Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Perfect Strangers

November 30, 2009
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Disclaimer: the wine I’m writing about in this post was given to me as a sample from the very smart and handsome folks at Two Friends Imports.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the Dynamic Duo. They’re the Gruesome Twosome. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, meat and potatoes, catfishing and MGD, pulled pork and coleslaw, cocaine and Lindsay Lohan, football and chicken wings, and/or Ponch and Jon. Yeah, you know: your favorite CHiPs, keeping the highways safe, the streets clean, and the ladies frisky. And they do it in perfect harmony with one another…Erik Estrada’s powerful and undeniable machismo paired with Larry Wilcox’ smooth-as-Parkay, California-surfer cool. Power and Smoothness. Sounds like Cab and Merlot to me.

Okay, this is gonna get weird, so bear with me. Let’s say you take Ponch and Jon and combine them into one entity. Cab and Merlot so often work together in the wine world, so it’s not too much of a stretch. Now let’s draw a very odd metaphor, calling this single entity “Larry Appleton” (aka Mark Linn-Baker’s character on Perfect Strangers). Sure, Larry was neurotic and not quite the milk-drinking stallion you’d expect from a Ponch/Jon love child, but the metaphor has to work. Why? Because you then take this Cab/Merlot/Larry Appleton creation, and throw a proverbial Balki Bartokomous into the mix: Vranec. Awkward on the surface (and difficult to pronounce), this pairing, in the end, is really a case of “perfect strangers” (see, it all came together neatly…sort of).
Such is the 2006 Bovin Alexandar. A proprietary (basically, meaning I don’t know the percentages) blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Vranec from the Tikves wine region of Macedonia. Thanks to the generosity of Two Friends Imports, I’ve been able to post about Macedonian wines a couple times: here talking about Cab and Chardonnay, and here talking about a varietal Vranec bottling (and Ravishing Rick Rude). Overall (especially for the price points), I’ve been pretty impressed at all the Bovin offerings, and I’d not hesitate to purchase them for serving to friends or giving as gifts. That’s an honest opinion, not a sell out. I’d hope my integrity’s worth more than a $13 bottle of wine (okay, barely).

In the snout, I got some serious barnyard at first. Barnyard, aka “horse blanket”, aka “poop”, is not really a bad thing in wine. To me, it’s an expression of terroir, and it’s something that can be pretty common in “old world” (meaning “European”) wines. Shortly after, that barnyard blew off a bit and opened up very pleasant smells of blueberries (something I get from Merlot a lot), blackberries, cassis (basically, the smell of Cabernet Sauvignon), earth, charcoal, dark cocoa, and spice. I also got this really distinct smell of concord grapes, as if I was smelling a glass of Welch’s grape juice. Sure, it doesn’t sound very impressive to say a grape-based spirit smells like grapes, but I’m not a very impressive person. It was there, okay? Get off my back.
In the mouth, the wine was very dry, with restrained flavors of black fruits (blackberries, plums, etc.), with some pepper mixed in. It was pretty smooth, but structured with some tannins (courtesy of the Cab and Vranec, no doubt). It was actually pretty austere and reserved in the mouth, and a little hot (alcoholic) and bitter on the back end. Although I drank it alone (as in without food…okay, I was by myself too), the wine’s subtleties told me that it would be very good with a meal. Preferably a meal with meats. Tasty red meats. The kind your doctor tells you not to have all the time. He’s probably telling you not to have wine all the time, either, so binge all at once, then go eat a carrot or something.
So, once again, Bovin brings some nice value. For a bottle priced in the low-to-mid teens, you could blow the lid off of a California wine with a marketable name. If you’re into big, fruity wines (Red Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz, California Cabernet), the Alexandar will certainly be a change of pace. However, the more you get into wine, the more you may appreciate more elegance and terroir in your glass (especially if serving with food).
Distribution’s still pretty sparse for Macedonian wine, but if you’re in Atlanta, you can find Bovin Alexandar (and other wines) at The Mercantile, Cheers Beer & Wine, and Your Dekalb Farmers Market. You can also ask for it to be ordered at Whole Foods or Harry’s Farmers Markets.
If you’re well-heeled and get to eat out (I’m pretty much no-heeled at this point), ask for Bovin at Vinocity Wine Bar in Kirkwood or Parker’s on Ponce in Decatur- what I’m told is a very good and locally-owned steakhouse (I’d have more info if I’d been there…refer to “no-heeled” comment).
Bottom-line: if you get your hands on some of this wine, you may do the “Dance of Joy” (it’s a Balki thing). And I will toast you: Cheers, Sláinte, L’Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, Kampai, and Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Find Your Stallion

October 18, 2009
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“What I’d like to have now is for all you high-rollin’, Bordeaux-drinkin’ sweathogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show all you female sommeliers the sexiest wine alive. Hit the music!”

Okay, it’s a stretch…not the “sexiest wine alive”, but I’ve lately been obsessed with making Ravishing Rick Rude references. I mean, let’s cut to the core here, folks. If you were a young lady in the eighties, what wouldn’t you love about The Ravishing One? The brash attitude, the nimble hips, the Hardy Wallace mustache, and the irresistable curly-fro mullet…truly, the late great Rick Rude was a stallion.

And how apropos to the subject at hand. Let it be known to all FCC operatives monitoring this site that I recently received a sample from Two Friends Imports of 2007 Bovin Vranec (pronounced vranetz), the “black wine of Macedonia”. In fact, “vranec” is Macedonian for “black stallion”. You see, this sloppy metaphor is finally coming together.

I opened it on Friday night, and the first taste pretty much bit my face off. Imagine a horse; a powerful, Mickey Rooney-trained black stallion, literally biting your face off. It was nothing like that. I just meant it was big and tannic, and the nose was very tight..couldn’t smell much. Relax. I still have my face. But my intact face and I decided to put it in a decanter for a couple hours and see what happened.

The nose opened up a little after a spell, but it was definitely old-world, meaning more subtle and not overpowering with fruit and alcohol. I got some fruits: cranberries, blueberries, and plums, but they were hiding behind terroir smells of herbs, charcoal, tar, and black and white pepper. Since I’ve been on an Aussie kick lately, it was a pleasant surprise to get a subtle European nose that didn’t get me drunk just by smelling it.

In the mouth, I got more cranberries, dark fruit, decent acidity, spice, and fistfuls of pepper, with a solid backbone of bitter tannin.

Baby Steps: Tannins are phenolic compounds found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, as well as in the oak barrels in which many wines are aged. The add bitterness to wine, as well as a tactile sensation that makes your mouth feel “fuzzy” or dry. Tannins are often purposely extracted from the grapes to add more structure to the wine, and they also can help wine age better. Some of the most tannic grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Nebbiolo, and Tannat.

The finish was pretty long, and the drying effect of the tannins made me want to wet my whistle again. I almost feel like this wine is a Syrah/Cabernet Franc/Merlot hybrid, but with better acidity. Hudson, who provided me the sample, said this was his “BBQ” wine, and he’d love to pair it with a whole roast lamb. I’d have to say I agree wholeheartedly.

So, if you’re looking for something you’ve probably never had, head out and try to find some Vranec. I think it’d be a nice wine to have as the weather gets colder. At the very least, it’d be a very easy way to bring that stallion into your life at last. I’d have to say that it beats the alternative:

Ah, l’amour…I’ll toast to that, and I’ll do it in Macedonian: Na Zdravje!