Monday, November 29, 2021

Judging at the World Whiskies Awards

Earlier this month the BevFluence team was invited to participate as judges in the Whisky Magazine Awards America 2022. The awards ceremony, in association with American Whiskey Magazine, will be held on February 8th, 2022 at The Flatiron Room in New York City. The judging occurred on November 11th, 2021 at the whiskey haven Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington DC. During this tasting, 32 judges sampled through 250 American whiskeys divided into 17 categories. The judges reflected a large cross-section of the spirits industry including distillers and distillery owners, writers and educators, as well as other industry professionals. The categories were very specific and consisted of Blended, Blended Limited Release, Small Batch Single Malt, Bourbon, Blended Malt, Rye, Tennessee, Corn, Flavoured Whisky, New Make & Young Spirit, Pot Still, Wheat, Single Malt, Single Barrel Bourbon, Small Batch Bourbon, Single Cask Single Malt, and Grain. We will post the winners two months from now. Cheers.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Wines of Portugal Madeira Part II: Rare Wine Historic Series Rainwater

While attending a recent Wines of Portugal tasting, I was intrigued by The Rare Wine Company's display of Historic Series Madeira - representing styles favored in several American cities. From a historical perspective, Madeira was quite popular from the Colonial era up until the early 20th century. And I learned at this tasting and through these wines, that cities preferred Madeira based on the dominant grape or, in the case of Baltimore, a particular style: Rainwater

This style is paler and more delicate than other Madeira styles. In his book, Madeira, The Island Vineyard by Noel Cossart & Mannie Berk, Noel Cossart asserts that a barrel of Madeira was left on a beach waiting for shipment to the American colonies. The barrel somehow lost its stopper and was watered down by overnight rain and thus, inadvertently creating a slightly more refreshing style. This style became a favorite in Colonial America. Cossart, by the way, was the fourth, and final, member of his family to manage Cossart Gordon & Co, before economic conditions forced him to sell the firm's assets to the Madeira Wine Association.

According to The Rare Wine Company, "In 1902, that city’s greatest Madeira connoisseur, Douglas H. Thomas, called Rainwater the highest standard. And the absence of Rainwaters in a 1900 New York auction prompted one merchant to speculate that Baltimore connoisseurs thought so highly of them that they bought them all up and none reached New York." Unfortunately, in the early 20th century, very sweet and cheap Madeiras entered the market labeled as "Rainwater" which ruined the reputation of the traditional style.  

In 1998, The Rare Wine Company began a project to recreate a series of historic Madeiras with the Baltimore Rainwater based on examples of very rare Rainwater imported into New York City by Robert Benson in the 1820s. Winemaker Ricardo Freitas, of Vinhos Barbeito, "started with a base wine that was 80% Verdelho, made up of two lots ranging in age from 8 to 13 years. Young Verdelho was a perfect starting point, not only because of its delicacy and minimal sweetness but because Verdelho would have been the most common component in the early Rainwaters".  And "for a greater sense of age and also a bit more body, but without increasing the wine’s sweetness, Ricardo added two different lots of old Tinta Negra Mole. Prior to entering the Baltimore Rainwater blend, each of the components was aged (like all of our wines) by the time-honored Canteiro method."

The final Rare Wine Madeira Rainwater Historic Series Baltimore blend range consists of 60-70% Verdelho, 20-25% Sercial, and 10-15% Tinta Negra. For a supposedly lighter style, this wine is very complex with ripe peaches and pears, dried fruits, nuts, and a lively finish.  Excellent. 

Wines of Portugal Madeira Series:
Part I: An Overview

Monday, November 15, 2021

Gazdina Vilijamovka Rakija from Republika Srpska, Bosnia

I purchased this bottle of Gazdinav Rakija Vilijamovka ($34) a while ago and just getting around to opening it. The Williams Pear is forefront with a creamy interior and an ethanol creeping burn. Serving chilled kills the burn with only a little effect on the aroma and flavor.

The producer, Prijedorčanka AD, is the largest fruit processor in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the largest producer of fruit distillate in Europe. Interestingly, they are located in the Republika Srpska -- one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The fruit is grown in the Potkozarje region -- also known for its apple and plum orchards.  The fermented fruit is then distilled using column stills and the warehouse can store over 1,700,000 liters. That's a large facility. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Croatian Istrian Teran

In his honor, each November in the small historical town of Momjan, just north of Buje, the Feast of Saint Martin (“Martinje") is celebrated with the ceremonious ritual of baptizing wine. Merry wine-lovers gather in the local vineyards with actors dressed up in the roles of a judge, bishop, godmother and godfather of the wine and praise God with their witty prayers. The wine is then baptized and the first bottle is unlocked with the key to the wine kingdom - a corkscrew. The celebrations are accompanied by an abundance of delicious food and endless supply of wine, lasting until the early hours of the morning. The Aroma of Istria - Feast Day of St. Martin

November 11th (12th in the Eastern Church) is the Feast day of St. Martin of Tours, and although he is the patron saint of France, St. Martin still receives devout reverence in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In Croatia, Saint Martin is known as the protector of vineyards and winemakers, and Martinje marks the "cheerful traditional folk custom of symbolically translating must into young wine ('baptism of wine')". This celebration is particularly vibrant in the Istrian Peninsula as described in the block text above. Thus it is an appropriate two days to discuss the northernmost of Croatia's wine regions: Istria.

