I’ll never forget what one of my teachers told me during a wine class. “A Pinotage tastes and smells nothing more than leather and sweat. As if the hot sweat and dampness created from the crotch of the jeans and top of the saddle of a South African rancher in the hot sun were squeezed and poured right into this glass.” Wtf? He essentially thought a Pinotage tastes like sweaty ballsacks. Jesus.
Pinotage is South African’s go to grape. Its a cross between the pain-in-the ass to grow Pinot Noir and the southern France all-star, Cinsault. A lot of snobby d-bag wine people hate on that fact and thus tend to trash the wine, but not much unlike the Aussies, South Africans don’t give an f and are very prideful of their hometown hero.
I tend to side with the South Africans. Its medium bodied, with a nose and taste that has all sorts of good stuff going on. I couldn’t stop thinking about South African sweaty balls, so I naturally erred toward that thought, but there’s also tons of vanilla-y american oak on this too, which I also like. Wood and leathery balls, all wrapped up in one wine. You can even say the harsher tannins make it quite sticky too. Hot.
Good with: Beef jerky. Sloppy Joes. Porn.
This wine’s from Rueda where its hot as hell in the summer and cold as balls in the winter. Its an environment where a lot of things don’t like to grow, which can sometimes be the money environment for grapevines…the idea being they have to struggle for water and nutrients to churn out a concentrated, flavorful grape berry. Generally we talk reds when we talk shitty places like this, but the real rockstar in this corner of the world is the white grape Verdejo.
First, smell/taste. I get lots of green apple with a lavender soapy quality to it. I dunno, my girlfriend did just get out of the shower, but I’m calling it like I see it.
Now load this thing up again and you’ll notice two things that stand out. The weight in your mouth is heavy, especially for a white. Its a fat ass. And two, its got a bitchin’ acidity that just cuts through its own lardness. Almost like it knows its an overweight pile thats trying to work out to cut down the lbs. Kinda like that fat dude on your street you see running when its 5 degrees outside. Thats respectable, and so is this wine.
Goes with: High fat, non red meat. That precooked chicken whoring itself out under the red light in the grocery store.
Mother @#$%ing lasagna night! Which means its mother @#$%ing Chianti time, fsth-fsth-fsth-fsth.
Need a quick lesson on this I-type favorite? Look closely on the bottom of the front label. You see some long Italian jargon which makes no sense…Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or DOCG. In Italian gov’t lingo thats their way of saying this bottle definitely comes from the Chianti region in Tuscany and is their attempt at guaranteeing thats its of the highest quality. On Italian wine labels, the level below that is DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), the level below that, IGT (Indicazione Geographica Tipica) and then Vino da Tavola is the supposed lowest quality level. If you find an Italian wine with any of these sayings on it, they still may be an aight wine, but if you’re a betting man, bet with a DOCG or DOC label. It also has this fancy top on the neck of the bottle too saying the same thing (pic below).
Now back to the vino. Two things are money from the start with this one. First, its got some browning on the rim of the wine. Its not a lot, but thats a sign its aging a wee bit and could be a sign of some interesting shit to come. Second, the nose is super rad. It is in fact aging because you get a slight dried red fruit feel to it. Kind of like those strawberries in a box of Special K. But much better. The taste, a lot of the same thing, medium bodied, but with smooth, fuller tannins and a pungent sour cherry acidity that you just can’t beat with tomato sauce.
Good with: lasagna, anything Italian involving lots of cheese and lots of tomato sauce.
Look at that freaking dog. Look at it. Its funny as hell. Can you really pass this up? My girlfriend couldn’t. And I absolutely can’t blame her.
It also holds a good lesson. A basic rule of thumb when you’re talking wine labels is the smaller the place stated on the wine, generally the better the wine. Thats why some top quality French wines will tell you straight up the name and location of a small vineyard in a small town where the grape(s) of the wine ultimately comes from. This kind of wine may cost more than your car, which basically means its pointless to buy.
The other end of the spectrum? Something like this. On the back it says South Eastern Australia. That means the grapes come from all over South Eastern Australia, which is a considerable plot of land. So yes, the grapes may not be the best, hence the wine may not be the best. How this helps you out? Find a good price wine that gets a little more specific than “California” or “South Eastern Australia.” But also don’t ever stray from a label that spells a good time. If you gotta have it, and its the right price, go for it. Especially if its an Aussie wine because as winemakers they tend to give just about zero fucks about a lot of the BS surrounding wine (my kind of people).
Take this bottle. It’s 58% chardonnay, 29% riesling, 7% traminer and 6% pinot gris. You won’t find that crazy ass blend anywhere because a lot of the time a good area for riesling won’t necessarily be a good area for chardonnay. But do they care? N0. And they pull it off. Its a fuller bodied white thats easy to drink and has a pretty basic apricot/honey thing going on. No real finish and not great acidity especially considering its 1/3 riesling, but it works. As we speak, I’m drinkin it straight from the bottle and it tastes delish.
So you learned a wee bit today. Buy a wine with the right price, try to narrow in on a smaller geographic area and if you just can’t resist because the label is too damn funny, go for it. Also, buy non-Yellowtail Aussie wine for pure entertainment value.
