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January 2013

General Wine Geekery #2


This is just my second advertorial in the Daily Sun and I'm still feeling out the ropes.  I still don't even know if I'll get edited for saying "****" or "this wine smells like a horse's ass", so I've decided to focus on something I know really well, one of my favorite wines: Family Laurent St Pourcain.
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The back story:
St Pourcain is an obscure wine region southwest of Beaujolais and Burgundy in central France.  It's up in the low mountains where the Loire river has it's headwaters so the temperatures are a bit cooler and the soil is pretty rocky and full of granite.  The Laurent's St Pourcain is one of my all time favorite wines because it hits both of the priorities I mentioned in the last column: it has a totally unique taste that's a product of the climate it comes from, and it's a good value (it's under $15).  A lot of the wines that are available to us are made industrially in wineries that look more like oil refineries than our vision of Lucille Ball dancing in a wooden vat.  The Laurent family may not be stomping on their grapes with their feet, but they do farm naturally, do the hard work of pruning themselves, and hand harvest all their grapes.  The Laurent's even do the fermentation of the wine with the natural yeast that's on the grapes skins instead of using commercial yeast strains bought from a lab, as is common. 

The drinking part:
The St Pourcain is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay.  True to the granite and limestone in the soil the wine has a minerally-stony taste on the mid-palate.  Don't ask me to explain it, it's just a slightly acidic-dry taste that makes me think of rocks. There's plenty of fruit: all that ripe Pinot Noir and Gamay give it lots of juicy raspberry and cherry flavors, but there's also a darker quality to the taste that's just a bit gamey and spicy, and the aroma has a wood smoke quality to it.  It's a wine that tastes interesting to me! By which I mean there're several different components that I taste, but all those flavors are working well together.  It's a bright, fun, alive tasting wine.

Obviously working as a wine merchant I'm not saving the world, but getting to support unique hand made products like this that aren't that aren't that exclusive and hard to get makes me feel good at the end of the day. I hope you've enjoyed reading.  Just remember that whatever you're drinking, no matter what I or anyone else thinks, the only opinion that really matters is yours.

Ned Swain is a professional advocate for excitement and fun of the vinous variety  More info is available at devenishwines.com

General Wine Geekery #1 (my weekly Daily Sun column)

 In the interest of promoting my philosophy about wine and the wines I love, I've started writing a weekly article in the Daily Sun.  It will be in the paper every Wednesday.  I don't intend on it being just a wine review. I want to make the article a little more useful and informative than just an advertisement; and hopefully fun to read.  This was the first last Wednesday.

General Wine Geekery

This is the first in a series of wine related "advertorials" that I plan on writing for the Daily Sun. My entire adult life, since the age of 18, has been spent in the wine business and I currently run a wholesale company called Devenish Wines. Obviously I'm not going to be a completely unbiased commentator, but my goal isn't to just advertise some specific wine. For some reason I get really passionate about wine (my occupational title is "Wine Geek") and so I'm doing this to promote my ideas about wine and understanding of it. The bottom line is that I love wine and I can't help wanting to share.

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I love wine, but specifically I love wines that are unique and quirky and taste like where they come from. I love wines that are the product of the local culture, soil, weather, and families that made them; wines that couldn't come from anywhere else. It helps too if they're affordable, because how much fun is spending $200 on a bottle of wine? That can wind up feeling more expensive than fun and I like to keep wine fun. Being in this business for so long I've tasted a lot of good wines, crazy wines, and bad wines: I've built a portfolio of wines that I believe in, but what's the point of finding all these exciting wines if other people don't know about them?!? A lot of the wines in the Devenish portfolio are so unique that no one's heard of them before. I won't stand for it! There are brilliant and exciting hand made wines out there and I'm going to make sure they get some attention!

Over the coming weeks I'll be using this space to promote my personal opinions and thoughts on wine and the business of selling wine in Maine. General wine geekery we'll call it. It won't be too serious, but it will be fun: just like I like my wines.


Cinccinato Castore

I'm quite taken with the Cincinnato Castore.  The Castore has a lot of different interesting tastes and components going on, but it's not trying to be anything fancy; it's a good honest rich Mediterranean white. Castore is made by Cincinnato, a winery working to revive traditional grape varieties down in the central Italian town of Cori.  The Castore is made from the Bellone grape; don't ask, I've never heard of it before.  However, I do know that the Castore comes from organically farmed grapes and that the soil is rather volcanic here.  It comes to me from the Adonna portfolio that I so recently picked up and have been very jazzed about.

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Vintage: 2011

Aroma:

I don't have any trouble smelling the Castore.  I've got no experience with the Bellone grape, but this is rich and enticing.   The Castore kind of smells like fresh pineapple and apricot to me, but there's a snap, a crispness to the aroma that reminds of Sauvignon blanc.  It's an aroma that makes me think of summer and warm sun even on this cold dark January night!  As I let it warm up I get more lushness and sweet smells; it has some honey to it.  I'm having a hard time making myself continue to smell this and evaluate it and not just drink the Castore; it pulls off rich substantial fruit smells as well as a fresh clean vibrancy!

