromas (plum, blackberry, cassis), and more than a smidge of funk (but I love the funk). The palate is both fruity (more red fruit here) and reserved, if that is possible. Sure, it is fruity, but it stops far short of causing a concussion knocking you in the head with all that fruit. The finish is nice, and of moderate length, with some earth and tannin on the back-end. Certainly a solid effort by any definition. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Vino dei Fratelli Pinot Grigio, Collio DOC, Italy: Retail $13. As a rule, when I see “Pinot Grigio” I cringe a bit. Until relatively recently, many Italian regions were producing Pinot Grigio, and most of it was, well, insipid. The exceptions were those produced in the north, in Alto Adige, Friuli, or as the case here, Collio. Flowery with an abundance of tree fruit (mostly pear) on the nose leads to a wonderfully balanced wine with good fruit, bright acidity, and a juicy mouthfeel. This is by no means a world-beater, but it restores my faith that quality Pinot Grigio under $15 exist in Italy. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
NV Martini & Rossi Asti Sweet Collezione Speciale, Asti DOCG: Retail $25. 100% Moscato Bianco. Another in the Collezione Speciale collection from Martini & Rossi, where the long-time producers are looking to achieve the highest levels of quality, and here they have. Fruity and tropical, yet refined. The Muscato is really at its best here with intense floral notes (yellow rose and elderflower). The palate is sweet, but far, far, from unctuous with great fruit and very nice acidity. This might be the best Asti I’ve had. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
NV Martini & Rossi Prosecco Extra Dry Collezione Speciale: Retail $25. 100% Glera. This is not only a different bottle, it is a completely different wine from M&R, who have been producing sparkling wines for over a century. The grapes for this wine, as well as the yeasts, are different from those for the standard Prosecco, which retails at about half the price. A longer, cooler fermentation leads to more delicate and interesting flavors, buoyed by bright acidity and just a hint of sweetness. Refined and elegant, with tree fruit, minerality, and a lingering finish. Not your momma’s Martini & Rossi. Unless your momma is up to date and has her finger on the pulse of all the changes in Italian sparkling wines. And if that is your momma, well, I would love to meet her–in a purely platonic way, naturally. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2017 San Michele Appiano (St. Michael-Eppan) Lagrein, Alto Adige – Südtirol, Italy: Retail $18. I have only had a handful of Lagreins in my time, and the first few I had all had a similar profile: earthy, tart but restrained fruit, moderate to heavy tannins. This wine is not like any of the other Lagreins I have had: fruity, even really fruity (red and black berry fruit), a bit extracted, with moderate acidity and fairly light tannins. Lagrein in my experience has been a wine-geek’s type of wine, more introspective than boisterous. Well, this wine, at least for me, falls into more of the crowd pleaser genre. Very Good. 87-89 Points.