The Biscayne Times

Jan 23rd
Wines for a Chilly Evening PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Citara, BT Contributor   
February 2017

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

IPix_Vino_2-17t’s winter in South Florida. How can you tell?

Socks. If you haven’t seen these before, they’re tubular pieces of fabric that people wear on their feet. Amazing! Who knew?

Gardens. Let’s face it, trying to grow anything in South Florida’s nuclear summers is like trying to raise delicate little seedlings in the middle of a blast furnace. When the rest of the country is chipping icicles off their noses, we’re planting tomatoes. Tomatoes! With real taste and texture! Amazing! Who knew?

Traffic. For most of the year, traffic in South Florida is like a low-grade case of food poisoning -- a constant, nagging irritation that eats at your gut like a hungry weasel. Adding hundreds of thousands of snowbirds and brain-addled tourists turns that irritation into full-blown intestinal evacuation.

Closets. You know what closets are for. They’re where you keep the essential items of South Florida clothing -- flips, shorts, T-shirts, maybe a pricey Tommy Bahama for those super-formal occasions. In winter, however, we’re forced to explore the nether reaches of this mysterious space for all manner of exotica -- sweaters, jackets, sweatshirts, even scarves and gloves.

And since it’s winter in South Florida, as pathetic as that may seem to the benumbed residents of the frozen tundra up north, Vino took it as the perfect excuse to take a break from cool white wines and lightly chilled rosés, and stick a fork and knife into some big, hearty reds. Our own little taste of winter.

First, from Spain’s Bodegas Bocopa comes the 2014 Castillo de Alicante, an inky blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo that drinks lighter than it looks. It’s got plenty of fruity heft, though -- dense black cherry fruit with hints of anise, herbs, and oak. It also drinks a little young, which means you can keep it around for a while -- not a bad thing, given its $9 price tag.

Cheaper still (but with surprising complexity) is the 2014 Masi Modello Rosso delle Venezie. This Italian offering is a combo of grapes most of us have never heard of, but the result is a full-bodied wine that tastes of ripe plums and black cherries rounded out by a minor symphony of background flavors -- olives, leather, smoke, and minerals. It’s got more going on than many wines costing twice as much.

You really can’t talk about big, beefy red wines without talking about Carmenère, the iconic grape of Chile with its roots (figuratively speaking) in Bordeaux. Both the 2014 Natura and 2014 Root:1 show off the grape’s characteristic bracing black and red cherry-berry flavors and earthy, slightly herbal nuances.

The Natura strikes a somewhat more herbal, oaky note with a touch of raspberry acidity on the finish. The Root:1 is a bit lighter in style, with black olive and leather aromas and pinches of cloves and black pepper mingling with fruit on the palate. Both are well-structured wines that deliver big flavor without crossing the line into overripe and cloying. (We’re looking at you, inexpensive California Cabernets.)

Edging awfully close to that line is the Dark Horse Big Red Blend. No vintage is given on the label but a little research on that Interweb thing reveals that it’s a mélange of Malbec, Syrah, Merlot, and Tempranillo. If you like hearty fruit flavors -- blackberries and blueberries, black and red cherries, with an undercurrent of toasty oak -- you’ll like this one just fine.

Better balanced, at least to my palate, is the 2014 Four Vines Old Vine Zinfandel. Though the nose comes off jammy, even a little raisiny, in the mouth it tastes of fresh red and black cherries and raspberries, with a peppery, brambly edge that’s one of the great features of many California Zinfandels.

If these wines are not big enough for you, get out your lead-lined glasses and pour the 2014 Cloud Break Petite Sirah. It looks almost black with a faint purplish tint and practically jumps out of the glass with aromas of black ’n’ blue fruit, cassis, cloves, and black pepper. It tastes like that too, though it’s unexpectedly light on the palate, an excellent choice for when South Florida winter drops temperatures to the mid-70s and we’re rooting around in our closets for sweaters and jackets.

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