Tuesday, November 22, 2011

QPR Done 2 Ways

I watch way more Food Network (and HGTV) than I should probably admit, and one of the things that chefs like to do, especially on shows like Iron Chef, is prepare the secret ingredient "two ways."  So "Duck  2 Ways" could be a Cognac & Duck Liver Pate served alongside a Confit Duck Leg.

Today we're going to explore what I'm terming "QPR 2 Ways."  QPR is, again, Quality/Price Ratio, and basically determines whether a wine over or under delivered for the price paid.  One of the most interesting things about wine is that people universally, when the tastings are not conducted blind (that is to say, when people know which wine they're tasting), prefer more expensive wines to less expensive wines.  It's a phenomenon that has been proven and disproven enough times to have grown tiresome.  Yet, while a $100 bottle of wine may taste better than a $10 bottle of wine more often than not, what's more interesting to me is determining which $10 bottle of wine is going to give me the most enjoyment for my $10.

So, with that, we move to the first wine of the day, the 2009 Castillo de Fuenmayor Rioja "Gran Familia." I sourced this wine for $12 from Winestone, arguably my favorite Boston area store.

According to the importer, this wine is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano.  Tempranillo is the most famous grape of Rioja, and in many of the finest wines, comprises the entire blend.  Graciano is a traditional blending grape in the region, often used to contribute structure and minerality.

Rioja is a funny wine for me to love (and I do love it) because almost all Riojas see extensive aging in American oak.  Those who know me and my palate know that I hate nothing more than feeling like I'm licking a tree (or a vanilla ice cream cone, or chocolate milkshake, or coconut smoothie, all side effects of oak aging) while I'm drinking.  This wine spent 4 months in American oak, and then 4 additional months in French oak before bottling.  Tempranillo, in my opinion, is one of the few grapes that can take a heavy dose of oak and still retain varietal characteristics.

This wine, served alongside roasted chicken and root vegetables, was excellent as always.  The nose showed typical Rioja characteristics of stewed red and black fruits, as well as a core of wet earth.  There was an oaky component, but it was in the background, supporting the fruit.  The palate was much the same, with an attack of raspberry/blackberry compote, some cinnamon, and an autumn leaf component that was very interesting.  I'd say this wine is a fantastic QPR, and would be delicious with most fall/winter cooking.  Put this alongside some pork chile verde, and it would be a superstar.

Our second wine of the day represents the other end of the QPR scale.  It's the 1980 Chateau Leoville Las Cases St. Julien.  I have a friend who is just as interested in wine as I am, and we have been giving each other escalating birthday presents for a while now.  Last year I gave him a couple bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape, and he responded by gifting me a bottle of 1981 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill (which was absolutely rocking).  So, this was my answer.  For a 31 year old Bordeaux, I was able to source this (also at Winestone) for a "mere" $90.

This wine was everything that an aged, classic Bordeaux should be.  I decanted it just to avoid pouring sediment into our glasses, but it actually, despite its age, opened up even more when given time to breathe.  The nose showed delicate plum, cassis, and blueberry, combined with tertiary components (components derived from aging, not from the grapes or the oak) such as loam, mushrooms, and a delicate pine-needle aroma.  The palate matched up perfectly.  The fruit had not diminished too much, and there were notes of blackcurrant and plum to match up with the forest floor notes.  There was still enough tannin left in the wine that it paired perfectly with grilled ribeye steaks.  This was one of the wines that keeps me coming back.  If you clicked on the link to this wine, you'll see a bunch of people saying "past it's prime, yada yada yada," and they're entitled to their opinions.  With wine of this age, they say, there are no good wines, only good bottles.

Now, people not appreciating the subtlety that aging brings...well that's a whole other blog post.

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