Saturday, October 29, 2011

Underpriced or underwhelming? A 21-year-old wine for $19

MFWC (okay, Marcus) is a sucker for affordable wines with bottle age on the theory that they're generally underpriced. Take, for example, the Lopez de Heredia rose, which generally ages in oak for several years, is released about a decade after the grapes are harvested and generally retails for under $25. The winemaker cares enough to defer the return on his investment for many years, and he's not making a massive profit. That's a good sign. The tradeoff is that the wine probably isn't wildly popular, or the winemaker would be charging a lot more for it. You can get modestly priced Riojas or wines from the southwest of France that are a decade old; go to Bordeaux, and it's a different story.

So MFWC couldn't resist a Mosel riesling from 1990, the Kestener Paulinsberg Spatlese from Gunther Steinmetz. Spatlese is made form grapes that are picked late in the season and so have more sugar, which leads to sweeter wines capable of long aging. Presumably Steinmetz cares about his wine, but in this case he just wanted to get something, anything, for it, because over the last few decades, or depending on whom you read several decades, German drinkers have turned away from wines they perceive as sweet, as explained in this blog post and response:

2B sales was looking for a bottle to go with salmon, and when I asked about the Steinmetz, the salesman suggested it would work with a salmon prepared with dill and lemon. I also picked up a bottle to take to my sister's this weekend, and my brother-in-law channeled the Germans with his response: too sweet, tastes like the apple juice he gives to his kids, no finish. I'm going to stick up for my wine, though. I found the nose consistently interesting if not overly complex, with some citrus, maybe a little lavendar, that riesling smell that eludes definition but is often labeled as petrol (a turn-off, another MFWC member reminded me), all of which shifted as I sniffed. I thought the acidity and the sugar were in balance and didn't find the wine too sweet, but that's the great divide about rieslings from the Mosel. A beverage that leaves one man lusting for a pairing of boudin blanc with mustard leaves another shuddering at the thought of filling sippy cups with apple juice.

Careful readers of the MFWC blog have seen this story of shifting fashions at least twice before, in the changing French attitude toward Beaujolais that Kermit Lynch lamented and in the decline of Maderia consumption in the U.S. after 1815. Tastes in wine change, sometimes quite rapidly, for a host of reasons that may be difficult to untangle.

Steinmetz may have misjudged his audience with the 1990 Spatlese, but whoever he is, he knows that if you give people a full liter of booze for $15, they will think they're getting 250ml for free and snap it up. Thus I bought two liters of Steinmetz's, one for the harried mommy (HM) and the other for steady quaffer of lighter whites (SQLW).

We probably won't be getting the coffee connoisseur any riesling given his horror of drinking white wine, but CC grooved on the Vid Sur, a Negramoll Tinto that he pronounced powerful but interesting, a response enthusiastic enough that I bought bottles for Big Green and a relatively new MFWC member who's been drafting on the Spanish explorations of CC, Mr. M. and others. CC let his palate rest this week, while Mr. M celebrated a new job with a 2009 Pares Balta Mas Petit, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Penedes, an hour west of Barcelona on the Catalan coast. It's an appropriate venue from which to choose a celebratory beverage, since Penedes is one of the primary sources of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine.

The Boss-man went back to the 2005 Raffault Les Picasses cabernet franc. As the weather gets colder, maybe he'll head back to the Cotes du Rhone, where he happily lingered for several months last winter.


No comments:

Post a Comment