Monday, November 15, 2010

(Belated) Booze in the New (the excuse edition), plus a significant Pinotage mustache

In this Edition, I make excuses for not putting out "Booze in the News" on Friday. In fact, this is really a post about some Pinotage I drank, but I've masked it under the guise of "Booze in the News", not so much for you, but so I can trick myself into thinking I'm doing a respectable job serving up my "regular weekly feature".

Thursday Night Lights: Not a single soul was asking me for wine advice, and I was totally incognito; nary an adoring fan asking for an autograph. In that regard, it was exactly like every other day in my life. But the event- Thursday night football previewing a potential Super Bowl matchup- was far from ordinary. Throw in an emotional victory from the home team, a belly full of suds, a raucous crowd, an 8:20 PM kickoff, and a 7 AM meeting the next day, and this Falcons fan-turned-questionably-talented blogger wasn't doing any writing upon arrival in the 'burbs around 1 AM (I wasn't driving, FYI, per "belly full of suds"). Even if I had put fingers to keyboard, all I can imagine is some incoherent blather about how Alsatian whites are the "Atlanta Falcons" of wines, interspersed with lyrics from hometown Travis Tritt's forgettable 2004 anthem, "Falcons Fever". Trust me: you were better served with nothing this past Friday.

And now for something completely different:

District 9 Wine: After posting this crime against humanity designed to explain the origins of South Africa's notorious red grape, I realized I had very little experience with Pinotage. It'd never been a huge sell- lots of criticism, limited distribution, and descriptors of bananas, meat, paint, and burnt rubber. However, we can never know what we like or dislike based on commentary alone. I snagged two Pinotage bottlings last week: a 2009 Zafrika Western Cape ($4.99 at Trader Joe's) and a 2008 Fleur du Cap Coastal Region $12.99 at Total Wine; thanks for the tip, Matt Horbund). Call me snobby, but I couldn't make a sweeping generalization based on one bottle under five smacks.

As often happens with much-maligned wines, the situation turned out not as bleak as advertised. Okay, the Zafrika smelled like Beaujolais Nouveau (read: bananas and fruit punch) and tasted like cheap Chardonnay (seriously, if I had tasted it blindfolded, I don't know if I would say "red" or "white"). However, criticism aside, Beaujolais Nouveau usually retails for around $12, so if that's your digs, save $7 this Thanksgiving and try something different.

The Fleur du Cap, however, was very different. It immediately threw poop in my face, like some liquid form of a vengeful rhesus monkey. That may sound bad to those who are not fans of feces, primates, or funky wines, but I do like the latter (and I guess I like primates as well), so this barnyard bouquet preluded something interesting. Upon further investigation, the funk actually reminded me less of poop and more of two things: burnt rubber mixed with the smell of a freshly eviscerated deer. I can already see the marketing: "pour Fleur du Cap when you want to relive a deer-centric fender-bender in your glass." I'm for hire, guys, but I need to work in the States. Not as many leaping great white sharks here.

Seriously, though, it's not uncommon for wines to take on a gamey or meaty scent. And the burnt rubber could've been from the presence of mercaptans, a common byproduct in wine production (considered a fault). However, after a couple minutes in the glass, the tires took a hike, and I was left with a pretty complex nose of game, menthol, cranberries, cocoa, coffee, and a little bit of banana (which I can do without, but Pinotage is known to produce a good bit of isoamyl acetate during fermentation, the very ester that gives banana oil its scent). The wine had decent, very smooth tannin structure in the mouth, and offered a lot of fruit and spice. As I drank the bottle throughout the span of a few days, much of the funk fizzled off, and the darker fruits and coffee elements prevailed, harkening not only to one of Pinotage's parent grapes- Cinsault- but to many wines of its geographic ancestry: the Rhône.

All in all, Abraham Izak Pernold's freaky creation fared better than I had predicted. Yes, I understand the criticism. I can see why folks wouldn't like it, as I've never seen banana-crusted venison loin with garlic on the menus at restaurants- fine dining and otherwise. However, at $12, there was a lot going on that kept the nostrils working, and even if this wine had ended up terrible, I was only out twelve bucks, or about the amount of money someone could make in the time it takes to read a poorly-constructed blog post...

...but I'm glad you're here. And the check's in the mail.

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