Istria is rapidly developing as one of Croatia's key wine regions.  It is located on the Istrian Peninsula in northwest Croatia (the northern end of the peninsula is part of south-western Slovenia and that county's Istra wine region).  The Peninsula is heart-shaped with the coasts stacked with limestone rock and soils. The interior is hilly with foggy valleys and abundant microclimates - usually iron-rich soils and excessive sunshine moderated by coastal influences. Olive and fig trees compete with the over 4,000 hectares of vines planted in the region. 

The most popular grape planted in Istria is the white Malvazija Istarska, however, Teran is a dominant indigenous red grape. It is a member of the diverse Refosco family: dark-skinned grape varieties native to the Venetian zone and neighboring areas.  Wine from the Teran grape is generally earthy, full-bodied, and robust. And Croatians tend to pair Teran with Istrian smoked meat and game dishes.

Vina Fakin is an Istrian winery located in the medieval town of Motovun -- where once the Celts and later Illyrians built fortresses or "a town in the hills" the Celtic translation of Motovun. The winery grows primarily Malvazija Istarska, Teran, and Muškat on 30 hectares in the surrounding hills encompassing several micro-climates. Winemaker Marko Fakin founded the winery in 2010 using the family vineyards. With that very first vintage, the Teran wine won a Croatian national competition as well as recognizing Marko as Winemaker of Year (Croatian Wine Dream Comes True Without Leaving One’s Homeland).

I recently purchased that wine's successor, the Fakin Teran 2019 ($29) from Croatian Premium Wine Imports in anticipation of Martinje. The wine is delicious -- full-bodied and robust, specifically, fruit-forward dark cherries, then chocolate, and firm yet approachable tannins. Can't wait to visit one day. Cheers. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Wine Concierge: An A++ Curated Wine Experience

During a recent trade tasting of Portuguese wines, I ran into Leslie Frelow, Owner & Chief Discovery Officer (CDO) of  The Wine Concierge. Because of the pandemic, we hadn't seen each other at judging or tasting events that had been canceled. At this tasting, however, where the subject matter was quite pertinent, she related to me the quarterly focus of her The Shades of Vino wine club - Meditteranean wines. This wine club is available through The Wine Concierge community and Leslie kindly sent me a trio of wines from this allotment that highlights wines from Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Browsing the curated wine selection for Summer/Fall 2021 you immediately notice the intriguing appellations such as Spain's Priorat and Catalonia, Rias Baixas, Basque, Alicante, and Castilla-La Mancha as well as Portugal's Douro and Lisboa DOCs. The collection is rounded out by wines from more familiar regions such as Napa Valley, Williamette Valley Oregon, Mendoza Argentina, Chianti, and Rioja Spain.  

As a wine consumer, it would be difficult on my own to discover a rare white Priorat such as the Les Brugueres Blanc Priorat D.O.Q. ($33) 100%  Garnatxa Blanca or the Vinha Mae Tinto Family Estate Red Lisboa, Portugal ($42) - a blend of Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Syrah. Yet, Leslie has done the research for you and curated a stellar lineup of wines - many at less than $20 a bottle. Plus take a look at the information provided in the tasting sheets. 

As mentioned earlier, the shipment Leslie sent me consisted of three wines starting with the 2018 Casa Agricola Blanco DO Alicante ($29).  This wine is a blend of 40% Moscatel, 40% Macabeo, and 20% Airén where the grapes were grown in Spain's Alicante DO and produced by Pepe Mendoza at their Casa Agrícola winery.  This is a unique wine, included because of Leslie's expertise, that displays abundant floral and spicy notes,  slight peaches and saline, and finally a fresh spicy finish. Excellent. 

The next wine was an eye-opener, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Tuscany's Tolaini Wine Estate called 2018 LEGIT Tolaini Toscana IGT Cabernet Sauvignon ($42). I never would have purchased a Cabernet from this wine region and instead would have focused on Sangiovese, but this wine is fantastic. Gorgeous fruit, dark cherries and plum, full mouthfeel, structured with chewy tannins. Even better with dark chocolate.  The label is inspired by the "iconic photo of Thelonious Monk from the album cover of one of Monk's most famous live concert recordings, 'Thelonious Monk in Italy' recorded live April 21st, 1961 in Milan by Riverside Records".

Finally, Leslie included the intriguing NV 10 Year White Tawny Porto Douro Valley ($28.75) from Quinta Da Devesa Fortunato Family Estate. From the winery, "this 10 Year Old White Port is obtained from a selection of grape varieties recommended for the Douro region. The aging process occurs naturally over the years, in oak vats at Quinta da Devesa cellars, thus resulting in a darkened color." White Port doesn't receive as much airtime as its red grape sibling but provides sometimes similar but oftentimes a cleaner profile.  This excellent wine starts with dried nuts and figs on the nose, then a textured mouthfeel with honeyed bacon, and an uplifting clean tail. Savor this one.

I look forward to perusing the other wines in The Shades of Vino collection as well as designing Christmas gifts for the family. Please visit The Wine Concierge, join the free community, participate in their Facebook Live events, and support The Black Winemakers Scholarship Fund through every wine purchase. Cheers.