When the book closed on the Gregorian calendar year for 2012, I made the most basic of wine resolutions for 2013. Drink better wine. That I did. A year on, with thousands more wines tasted and contemplated under my belt, an unconquerable will to seek acts of volition compels me to declare this. Let 2014 be the year to drink honest wine.
If wine were considered as a Roman anagram, the Latin quid est veritas, translated as “what is truth,” should prompt the response, “why, this honest wine.” Try this instead, Est vir qui adest, in other words, “it is this man here.” The winemaker, the vintner, the cooperative, the winery working for the man. It matters not who you are. To be successful in 2014 you must make honest wine.
What is honest wine? Above all else it is made by the grower who sleeps with the grapes. Not literally and not with the fishes, but greatness comes from the farmer who spend more hours walking the rows then the halls of the home. Soul love. By extension or shoulder to shoulder the high-minded winemaker knows “all I have is my love of love and love is not loving.”
Honest wine is juice that conveys the salient facts of a grape’s life. Aromas and flavours emotive of the stages of the fruit’s history, its components; seed, pulp, skin and stem. The greatest wines, judged to make use of the entire fruit for best results, consider the parts as members of the whole.
For a bottle of wine to be on the up and up it must not be disguised by the unnatural ways of artificial intervention nor should it make itself so available as to be obvious. Fruit should reside in the realm of the sequestered and the sacred. The emotional response to sipping on fermented grapes can only be true if the juice offers no precise parameters. A fear of knowing and not knowing is key. Forbidden aromas and flavours are emotive because they are forbidden and they are forbidden because they are emotive.
Real wine elicits all of this and more. I am not alone in hoping for table wines to be stirring, gripping, unsweetened and unencumbered by an excessive coat of oak. My hard-earned dollars should earn the right to be stimulated and provoked to think in ways verging on stream of consciousness.
So welcome to 2014. The year of drinking honest wine. The more you seek it out, the more it will be made. Here are 10 current releases to get you going in the right direction.
Aromatically drippy, reductive and heavy-handed in its oak soak but the concentration is really well-judged. Remains loyal and close to its Escarpment origins and walks the ridge point on a plane. Spice cupboard of scents dominate the basic, easy-going fruit. Proper and realistic use of its Bordeaux-derived, Cartesian coordinates. Worth a stroll through its Euclidean space. 87 Tasted December 2013 @DiamondEstates
Here comes another sure thing, best buy Portuguese red, this time from the rising star that is the Dão. Paradigmatic local combination of Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheiro. Modern but tight, brooding and juicy, approachable yet nearly, severely tannic. A Dão pulled in two directions by monster trucks, holding ground in bonded, erudite fashion, firmly in the middle. All thanks to a terrific combination of dark fruit and gritty, chunky grain. To this Dão I say, “I hope you appreciate the magnitude of your impending good fortune.” 88 Tasted December 2013 @NokhrinWines
“I’m just going to say three words to you baby.” Statu-tory buy. Can’t recommend it enough. What we have here is a really fine vintage for a Creek Shores appellation’s unique bottling. Merlot of shining bifid complexity, despite being a product of deep clay it’s dusty but not kicking up dust. There is palpable fruit but fruit does not lead the way. More so licorice and a lush crush of vinous allotropy. Solid wall of tannin will stand for 5-7 years and then crumble effortlessly, willingly, submissively. Add another notch on the Creek Shores chart for Merlot alongside fellow obvious variety, Cabernet Franc. 89 Tasted December 2013 @13thStreetWines
In light of its entry-level Bourgogne nature, this boasts a notable if unconventional, charming, candied nose. Pronounced dried cherries and currants are emphatic, categorically atypical of this Pinot Noir. More like Oregon, or even Prince Edward County, in pomegranate and earth. That said, this RDB is not overtly or overly earthy. Sharp yet piercing though only just beneath the surface. A late injection of astringency is expected and keeps this Pinot grounded. Really quite exceptional at $18 by (Canadian) winemaker Matt Chittick. Could this be an indicator of brilliance to come for the ’11s? Looks to be. 89 Tasted December 2013 @RochedeBellene
A friable feeling from this Chateau Ste. Michelle proposal submits to ripe plum and sourish pomegranate falling effortlessly from their trees. Affable, convenient, well-made Giling Basah, not overly extracted or justified. Mulberry kicked-up Arabica, wet-hulled, reminding of Merlot, or at least as stiff support to a Cabernet blend. Gotta be. Warming, gentle tannins, like Oz, without the jam. 88 Tasted December 2013 @SteMichelle
A gritty, layered effort, carried forth by transcendental blues. Offers up the strange sensation of a P, B and J sandwich with kudos to (winemaker) Shiraz Mottiar for nut putting chocolate in the peanut butter. “Careful what you ask for, you don’t know ’til you try.” Roasted, semi-confected and counterintuitive in circulatory acidity and juicy madness. Might be Bordeaux blend-inspired but this leans Loire-ish because “back roads never carry you where you want ‘em to.” Speaks loud and clear with a practiced oration of place, in rocks, stones, clay and the aggregate of it all. 88 Tasted December 2013 @MalivoireWine @ShirazMottiar
A bodacious, Jethro, flaunting display is shown by this Sicilian blend of 40 per cent Nero D’Avola, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 Merlot. Fig cake, thick as a brick, drizzled over by good quality aged balsamic. Fruit from young-ish (12 year-old) vines coached by the barrel states flatly, “I may make you feel but I can’t make you think.” Splinters the tongue, coats the insides and raises the roof. Leaves the vines behind, soothes the beast by flute and focuses on what comes later, of course. “The elastic retreat rings the close of play as the last wave uncovers the newfangled way.” 88 Tasted December 2013 @SpeckBros
PIERRE AMADIEU LA GRANGELIÈRE VACQUEYRAS 2011, AC, Rhône, France (76398, $19.95, WineAlign)
Merde, if only a whiff, just a whiff, bumps into lush, red berry fruit and is then carried away with the mistral. Really fine cherry and tangy raspberry, bit by the subterranean soil mineral I must have in my Rhône. Oak spoken in Franco-Provençal, Occitan not as profound, intrusive or demanding. Delish Vaq, with a good middle palate and solid grasp on the dry finish, not long, but there in spirit. 90 Tasted December 2013
This 100% Tempranillo from the Real Sitio de la Ventosilla Estate has that something other. The no sé lo que of Ribera, a liqueur nose that won’t overwhelm the liquor of pressed, squeezed and juiced flowers. Compact in luxurious flavours, like Napa Cabernet Cassis or Kirsch in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For the price this is so much more interesting than the comparative mythologies of those other terroirs. Beware the wood shavings soaked to the bone. Adult red licorice. 92 Tasted December 2013 @Noble_Estates
Such a musical display in assemblage, this soundtrack of aptitude and wisdom, bringing together a selection of barrels that form an attitude to tell a Russian River Valley Pinot story. Though Chardonnay is Kistler’s claim to fame, this Pinot rises above so many others. It could be told “you’ll meet them all again on the long journey to the middle.” Nary a barrel intrusion, smokeless and without char, though there is a leathery component. Viscous but not jammy, sharp but not pointed, sweet but never cloying. Absolutely California with warm bands of black cherry, almost plum famous but all in balance. ”It’s all happening.” 93 Tasted December 2013 @TheVine_RobGroh
Good to go!