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Četrtič the entertainer

[label]Četrtič “Ferdinand” 2003 Rdeče (Brda) – Merlot & cabernet sauvignon. There’s nothing that really distinguishes this wine from its similarly-cépaged brethren from pretty much everywhere else in the world. That caveat aside, it’s quite good, with all the dark fruit (cassis, blueberry and blackberry), leather, tobacco, and firm but ripe tannin one could hope for. The acidity is perhaps a little higher than is the norm in these softening days, but that’s to the wine’s benefit. Nicely crafted, likely quite ageable, and in no way overdone. (9/07)

Zenato garden

[vineyard]Zenato 2003 Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) – Tannic, yes, but there’s plenty of chewy, grippy purple fruit despite the tongue-drying, and even a bit of acidity lurking somewhere in the background. I still wouldn’t call it balanced, but it’s a reasonable success given that it only tastes a little bit like someone was trying to make a “super-Venetian” out of corvina. (8/07)

The fontein of youth

[label]Diemersfontein 2003 Pinotage (Wellington) – Dense and ultra-ripe pinotage, with little of the varnish and bitterness but lots of the strident, concentrated berry fruit (mostly blueberries and dark cherries, though there are crushed blackberry seeds in there as well), given a thick and oppressive layer of chocolate and new wood. I understand the desire to do this to bad pinotage, but it seems like there was a pretty nice wine here, and the overt internationalization seems a waste of good raw materials. It’s a very good wine for those who like this style. I don’t. (7/07)

Altesino royale

Altesino 2003 Rosso di Altesino (Tuscany) – Impenetrably tannic and clumsy, showing charred fruit and burnt walnuts, but mostly just thick, sludgy nothingness (8/07)

The Gaja hypothesis

[angelo gaja]Gaja 2004 Langhe “Sito Moresco” (Piedmont) – Nebbiolo, merlot & cabernet sauvignon. Maybe. Whatever it’s made from, a more overtly sexualized wine can scarcely be imagined. The fruit (mostly berries and spice) is velvety, rich, luxurious and utterly seductive, and what structure remains is softened and lotioned and polished to virtual invisibility, though it’s important to note that it isn’t actually absent. As I said: sexy, though in an obvious, impossible-to miss way. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this wine had a pimp. Or, more appropriately, a high-class madam. Even though my natural inclination is to carp about the wine’s clearly internationalized intent, I find it absolutely impossible to dislike the wine. If all the goopy New World monstrosities were actually this good, I might have to reevaluate the genre. Unfortunately (or perhaps thankfully, depending on your vinous religion), they’re not. This, on the other hand, is spectacular. (9/07)

Rocche & roll all night

Brovia 2001 Barolo Rocche dei Brovia (Piedmont) – Very young, of course, but already showing some qualities beyond the tarry primaries…mostly an expansion of the dried-floral aromatics and the emergent promontory of a dense, rocky core covered with a rich layer of brown loam. This is a wine with its roots deep in the earth. (8/07)

The Grasso is always greener

Giuseppe Grasso “La Granera” 2004 Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont) – Tasting this brings back memories. Because I remember when barbera used to taste like this: crisp, biting, all red-hued berries with a little bit of sizzle. This isn’t one of the really old style thin and linear versions, however; it’s richer and a little bit wider around the waist, with a lovely finish that seems to begin to fade, then re-emerges with an angular vengeance. Perhaps it’s lightly wooded, perhaps just the result of better fruit. In either case, it’s not one of the overworked, overwooded monstrosities that infect the appellation. It’s not a “great” wine, but then part of what makes it so good is that it recalls a time when barbera wasn’t supposed to aspire to greatness. Bring out your tomatoes! (9/07)

Phineas fog

[label]Ettore Germano 2005 Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont) – Uninspiring, with obvious and prosaic nebbiolo dominated by its tarry, rather than floral, side and very little promise of inner aromatics to come. The tannin is correspondingly dominant, though there’s plenty of acidity as well. More than a bit hollow. It needs age, certainly, but I’m not sure the result will ever be all that compelling, and balance will remain an area of concern. (9/07)

Don Bongiovanni

[bottle]Cascina Bongiovanni 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont) – Friendly, fresh raspberry and boysenberry bisected by a thick wall of slightly biting tannin. The wine isn’t out of balance, necessarily, but I’m not sure the fruit will win the ultimate race to the finish line. That said, there’s a lot to like here, with an appealing emergence of mixed peppercorns and something more baritone and earthen in the finish. It’s occasionally leafy as well. I like it. Not everyone will. (9/07)