The wine business is, in one sense, like any other. Winemakers want to get their products in front of the public. Some companies advertise their wares on television, or radio or in newspapers. Wine producers have different strategies.
One of the great things about being a journalist in general — and a wine journalist in particular — is that wineries and their public relations firms send out sample bottles, in the hope that we will evaluate the wines and recommend them to our readers. As you know, I do that faithfully in this space twice a month.
However, the supply far exceeds the space I’m given, as well as the lamentable infrequency of my column, so bottles tend to stack up in the cellar, awaiting my attention and evaluation. The backlog recently got so large I invited some very knowledgeable and discriminating wine friends over for a massive tasting session, where we sampled, critically discussed and rated about 20 different wines. We were very happy when we finished.
So this column is a kind of “catch up” piece, where I’m listing several wines we particularly enjoyed. I hope you like them as well as we did. And please persist to the Q&A at the end … it’s an especially interesting topic.
Matanzas Creek Merlot Sonoma 2013 ($30) — A full-bodied effort, dark ruby in the glass and bold aromas of chocolate and red fruit. Very fruit forward, and certainly a great food wine. WW 90-91.
Avignonesi Rosso di Montalcino 2014 ($17) — This “baby Brunello” would be great with grilled meats. Medium-bodied on the palate, flavors of red currant, cherry, and violets. WW 89.
Concannon Petite Sirah 2014 ($11) — Great value, and a steal at the price. A big, dark, black wine in the glass, it delivers aromas of warm earth and smoke, but fruit flavors on the palate. You’ll enjoy the complexity of the blackberry, raspberry, black pepper, baking chocolate and mushroom. Lovely. WW 89-90.
Bousquet Malbec Tupungato Valley Mendoza Grande Riserva 2013 ($25) – A wine that’s very much about the place and the soil … an Old World style. Bold flavors of earth, truffle and black tobacco. WW 88.
Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Grand Reserve 2015 ($14) — From the middle-range of the KJ portfolio, this is a great everyday sipper. Medium bodied, with balanced oak notes supporting apple and lemon flavors. WW 87-88
Meomi Chardonnay California 2015 ($13) — Grapes are blended from three very diverse regions in this wine. It’s bold and creamy with a buttery mouthfeel and an entertaining hint of buttered popcorn. Straightforward flavors of pear and white peach. WW 88.
Ask the Wine Whisperer
Q: I’ve read some articles recently about “vegan” wines. Can you clarify what this terms means? — Harris G., Port St. Lucie
A: This isn’t the first question I’ve received about the issue of so-called “vegan” wines. This term is starting to enter the vocabulary of the wine world, and there’s a lot of confusion about it. So let me try to answer it in some detail.
Wine is made from fruit, which is about as vegan as things get. What could there possibly be in the bottle that comes from animals? Well, it turns out there are two things.
Often, wine is put through a process called “fining.” This is a way to clarify the liquid and get rid of any floating fruit solids that remain after fermentation and the “racking” of the wine from the big vats into smaller barrels. Fining involves putting some substance in the wine that’s heavier than the liquid. It settles to the bottom, taking the particles with it. For centuries winemakers have used either gelatin or egg whites as fining agents. Both are derived from animal products, and that’s what has the vegans on edge.
More recently, many winemakers use another pure inert material such as bentonite, which is a clay formed by the weathering of volcanic ash. So it’s a mineral. It also has a strong negative charge, so it pulls impurities toward it. The problem is that while some bottle labels will tell you the product is “unfiltered and unfined,” it will never tell you whether it was fined … or what kind of fining agent was used. So the concept of “vegan” wines will remain somewhat problematic, at least for the time being. ¦
— Jerry Greenfield is the Wine Whisperer. He is also the creative director of Greenfield Advertising Group. Find his book, “Secrets of the Wine Whisperer,” on Amazon or at www.winewhisperer.com, where his other writings are also available.