In this week's Premium Edition:|
An intriguing Australian
A respected Australian wine maker comes to town, bearing just about all his wines except the top-end "cult" bottling. As it turns out, the less-familiar labels, although still pricey, look a lot more attractive to the value hunter than the selection that empties your wallet. I'll reveal more in tomorrow's Wine Advisor Premium Edition. Our subscription-only premium E-letter makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're considering a more pricey bottle for a special occasion. A $24 annual subscription brings you 26 biweekly E-mail editions, and your contribution helps support WineLoversPage.com.
Take a peek at a new sample copy, the Oct. 26 edition that featured my report on a potpourri of nearly four dozen recently released high-end goodies:
WT101 - What's for Dessert?
Even after we begin to comprehend the vast and various world of dry table wines, many wine enthusiasts still find the realm of dessert wine a bit mysterious. From Sauternes to sweet Sherry, Banyuls to Beerenauslese, ice wine to late-harvest to Port, these rich, sweet and luscious wines are easy to like, but so diverse in their geography, production and even flavor profiles that it can be a challenge to get an intellectual grip on them.
We've touched on this topic from various angles in Wine Tasting 101, featuring an Australian "Port" in February 2002, Sweet Muscat in January 2003, and a festive combination of Champagne and non-vintage Port for last year's holiday season.
As blustery autumn settles in to the Northern Hemisphere and the winter holiday season approaches, let's take another look at this mouth-watering category between now and the end of the year. Although I've selected a trio of "benchmark" wines (more about them below) for those who wish to calibrate their impressions against those of peers by comparing notes on the same wines, we're open to discussion of any dessert wine, and will be happy to have your tasting notes, comments or questions about any style of dessert wine from any grape or region.
Because the festive season is as much about eating as it is about drinking, we plan to devote extra attention to the tasty topic of matching dessert wines with food.
I usually adhere to the conventional wisdom that sweet wines are best served as dessert, rather than with dessert, because a too-sweet food match may bring up the acidity in sweet wines and throw them out of balance. But there's plenty of evidence to support the other side in this debate, ranging from the berry explosion that occurs when Banyuls, the French red Grenache-based dessert wine, meets dark chocolate, to the more subtle joys of Sauternes with crème brûlée, Tokaji with a bourbon-laced bread pudding, or ... well, you get the idea. Cheeses, nuts and dried fruit all offer standard food-matching pairs with dessert wines. We'll spend time exploring these pairings, and invite your questions and your input, between now and year's end.
So, here are the three "benchmark" wines. Regular WT101 participants will recognize the Noval "LB" Porto a "vintage-character" Port, as one of the wines featured last winter. I thought it was good enough to bring it back again, this time in comparison with Graham's "Six Grapes," a non-vintage Ruby Port. The third wine takes us in another classic direction. Chambers Rutherglen Muscat is a historic Australian "stickie" made from the aromatic Muscat grape in Rutherglen, a small, memorable wine region in Victoria, northeast of Melbourne, where Muscat-based dessert wines have been made in this style for 150 years.
Quinta do Noval "LB" Porto ($16.99)
Graham's "Six Grapes" Porto ($22.39)
Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Rutherglen Muscat ($16.99)
For today's tasting, I opened the Graham's "Six Grapes," a selection that's a bit on the pricey side for Ruby Port, but that stands out in its niche for a robust character that's not totally at variance with the style of Vintage Port, need not be decanted and can be drunk young.
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Graham's "Six Grapes" Porto ($22.39)
This non-vintage Ruby Port is made in the style sometimes called "Vintage Character" because its full and tannic structure emulates that of the more pricey, ageworthy vintage wine. Very dark purple in color, almost black, its aroma focuses on black fruit, plums and prunes. Sweet fruit, tart acidity, alcoholic warmth (this fortified wine contains 19.5% alcohol) and smooth but substantial tannins come together on the palate in a dessert wine that's bold but not as fierce or unapproachable as a youthful Vintage Port; there's not a lot of complexity here, but good balance and assertive Port character make it a pleasant, warming glass on a mild autumn evening. Made from six Port-grape varieties, hence the name: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela and Tintao Cão. U.S. importer: Premium Port Wines Inc., San Francisco. (Oct. 31, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Testing Port's affinity with cheeses, I served it with both a cave-aged Swiss Emmentaler and a Vernières Roquefort. It worked well with both, bringing up the creaminess and an attractive appley-nutty quality in the Swiss and an almost "meaty" salty character in the blue-veined French cheese.
VALUE: The $20-plus price I paid locally is at the high end of the range available from Internet retailers, which run from about $14 to $23 at U.S. shops and around £15 (less by the case of 12) at UK shops like Berry Bros. & Rudd.
WHEN TO DRINK: Unlike Vintage Port, Ruby Ports do not require aging and are not considered candidates for long-term cellaring. Even so, the big tannins and structure here make me believe that a few years in the wine rack or cellar will do this item no harm.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
California Wine Club:
No billing and no shipping until December 1, 2004!
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and The California Wine Club has something to make your gift giving easier! Place your holiday gifts now and receive no billing and no shipping until Dec. 1, 2004.
The California Wine Club has gift packages to suit all tastes and all budgets. Each month includes two bottles of award-winning wine, hand-selected from California's best boutique wineries. Just $32.95 per month plus shipping. Each shipment also includes our beautiful, 12-page, full color magazine, Uncorked. Send as many months as you wish. Special discounts on gifts of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.
Readers applaud our new RSS News Feed
I'm delighted to have had so much positive response to the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) "news feed" for WineLoversPage.com content that I told you about last week. Here's just a sample of some responses (names omitted to protect readers' privacy):
"Just installed RSS and it's very cool. Thanks for turning me on to it."
"Just like reading a newspaper. Great!"
"Looks good, and allows me to do more exploring without having to open my email."
RSS is a new kind of Internet information delivery system, a mini-program that works somewhat like a Web browser and somewhat like incoming E-mail. We're using it to distribute a variety of content, including The 30 Second Wine Advisor and FoodLetter, my wine-tasting reports, articles by contributors, hot topics in our online forums, favorite wine-related Web links and more. More and more news-media sites are now using RSS feeds to keep you informed of breaking news and articles online.
As I said last week, whether you already know all about RSS or if it's still a mystery to you, you can learn about it and set up our WineLoversPage.com "feed" here:
If you do try it - and I hope you will - please send me a note at email@example.com and let me know what you think!
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Randy's World of Wine: Blessed are the Cheesemakers
Dave McIntyre's WineLine: The Alchemy of Riesling
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Kabinett question
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Readers talk back ... Ageworthy whites (Oct. 29, 2004)
Can white wine age? (Oct. 27, 2004)
Cotes of many colors (Oct. 25, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Duck breast scaloppine (Oct. 28, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Nov. 1, 2004