The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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{ }  49 wine with a lifted finish, bright acidity and a notion of saltiness can be said to possess minerality . . . and beyond that, a difficult-to-pinpoint characteristic of great 'drinkability' always goes hand-in-hand with wines of minerality." He added, "We, as an industry, need to pinpoint the important aspects of [it] and share it with our guests. The Tasting The wines were loosely organized from least to most mineral. Multiple samples from a region were grouped together. Mike tasted blind along with the team. With the exception of one older Riesling (old being a relative term for Rieslings), we tasted recent vintages. To our surprise, the team found less expensive wines from low regions—Rías Baixas and the Alejento in Portugal—more refreshing and straightforward than those from high altitudes or mountain climates such as Alto Adige, Alsace or the Mosel, demonstrating that big names are not always the big winners. Bright lime flavors, peachy orchard fruits and white flowers in the Verdejo and Albariño won favor as wines to serve chilled and to chill by on the patio, but reminded Mike of the 1970s band The Eagles—"easy listening wines" that offend no one. "You can be happy drinking them, but they don't have a ton of character." A single vineyard Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige was a puzzler, expressing more ripe fruits than minerals and acid. The Alsace Riesling seemed overwhelmed by its richness, with half the team noting residual sugar as the prime deterrent to fuller enjoyment. French standbys in Chablis and Sancerre were not as mineral as expected. What the Sancerre lacked in mouthfeel (too sheer), it made up for in the nose with vegetal aro - mas—even cannabis leaf (described as "East Village scent" by Aldo and "pheromonal" by Jeff). The overall evaluation: pithy, thin and technical. "There's unresolved SO2 that competes with the varietal characteristics and it's really jarring," Eduardo noted. Three Chablis from the same producer received mixed reviews, with the basic AOC faring most favorably for its bright freshness and rocky minerality. Eduardo noted its cool pear notes, and "nice, crushed rock chalk character . . . I'd serve this damn cold with oysters and I'd be happy." Both Aldo and Arnaud took note of its citrus notes and rocky minerality, but felt the wine was "without soul." The Vaudésir Grand Cru bottle seemed rustic and oxidized, and couldn't be evalu - ated. The Grand Cru Les Clos fared better with its finesse, mineral intensity and a pith that delivered more brightness than bitterness. Uniformly, the sommeliers expressed disappointment given the producer's excellent reputation. A group of German Rieslings from three different regions also received mixed reviews. A Riesling that was "soulless" for Aldo and too oily for Mike made Eduardo want to "drink it all day with hot dogs and potato chips." A Mosel wine showed more botrytis than minerality, and the prominence of sulfur aromas presented a challenge for all three wines. "There's too much getting in the way of me enjoying this wine. Immediate drinkability is important," Mike said. "What's the idea of the wine from a winemaker's standpoint? Is he just saying, 'I have to put sulfur is this because of the RS?' " Aldo noted that sulfur and reduction in wine are trending and "very sexy right now" indicating that Riesling is still a wine of divergent tastes, even among producers. "If you're a German winemaker at the moment, you're in the middle of a crisis because what are you going to produce? The German market screams for a dry. Americans get up from the table when they have to taste a dry Riesling," he said. So, after a critical review, what did these somms like? Hands down, it was the least assuming wine in the lineup: a racy Assyrtiko from the Santos cooperative in Santorini. "No doubt that's real wine. That's terroir talking," Mike said, adding he's been pouring the food-friendly Assyrtiko by the glass at Bar Boulud for five years. Jeff who serves Sigalas Assyrtiko at Betony, called it a natural for salt-baked fish and fava. Mike added lamb with lemon to that menu: "You can have heavy red meat with an Assyrtiko. It's sick." The wines tasted. Michelle Biscieglia of Blue Hill. Jeff Taylor of Betony. Eduardo Port Carreiro of DBGB Kitchen & Bar.

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