Goes with: A party that doesn’t entail dressing up. TV. Snacks. Popcorn.
Think of Merlot as the working man’s grape. Its blended in Bordeaux to give smoothness and texture to a sometimes overbearing Cab Sauv, but doesn’t get the attention. It also ripens earlier than Cab so a lot of times you’re gonna get a more consistent quality from it. On its own, like this one, it brings a lot of balance that is sometimes overlooked when we’re talking a good priced California wine. It has a little bit of everything. Soft, jammy red fruit, smooth tannins and plenty of acidity.
Tonight it was the perfect compliment to this bomb marinara that my buddy Al (who’s heritage is 100% i-type) cooked and served up. Its a great wine that can take the backseat to a stellar meal, not play the starring role, and do all the right things. Kinda like that awesome lineman on your favorite football team. Give Merlots a chance and start with this one.
Goes with: Homemade or jar-made spaghetti marinara.
Romance, intrigue, passion, boxed wine. This Valentines Day go with the wine that never runs out. A wine that allows your lover’s glass to be filled from a tap accessible from the comforts of your bed. Wake up, drink wine. Breakfast, drink wine. Playtime in bed, drink wine. Even get weird with the wine. I’ll be taking my girl to a BYOB for lunch, then the circus for dinner. And what will be at the lunch table, the parking lot, with the Ringling Bros and in the bed again after? You guessed it. The seductive Black Box Cab. Its chocolately, black cherry-esque, full bodied, a tad oaky and approachable enough to have it be brought everywhere. Its also four bottles in one. So go big, look the part and treat your loved one right today. There will even be some leftover tomorrow.
Goes with: A box of chocolates, candles, flowers, condoms.
Oh shit! The cultish Graciano grape from Rioja.
Everybody’s got a hard on for Spanish wine as of late and that hard on is usually pointed right in the direction of a Rioja. Generally speaking, popular Rioja is predominantly made up of the famed Tempranillo grape, often times with small percentages of Graciano to bring color, depth, acidity and a shit ton of fruit to help the wine along. Think of it as the hard to grow, low yield secret ingredient used to make the finest Riojas.
And you can get it straight up for 11 bucks…the reason being that this wine sees no oak and is insanely fruit forward. BUT, its rad as hell. The nose smacks you right across the face. Big dark cherry fruit, some pepperiness with a definite weird “your girlfriend’s flowery Yankee candle” smell. Super fucking interesting.
The taste brings it too. Its big and concentrated with a nice medium but not too overbearing dusty tannin. Tons of red and black fruit. The finish dies a bit, but that’s because its a high class grape made to be drunk now that costs chump change for what you’re getting. Next time you want a red, look/ask about this wine or this grape.
Goes with: A cigar and a chair. London broil.
Fact is, you can get a much cooler bottle of pinot gris (same grape) from the Willamette Valley in Oregon that generally has more body, alcohol and an all around more interesting palate than the cheap stuff they pump outta Italy. A lot of times for the same price too.
The main difference? The winemaking style. A lot of Pinot Grigio is fermented and aged in stainless steel which retains a lot of acidity and fruitiness but sometimes falls short in complexity. An Oregon Pinot Gris is oftentimes oaked and taken through a secondary fermentation that converts malic acid to lactic acid.
This will soften the wine up, add some body and sometimes give off a creamy, oaky, toasty flavor (like an oaked chard). This particular bottle fell short of that expectation because it was in oak for a very very very short time and came off more like that standard Pinot Grigio but yet with more body and pizzazz.
Good finish with a lemony curd thing going on too. Basically next time your girlfriend reaches for the Pinot Grigio in the wine store, slap her hand and point her in the Northwest or Oregon section. Best to make sure its from the Willamette Valley too. Duck Pond would be a good start.
Good with: a hangover, lemon chicken and veggies.
A night before the next day off spells a night smashing happy hour pinot grigios at the local hotel bar. At least for me and my girlfriend. You could say thats why this late night bottle tasted good, but I’d like to think its just got a lot going on. A Mendoza Malbec gets a boatload of attention these days for good reason. They consistently tend to have nice balance. Same with this one. Supple enough to be the approachable, easy drinking wine you want for when the bars close, while still being full-bodied, complex and interesting. The tannins are quite sticky, but for me that adds a good time. A nose like a blueberry taskykake pie, a taste like a jar of black raspberry jam and a finish that only disappoints because its 4am and the bottle is empty. Keep buying Malbecs from Mendoza, but start with this one. It doesn’t mess around.
Good with: A late night with your favorite album, or an early night with steak stir-fry.
I’m just not getting much from this. It says “zesty” on the back which is all its really got going for it. Its got a lemony tang with some solid acidity but nothing else. Really just a good example of a pretty simple wine. Kinda bummed because its from the Casablanca Valley, where you can find some badass white wines for a good price. Again, its not terrible, it actually worked aight with that bagged caesar salad I bought at Acme for 2 bones, but other than that it really brought nothing more to the table. Pass on it at the wine bodega, but don’t let it discourage you from giving another Casablanca Valley Chile Sauv Blanc a go.
Good with: Prepackaged salad, a dehydrating game of b-ball