The Vibrant Purple of Barrosa Fruit


Shiraz from Barrosa Valley

This bottle from Wolf Blass offers vibrant purple edge to the color, saturated by ripe Barrosa fruit, the wine is supple and approachable. As side note, I opened the bottle at room temperature, roughly 70º F  inside my home. The first sip felt hot, alcoholic and yet bursting with fruit.  No wonder, this 2007 iteration had 14.5% alcohol.  Simple solution: I lowered the temperature by surrounding the bottle in a cylindrical wine chiller. It’s amazing how a few degrees could make a huge difference while testing wines.  Once it reached 66º F I tried it again and sensed right off the bat spicy and herbal aromas of white pepper and rosemary.  The 2007 contains 25% fruit sourced from Eden Valley, providing the herbal edge. The wine is framed in medium tannins and finishes with persistent aromas and flavors of raspberries, white pepper and vanillin derived from 18-months aging in new and seasoned French and American oak respectively.  I bought this bottle at Stop Wine & Liquors in Pawtucket at $22.00.  I was surprised to find a 2007 on the shelf, somewhat unconspicuously  between rows of wines.  What a find!

Coincidence or Is it’s Just South Africa Week?

An Old-World wine from an up-and-coming world-class destination.


Last week I was mainly working on two things: My skiing and my Actuarial lingo.  I am doing a consulting gig for a reputable Insurance Company in Rhode Island where I met Dale, a colleague from South Africa.  We briefly talked about education, our career paths, collaborative work, the beautiful landscapes scattered throughout his native country and specifically about Stellenbosch, or ‘Wine Country’ as he eloquently put it.  Fast forward to the weekend and I found myself  skiing at Sunday River.  On my way up to Maine, I picked up a copy of the Economist and surprise, surprise, I found half a dozen references to South Africa and two lengthy articles about Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president.  Well, if that wasn’t enough, my skiing plans included meeting up with a friend who I often help him select wines for his collection.  At the end of our first ten runs, we decided to break for lunch at Brookside’s Condominiums.  As a thank you gesture for my helping him build-up his wine celar, he gave me a bottle that he had stumbled upon in “New Hampshire:”  The bottle was a Meerlust Red 2017, a typical blend most commonly found in Bordeaux: 60% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.   The wine opened up mildly aromatic with floral, peppery notes highlighted by freshly crushed pomegranate.  However, the wine was really tight and flat.  After half a glass, I was unimpressed with it and let the rest of the experiment, to aeration.  After all, I had made the mistake of mentally comparing the Meerlust Red 2017 to one of my favorite wines from South Africa: Glen Carlou Grand Classique another Bordeaux-esque blend from Paarl.  About six hours later the wine actually developed some complex aromas and flavors.  But the experiment wasn’t done yet.  Unintentionally, I let it rest for another full day and those initial floral aromas gave way to nuances of toast, leather and minerals. Once the wine developed complex flavors, it really reminded me of a Medoc wine from Saint-Julien, but the wine is from South Africa!  After doing a little bit of research, I found the wine at the Wine and Liquor Outlet in Portsmouth, NH for just under $20.00, a decent QPR wine.  So, was it coincidence that last week was all about South Africa, my colleague, The Economist and even my weekend bounty?  Well, I don’t believe in coincidence. In the words of Morpheous in the Matrix Reloaded, “I believe in Providence.”  I ended up enjoying the wine for its character and charm with some help from oxygenation, leaving the final glass loaded with tobacco, plum and dark chocolate notes and some grip thanks to the tannins.

For those who have tried the trendy new-world style wines from Paarl and even other Stellenbosch wines such as Stark-Conde, this Meerlust Red is a tried and true rendition of the old-world style.But don’t believe me, the real experiment is when you’d try it yourself.  The unintentional experiment of leaving it exposed to oxygen for too long is a good indication that the wine will age well. In fact, I could argue that the this 2017 iteration of Meerlust Red will not be ready to drink until 2022, but why wait?  In either case, as the week came to an end all I can say is Go South Africa and cheers!

Quatro Castas, A Great Portuguese Find

Hint:from Esporão and it’s not Port!



Quatro Castas means literally four cépages, or four varietals. To pique your curiosity further, it’s made of equal parts of Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Syrah and Alicante Bouchet.  For the sake of learning, let us review first the local Portuguese grapes. Touriga Nacional is mostly associated with the production of Port wines. Well, in fact most of all indigenous grapes in Portugal such as the ones listed here, are associated with Port production since Port wine could be made of up to 100 different grapes.  Trincadeira, is the local name of Tinta Amarela which is widely planted in the Alentejo Region, it produces rich red wines of full body.  Alicante Bouchet is the local name for Garnacha Tintorera, which is a teinturier grape of red skin and pulp used mainly for adding color and structure to red and Port wines.

Quatro Castas is a full body wine with heady and spicy aromas that might require pairing with a slab of steak to complement the abundant dark plum and dark cherry  flavors framed by medium weigh tannins.  It finishes persistently earthy with cocoa notes.  What you may like the most is the QPR at $16.00 per bottle.  I bought this bottle at Seabra Super Market in Attleboro, MA.


Nebbiolo From México?

Italian wine-making in México since 1928.

México was the first producer of wine in the entire American continent when the Spaniards planted vines, cultivated grapes and made wine in their new colony.  In fact the first commercial “new world” winery in the Americas was founded in 1597 in the Valle de Parras, México and it has continuously operated ever since then. 

Let’s review a bit of history to get the obvious out of the way. Why Mexico’s wine industry never developed the way Argentina and Chile did?  The simple explanation, according to historians, lies in México living and surviving its own Prohibition. Wine was an essential part of life for Spaniards conquistadores. The first wines made in the Americas was shortly after the conquest of Mexico in 1521 using wild vines. Wine was also an important part of Mass for the missionaries that came after Cortez.  After all, there was a lot of work involved in converting infidels! Cortez, envisioned improving the wines of the colony planting varietals brought from Spain.  By 1596 Mexico had improved its wines and had developed its own commercial wineries, threatening sales of Royal wines imported from Spain.  That year King Philip II forbade new plantings and replacements effectively establishing prohibition in Mexico. This prohibition lasted 300 years, impacting demand, winemaking and wine-drinking ethos frankly.

Onto L.A. Cetto winery now and its own history.  The origins of the winery date back to 1926 when Italian immigrant Don Angelo Cetto inspired by his European roots, established a wine-making business in 1926. Ironically, it was the Prohibition in the US which propelled the quality and quantity of wines made in Mexico, across the border from San Diego in the Valle de Guadalupe. By 1928, L.A. Cetto winery had started with familiar grapes to Don Angel such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Aglianico and other “local” varietals such as Mission which it was brought to the Americas by Spanish conquistadores centuries earlier. In 1967 additional plantings of international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Petite Sirah, signaled a turning point for wine-making in the Valle de Guadalupe.

This particular bottling of L.A. Cetto Nebbiolo wine is extremely food friendly, quite approachable and full of charm.  Don’t expect a taste a northern Italy here.  Instead look for an inky, chalky-smooth feel, even a bit of salt water and a delicious overlay of ripe cherry, blackberry and raspberry notes.   Perfect for hard cheeses, bruschetta and light Mexican fare.  This Nebbiolo is hard to find outside of Southern California and NY, but if you come close to it, give it try!