Are You Sure This Was Pressed from Grapes?

The Back Story:

When I go shopping for wine, I usually have one of two goals; I either want to luck out with a bargain wine, or I’m actively searching for the next big thing. On this particular trip, I had bargains on the brain. This particular wine was purchased in a thirteen-bottle glut, meaning it sort of got lost in the shuffle. Honestly, I think the only reason I picked it up was I had been talking about Tempranillo on Twitter the day before.

The wine maker has no online presence, making the search for verifiable knowledge of this wine rather futile. Here’s what I can tell you about the 2008 Campos Reales La Mancha Tempranillo: it’s a 2008 vintage, it’s from Spain, and I’m not entirely sure it was pressed from grapes.

Campos Reales Tempranillo

Campos Reales Tempranillo label (from http://www.wine.com)

The Results:

The appearance of the wine was a deep ruby, almost entirely opaque, with an average viscosity. The swirl suggested a thin texture.

The nose of the wine was initially fruity, with an almost sickeningly sweet combination of black cherry and red delicious apple. After the first initial sniff, though, tobacco came forward and dominated my senses. I could hardly smell anything else once I detected that.

The mouth feel of the wine was nothing special. The texture was a little thin and had very little character.

The flavor of the wine was tobacco. What else? Tobacco, tobacco, TOBACCO. Drinking this wine was like smoking a pipe; it was sweet and smoky. There was a hint of blackberry flavor, and it was rather tannic, but nothing else came forward. The acidity also seemed to me to be a little low. The finish, as with the initial taste and the mid-palate, was tobacco.

For the Casual Drinker:

I would not call this an easy-drinking wine. The overwhelming tobacco taste is certainly an acquired one and not one that you would expect to dominate a wine. After a half a glass it started to sit rather heavily on my stomach, and I had to calm it down with a bitter ale. It’s cheap enough that, if you’re in the mood for something different, you could give it a shot, but I definitely would say it’s not for everyone.

The Conclusion:

As impressed as I was with the unique flavor and low price point, drinking it felt like a dessert wine. It was strong and sweet, good for a half a glass, but anything more than that just didn’t sit well. I’ve read several reviews online that only attributed a minor tobacco finish to the wine, giving it an otherwise red-fruit characterization, so you might not be attuned to the tobacco the same way I was. As I tasted it, though, I’d be hard-pressed to entirely recommend this wine. At just under $8 for a bottle, it’s merely an experiment worth attempting. 5/10

Setting the Bar High for (Bargain) Italian Rosé

2008 Vecchia Torre Leverano Rosato

The Back Story:

This is a sort of part two to my review yesterday, in which I extolled the absolute averageness of the Vecchia Torre Leverano Bianco blend. I finished that off with a teaser by stating that I had subsequently purchased several bottles of their Rosé after first trying it. From here on out, I shall attempt to explain why.

The 2008 Vecchia Torre Leverano Rosato, like its lighter brother, is a blend of two grapes from the Leverano region of Italy. Negroamaro comprises 80% of the wine while Malvasia Nera shores up the other 20%. While the Bianco was priced at 9 bucks, this guy had a nice big orange sale sticker on it that dropped the price to about $6. Very cool.

A side story: The day that I had bought more of this wine, I also went to an Italian wine tasting at Weaver Street Market. I tried another Italian Rosé there, and I mentioned to the guy that I had just dropped less than 40 bucks and gotten six bottles of a really easy-drinking Italian. When I told him it was Vecchia Torre, he absolutely lit up. Turns out he worked for the American distributor for Vecchia Torre, and that wine was one of his favorites. Affirmation is a beautiful thing.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine was a very rich, dark pink, approaching a healthy red color. There was a distinct peach tint to the wine, nothing that actively discolored it, but it was noticeable in the light. The swirl suggested a medium viscosity and a fairly solid texture.

The nose of the wine was probably the low point, which is like being the worst linebacker at USC (not so bad, is basically the point I’m meandering around). It was pungent but non-descript, slightly acrid, with notes of coffee, vanilla, plum, and lemon zest. Based on the nose alone, I would expect a simple, earthy, and watery wine.

The mouth feel of the wine was very smooth, not too syrupy given the viscosity, with a crisp bite. I wouldn’t quite say velvety, but it did coat the tongue very nicely.

