Not the usual approach
Valentine’s Day is near and so I should be taking the usual path and writing about twelve sparkling rosé wines – as we have them.
Last year we featured a dozen rosé still wines and of course there is always the French Saint Amour; we’ll try something different this time.
Last week, as my wife prepared a sauerkraut and pork ribs meal, she asked if we had any German wines to accompany it. Fortunately, I could answer, “There are two bottles of 2017 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese in the wine fridge.”
This steep and rocky vineyard – pronounced vay-len-er zon-en-ooer – yields some of the most elegant and sophisticated white wines in the world.
The Wine Enthusiast rated it a very fine 94/100 and showed the amazing ability to age that the riesling grape has, by saying, “The nose is demure here, suggesting more mineral and earth than obvious fruit. But the palate surprises with heaving layers of juicy white-grapefruit, peach and apple flavours. It's delightfully zesty and spry, balancing sweet against tart and lingering on a cool steely tang. Enjoy now until 2035.”
The point that I wish to make here is that if the love of your life does not like “dry wines” they tend to sip sweet, inexpensive and unassuming ones. Here is a quick lesson on this subject.
Fully ripe grapes are about 25 per cent sugar. Our taste buds start to perceive sweetness once a wine contains over one half of one percent sugar. Most wines let the fermentation process continue until virtually all the sugar has been converted to alcohol and, to put it simply, this alcohol equals about half the original sugar in the grape. In other words, 25 per cent sugar gives us 12.5 per cent alcohol, which is an average for most table wines. The clue here is that this spatlese (which means late-picked) is only 7 ½ per cent alcohol and quite a bit of the original sugar has not fermented out. The wine is not “dry”, but it exhibits glorious complexity. $39 (Stock #8595).
If you are the designated driver, then we have 2020 Dr. Loosen Dr. Lo Riesling for you. This wine has had the alcohol removed, but it still gives you fresh pineapple notes that immediately hit the nose alongside overtones of mango and ripe, juicy citrus. The palate brims with the same tropical fruitiness and displays an unusual, almost weightless lightness. Wonderfully sharp freshness counters the sweet and exuberant pineapple and mango fruit and makes this rather refreshing. The finish is sweet but also zesty and balanced and there is actual fruity length. The price of $15.75 reflects the fact that there is no need to pay our government tax on alcohol. (Stock #8578)
Let me try to convey how I feel about the use of French or American oak. The French is so classy with its subtle honey, nuts and vanilla, but the American coconut, tobacco, nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa seem to be enveloped, for me anyway, in a warm, soft and pure deliciousness. I sense that it conveys a feeling of “I want to be your friend”.
If you check barrel prices you will see that American oak is half the price of the French. This has nothing to do with quality. If you mill two trees of the same size, you will get twice as many barrels from the American tree, and this is all due to the way the grains allow the wood to be split and formed into staves.
The Spanish like to use American oak often, as do the Australians. Here are a couple of examples that hopefully will show you what I mean. The 2017 Marqués de Riscal XR Reserva is a Spanish red that is essentially made from tempranillo grapes, but 5 per cent graciano is also included. The letters XR mean "extra reserva".
In the past, every time the cellar master found that a particular barrel had a distinctive quality, he would write the letters XR on the head of it. Although the XR wines were never released onto the market, they set the quality standard for the vintage.
Starting in 1869, the practice of identifying the XR barrels went on for almost a century. Traditionally vinified, this Spanish red wine was macerated for 12 days and fermented under controlled temperature. Maceration is the time when the grape juice sits on the skins and extracts colour, tannins and flavour. After that, it was transferred into American oak barrels and aged for a period of 24 months. If you are in the mood for a “friendly and warm” wine with the quality of a very fine bordeaux, then this can be yours to share for $38 (Stock #9356).
Now it’s down to Maclaren Vale in Australia to try the 2019 Mollydooker The Scooter Merlot that is named after previous owner “Sparky” who used to race such vehicles. The wine is barrel fermented and matured in 93 per cent American and 7 per cent French oak, using 33 per cent new, 44 per cent one-year-old and 23 per cent two-year-old barrels.
Fragrant and silky smooth, the 2019 Scooter charms the senses with a nose full of cherries and forest fruits. Fresh plum and sweet berries delight on your first sip, before giving way to spices reminiscent of nutmeg and cinnamon. Finely poised and balanced, the 2019 Scooter’s delicate tannins allow complexity, making this merlot an absolute treat. The residual sugar left over from fermentation is, we’re told by the winery, 0.5 gram per litre. As explained earlier, this is the magic point where our taste buds start to ask, “Can we detect sweetness?” $37.90 (Stock #6093).
If you just want to go with the flow and enhance your valentine experience with a still rosé, or one with bubbles, you will not find a wider, or better, selection than we have in the Burrows Lightbourn shops, but the wines mentioned today are easy to love and to share.
This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd written by Michael Robinson. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits are available online at www.wineonline.bm
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