Thursday, April 21, 2011

Four Vines, nine grapes, one wine!

A typical saying is that less is better. In cooking, that is often the golden rule. The more ingredients one uses in a dish, the more confusion on the palate. In winemaking, it may well be the same, at least one can wonder to what extent each and every grape variety contributes to in the blend. In Bordeaux, where blending has always been part of the philosophy, either Merlot (the most planted variety) or Cabernet Sauvignon play the leading role, and in Rhône Valley it’s normally Grenache, or Syrah. In addition, there are a number of blendning grapes. One may add body to the wine, another can contribute with a certain aroma or spiciness, and some grape varieties just add volume to make the final wine.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most well knowm and, in the sense of number of variteties used of the blended wines in the world, the most complex. Fourteen varieties are allowed, although they all rarely are found in one blend. Most of these wines are based on Grenache, with the addition of five to eitght other grapes.
This kind of rhônish blends are also found in California among the so called Rhône Rangers. One of them is Four Vines Winery in the western part of Paso Robles. It’s a 40 000 cases per year winery founded 1996.
Overall, quality is good, but so far not impressive. A part from the quite elegant unoaked Naked Chardonnay from Santa Barbara fruit, most wines are a bit sturdy and lack finesse.
This wine, though, is one of the better.

2007 Cypher Ecelctic Red Wine / 88 p
Nine grapes were used in this wine, and the blend is in all aspects very unusual. Carignane is 22 percent of the blend, the Portugise port wine variety Touriga Nacional and the darkskinned Teroldego of Northern Italy 17 percent each. Three other port wine grapes are used in the blend, 12 percent Tinta Cão, 11 percvent Souza (sometimes called Periquita) and 6 percent Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). Zinfandel is also here, at 8 percent, and so is Petite Sirah with only a single percent – I wonder how much that helped. The last 6 percent comes from Petite Verdot. Confused? For sure I am!
Color is dark purple, almost opaque. The nose it very intense, almost sweetish and very ripe, but there are so many types of fruit here – dark cherries, blackberries, cassis, a slightly greenish and vegetal touch, some vanilla, and some sweetness from the oak. At first, it’s not too elegant, and to be honest, it’s not elegant at all. However, it’s a very rich and powerful wine with some finer notes to it. Acidity is fine but not fresh, it’s more of a sweetish fruit driven wine with silky tannins and some warmth from the 14.7 percent of alcohol. It’s a great barbeque wine rather than a wine to more classic dishes, and it benefits from decanting, or at least one hour of aeration. Althoug drinkable now, I’d rather keep it another year or two to see if more complexity will rise through the massive fruit.
Drink it 2011-2017.

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