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Taste:

The Castore is a mouth full!  That's the first thing that hits me as I drink the Castore: it has a thick viscous texture that coats your mouth.  Just like the aroma indicated the Castore has some ripe fruit to it.  It's juicy and the taste reminds me of apricot and peach, also a bit like mango.  Behind the Castore's fruit there's a tangy taste that is like the peel of a fruit: just a hint bitter.  I associate that slightly mineral tang with wines that come from really volcanic soil and the region the Castore hails from is in fact pretty volcanic.  The other really important taste component here in the Castore is the acidity.  The Castore may be richly fruity and mouth filling, but it still has noticeable fresh acidity that makes it come across as playful and vibrant instead of slow and lazy like many full bodied central Italian whites.

The Castore is a super versatile white.  I'm enjoying it now in the winter, but I can imagine it being great with fresh caught fish this summer!  So far it's available for under $15 at the Rosemont on Brighton and Whole Foods. 


Giovannoni Baby Bruno

Most of the time the market forces and economics that are the ticking wheels inside the wine industry are hidden, but every now and then a wine gets made differently or something happens that exposes some of those hidden business dealings.  This wine is the exciting result of such a situation. 

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Baby Bruno is essentially declassified Brunello di Montalcino.  It's made from Sangiovese Grosso grapes that were grown in Montalcino with the express intention of making Brunello, but then, because the grower/producer didn't think the market would bear an increase in the supply of his expensive Brunello he decided to skip all the aging and bottle some immediately; resulting in the 2011 Baby Bruno.

The Baby Bruno fermented and spends a few months in stainless steel, then into the bottle.  Leaving wine in a tank, barrels, or the bottle for years is expensive.  Aging wine takes up valuable space in a winery; tanks cost money, barrels cost lots and lots of money, and sometimes winemakers can't wait.  Or at least the banks that hold the loans that pay for tanks and barrels won't wait.

Aroma: the Baby Bruno sure smells like a dark, dry, serious wine.  I can smell dried cherries and blackberries, but also some roasted coffee and bittersweet chocolate from the Baby Bruno.  It's so dark and there's so much else going on around the fruit; so many dark, earthy, gamey, meaty aromas that the baby Bruno almost smells intimidating! 

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Taste: It's dense and tightly wound.  The Baby Bruno seems brawny to me; the tannins of the finish aren't super rough, but they hold on and the finish lingers.  It's so not like a typical lighter acidic Sangiovese.  I think the Baby Bruno is a great example of just how different the terroir of Montalcino and Sangiovese Grosso is.  Baby Bruno is pretty well balanced, but much more expansive and ripe than most Sangioveses, while still having some Tuscan earth and good bright berry acidity up front.   The nuances of wood smoke and charred meat are great!  This would be fantastic with a rib eye or NY strip steak!

Conclusion: Baby Bruno is big brawny and kind of beefy.  It has great depth and fills your mouth with a rich concentrated dry fruit, dark earth, and restrained tannins. 

Baby Bruno is about $20 and is available at Tess's in Brunswick, Local in Brunswick, Downeast Beverage Portland, The Clown in York, and Now You're Cooking in Bath


Lunch at Bresca!

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Starting on Wednesday the 9th Bresca started serving lunch!  And yes it is just as beautiful and creative as their dinner menu!  Krista is making the switch to only doing dinner service on Friday and Saturday nights, but serving lunch Wednesday through Saturday.

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The menu was smaller and more casual feeling.  I think it will be evolving as Krista eases into lunch and gets more comfortable with the rhythm of it.  I sat at the bar and started with the steak tartare sandwich on a house made brioche bun.  The tartare was pretty traditionally prepared: delicate texture, cool, capers mixed in, but with a fried egg on top instead of egg mixed in.  The warm brioche did a great job of soaking up and holding onto the slightly runny egg and soft tartare. 

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I intended to take a picture of the tartare sandwich, but it was so damn good I just ate it in one go! 

A little spinach salad and some cornichons came along with the tartare sandwich and it was a filling full lunch on it's own.  I, however, have an appetite and the menu was so exciting looking that I decided to order the veal meatball sub to follow it up.

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The sub was huge; rich, gooey, dripping with ricotta and stewed tomatoes.  The meatballs were only lightly spiced to show off the excellent elegant flavor of the meat.  By the time I'd finished that I was vaguely uncomfortably full and felt like a nap.  Best of all the menu seems really well priced.  $12 for a huge and delicious meatball sub consumed relaxing at Bresca seemed like a steal!

I definitely recommend stopping by for a relaxing lunch.  It made my wednesday so much better!