WINE OF THE MONTH
Tenuta Sassoregale Sangiovese 2014
The wine: Intensely flavored, dry, medium-bodied red table wine
The grapes: 100 percent sangiovese
The source: Maremma area of southern Tuscany
The verdict: It is not by accident that Italy is one of the world’s great wine-producing areas. This red beauty is full of the traditional flavors and bouquet that have made Tuscan wines truly wonderful. Decades ago, many Tuscan reds were highly acidic and harsh. Those days are gone. Fruity flavors dance around in the mouth with this one. Sangiovese is the primary red grape of Tuscany and goes into wines as disparate as inexpensive chiantis and super Tuscans. The grapes in this wine must have been very special, because it is a terrific red. Think of matching this with traditional red-sauced dishes, or lighter fare, such as veal and chicken.
The price: About $20.
Wine is like any other attraction in this world, it is subject to change. And, as the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
That’s how it is with one of the big new trends in wines — red blends.
What is a red blend, you ask? It is a red wine made with a blend of a number of red wine grapes, not just one.
You have gotten used to buying merlot, for example, or cabernet sauvignon. Many of the new reds on the market do not tell you on the front label what grapes actually went into making the wines. Some don’t even reveal that information on the back label, either.
The market has been flooded with red blends during the past two or three years, with mixed results. Some are simply the result of whatever grapes the vintners have on hand they cannot otherwise sell. Others represent a careful selection by wine makers crafting a mix of red wine grapes that work well with others.
This ain’t new, folks. Winemakers have been doing this for centuries. In Bordeaux, for example, makers of the great red wines from this near-sacred red wine province have poured together juice from such red wine grapes as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot along with a titch of carmenere to produce some of the world’s great wines.
Why did they do that and why do they continue to do that? To ensure quality.
In Bordeaux, the weather can vary substantially from year to year. That can impact the flavors and textures of the various grapes. Blend a little malbec with the cabernet sauvignon; or some merlot with the cabernet franc, and you wind up with harmonious flavors that are pleasant to the palate.
So everything old is new again. I’ve run across a group of special red blends in the past few months. All are sold in Georgia, but some may be harder to find than others.
Let’s hit the big boy first, and this is a big boy.
It’s a populist (kinda) wine from Andy Erickson, a winemaker known for cranking out superior “cult wines.” That’s a code phrase for “very costly.” He’s well-respected for his Favia line of wines, and for some he’s produced for Dalla Valle and Arietta.
This wine is almost fully mature, but I think it will be splendid for another 5-6 years easy. It’s a hefty blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah from vineyards in and around Napa Valley. It’s wonderful in the mouth, redolent of dark fruit and bittersweet chocolate with an undertone of coffee.
I enjoyed this one with a perfectly grilled New York strip steak (I grilled it, of course) and the match was made in heaven. This is one you’ll have to hunt for, but it is out there. About $50.
Dark Horse Big Red Blend NV
This is a relatively new label from E&J Gallo. I’ve had mixed feelings about some of the Dark Horse wines, but not this one. This one is flat out tasty. It is non-vintage, so we don’t quite know how old the wine is. But since this is a new release, all should be well for a year or two.
The fruit mix just dances on your tongue. It’s a blend of malbec, petit verdot, syrah, tempranillo and merlot. Talk about globalization, fruit for the Dark Horse comes from California, Argentina, Spain and Chile. This, my friends, is the perfect burger or pizza wine. And the price reflects that. About $11.
Beringer The Waymaker Red 2014
Beringer is one of Napa Valley’s legacy wineries, dating all the way back to 1876. It has had its ups and downs and today produces some very good, high-quality juice. And that pretty much describes The Waymaker.
I need a lot of space to list the grape types in it: syrah, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, malbec, mourvedre, petit verdot and tannat. May sound strange, but I get a hint of blueberries, as well as chocolate-covered cherries.
I really think this one will be better in a year, but nobody keeps wine for a year anymore. Grab a bottle, let it rest for a few days and open it up for a hearty beef stew or goulash since it is a great cold-weather offering. About $30.
Apothic Red 2014
I truly love this blend. It’s juicy, with just the right touch of acid to make your mouth water. It is kissed by different types of oak, so there is a hint of vanilla in the nose.
Grape types are zinfandel, syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, sourced from selected vineyards in California.
“Apothic” comes from Apotheca, which is where, according to the story, 13th century winemakers stored their most special products. This one is special, with a heft to it that surprises somewhat. Tasting this wine blind would lead me to believe it was something more sophisticated and more expensive. About $15.
Here are a few things to remember about these selections:
- I recommend using an aerator with all.
- Also, chill these wines for 15-20 minutes in the fridge before serving.
- Most importantly, these offerings are meant to be served with food.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.