Sunday, February 22, 2009

MSWS Friday Night Tasting Review - 2/20/2009

It was Malbec night at Market Street Wine Shop's downtown location this past Friday, with a selection of 3 Argentine and 1 French producer's take on the noble, yet mournfully under-featured Beaurdeaux varietal. Typically blended with many of the other classic red French varietals like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the lesser-known but often remarkable Petit Verdot, Malbec has gained popularity in recent years due to the success of growers in South America's developing markets. The selections for this week's tasting also included 2 white wines and a rosé.

Read our review for some tasting room tips, our notes on some great wines, and a hint of what's coming up on the C-Ville Wine Blog.

We arrived to the weekly Friday night tasting shortly after 5:00 to find an already crowded shop, so we negotiated the throng to taste as quickly as possible and get the hell out before it got really crowded. The size and configuration of the Market Street Wine Shop is unfortunately barely accommodating to the crowds their weekly tasting attracts. Apparently, no one is bothered by the cramped space enough to stay away, because everyone keeps coming every Friday, and they all are always getting in my way. Don't they know who I am? I mean, HELLO?

All this completely legitimate and not at all narcissistic griping about crowds leads me to our first of many trademark Tasting Room Courtesy Tips (patent pending).

Tasting Room Courtesy Tip #1
When you are at a crowded wine tasting, default procedure is the "grab and go" protocol. If you can't figure out what that means, just follow these simple steps, dummy:

  1. Send one person from your group to the bar with everyone's glass
  2. Place glasses on the bar and stand aside, leaving room for other patrons
  3. Indicate politely to the servers which wine you would like to taste
  4. When your glasses are full, take them and step back to your group, leaving room for other groups to get their next taste
If you follow these simple rules, you will have a successful tasting experience and you will play a significant part in the successful experience of those around you. Also, you will avoid being deemed a douchebag by curmudgeonly narcissists like me. Please remember, by no means should you bring your whole group to the front, or crowd the bar, or stand there leaning casually on the bar chatting, or otherwise being oblivious to the fact that OTHER PEOPLE are trying to taste wine, too.

This public service announcement has been made possible by funding from the trillion-dollar government-bailout pork spending bill recently passed by our new communist Obama regime.

On to the wines!

Silene Cococciola Terre di Chiete 2007
A refreshing white from the Terre di Chiete neighborhood of the mostly mountainous Abruzzi region of Southern Italy, which you already know from its biggest hit, the red varietal Montepulciano. This one, made from the ancient grape Cococciola, is cool, crisp, light, fresh, and fruity, with a good acidity and a lot of citrus flavors. For $5 a bottle through March 2, this is the perfect wine to stock up on for the coming spring, or drink it all right now. Make no mistakes, this wine is not inexpensive because it lacks quality. Try pairing it with shellfish and salty seafood dishes, like bacalla or calamari with plenty of herbs and olive oil. Or anchovies if you're brave.

Alamos Torrontes 2007
This varietal in general, and this bottle specifically, is fast becoming one of my favorite South American white wines. The Torrontes from Alamos has a distinctly bright flavor, with loads of peaches, honey, and buttery tartness on the finish. An almost medium body gives this wine enough structure to compliment more firm flavors like salmon or even some tuna dishes. I especially like it with shrimp.

Maipe Rosé 2008
This barely off-dry rosé, made from the malbec varietal, is not as cloyingly sweet as your momma's magnum of Sutter Home white zinfandel or the box of wine perpetually on the top shelf of her fridge. A very balanced wine, it features a delightful melon and strawberry profile, with tannins of cashew, and a coriander finish. Easily paired with casual foods and cheerful company. Take it to a picnic or an Oscar party.

Alamos Malbec 2007
This is a perfectly adequate yet unfortunately not very remarkable Malbec, presumably geared toward mass-market consumption. If it exposes more novice drinkers to the varietal, that's fine. But I won't be drinking this bottle myself. Woefully flabby and toned-down, this is a good starter wine for folks not really into the bigger, bolder flavors of the more superior malbecs in this tasting.

Yellow + Blue Malbec 2007
Yellow + Blue makes green with this environmentally friendly producer of fine Argentine wines. Sold in a full 1 liter box with a screw cap, this malbec has a wonderfully earthy forwardness. A jammy finish and nose like a port gives this wine a lot of character, with a middle both smokey and full of fruit. Pair it with grilled pork or steak and some kind of spicy sauce.

Familia Mayol Malbec NV
This complex take on malbec has all the qualities afficianados have come to expect from the varietal. Strong acidity, an intensely hot nose, and tons of coffee and cocoa tannins mix it up with cherries and blackberries. The long velvety finish will really make a bite of filet mignon just melt in your mouth.

Domaine Labrande Cahors 2005
When the French winemakers of Cahor, the other region where malbec is grown, saw their Argentine cohorts making bank off their varietal, they realized they should start including the grape name on their labels. This wine is extremely well-balanced, with grapey aromas and a smooth finish. Blending in some tannat boosts the dry, dusty tannins, and a dash of merlot brings out some sweet red pepper and a touch of spice.

That's all for this week's tasting. Join us next time for reviews of some of Virginia's premiere local wineries; Rappahannock, Gadino, Barboursville, and Sweely Estate.

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