The flavor of the wine was, to say the least, astonishingly good. It was surprisingly sweet with a refreshing tartness. The immediate flavors were overwhelmingly fruit-forward, consisting of a not-quite-ripe strawberry and some faint citrus like a grapefruit or a tart orange. While the mid-palate was relatively lacking, the finish was clean with a fantastic sour raspberry. As it warmed, it developed a second front flavor of raspberry, and the citrus flavors became even more prominent. What was remarkable was how forward and clear the flavors were. I tasted a bite of unripe strawberry and it was almost identical to the initial flavor.

I paired the wine with shrimp cocktail and garlic-baked naan drizzled with garlic- and black-pepper-infused olive oil. The sweetness of the wine matched the richness of the naan perfectly, and the fruit flavors countered the pungent garlic very well. The shrimp, however, didn’t fare as well, weakening the flavors and lending the wine a too-sour flavor even without any condiments.

For the Casual Drinker:

I heartily endorse this wine to any new or casual drinkers. It’s clean, crisp, fruity, just an all-around fantastic wine. There’s complexity here, to be sure, but even the simplest flavors are well worth the price of admission. It seems like it would pair well with many carb-heavy meals (pastas, breads, rice, etc) that don’t involve red meat or tomato-based sauces or soups. I would say that this wine is ideal for sipping outside on a warm summer afternoon. It’s that refreshing.

The Conclusion:

Hell, what else can I say? I went back and bought six bottles of this guy literally days after I tried it. I would easily pay twice what I paid for this wine. The fact that it was discounted makes the wine even sweeter. 8/10  at the price I got it for, but 7/10 if you’re shelling out more than $10 for it. I’ve seen it priced up to $15 online. That’s a little much, I’d say.

Getting a Taste of Italy, Bargain-Style

The Back Story:

I set out a couple weeks ago with a mission in mind: to taste a new grape and spend as little as possible doing it. My destination, then, was A Southern Season, a gargantuan gourmet shop that has everything from a cheese bar to a Belgian beer section. They’ve also got a decent-sized wine section with particular emphasis on European wines.

After several minutes of wandering back and forth in the French section, enjoying the fact that I have experienced enough in French wine that I now can actually recognize wine labels from different vintners, growing regions, etc., I moved into the Italian section, renewing my focus on finding a new varietal under $10. Unfortunately, I left the store without fulfilling my quest. Not because they didn’t have one, no, but because I got distracted by a sale sticker. The sticker happened to be attached to a 2007 Vecchia Torre Leverano Bianco. The Bianco is a blend, 80% Malvasia Bianca and 20% Chardonnay. That’s basically all I knew going in, but to me, the mystery is part of what makes tasting a wine so exciting.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine was pretty average. The viscosity was fairly high, with a bright yellow color, slightly green, and the swirl suggested a good texture.

The nose of the wine was particularly fruity, exotic, primarily ripe tropical fruits. There was something off, though, giving a tinge of what smelled like vinyl. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but it didn’t quite jibe.

The mouth feel of the wine was good but nothing special. It was a little syrupy, but it balanced nicely with a high acidity.

The taste of the wine mimicked the nose, offering mostly tropical fruits. First, mango and apricot flavors co-mingled with a pretty decent tartness, slightly dry. There was an odd flavor that I couldn’t peg at first, and I finally settled on green beans. A little out of left field, but whatever. The short finish was a dry, overly ripe banana. Overall, it was standard fare for a white and rather simple.

For the Casual Drinker:

This would be a fantastic wine for a dinner party or any other group of varied tastes and interests. It’s a fairly neutral wine, not too sweet or dry, not too exotic, with a very agreeable flavor and texture. The simplicity makes it suitable for many palates, and it would pair with a variety of lighter foods as long as the flavors weren’t too overpowering. It’s also affordable, which is always good.

The Conclusion:

Though there’s nothing really to knock about this wine, it’s also fairly forgettable. Simple flavor, short finish, about what you’d expect for 9 bucks. You won’t regret buying this wine, but you might not go back for a second bottle. 5/10

I also picked up the Vecchia Torre Leverano Rosato. How good was that one? Stay tuned… but I will say that, coincidentally or not, I’ve bought 7 bottles of it in the past 2 weeks.

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