WBW 22 Summary: Lite and Flavorful (most of the time, anyway)

by Tim Elliott on June 16, 2006

I really enjoyed hosting this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday; actually more that I thought I would. I’ve been blogging and podcasting these things for some 15 months or so, but the pressure of hosting is something a bit different. Also a bit different was the theme that attracted WBW’s most devoted participants and left other regulars on the sidelines. Not to mention bringing a controversial issue in the wine industry to the forefront…

So what about the wines, you ask? Well, here you go:

Edward from Wino Sapien was the first entry, more than a week early, but set a pretty high bar. When I came up with the theme, I didn’t think anyone would have much luck finding typically “heavy” alcohol reds like Shiraz or Zinfandel but Edward was able to find a Shiraz in Australia that just came in under the wire at 12.5% ABV, a Tahbilk Shiraz from 1996. He also went the extra mile and compared this selection with a more typical 14.5% Shiraz from the same vintage. Unfortunately the “lite” Shiraz suffered from green characteristics but this was an interesting comparative tasting.

WBW veteran Derrick from An Obsession with Food (and wine) was also a week early in his post. He went with an inexpensive Bordeaux, Château Haut Roudier, clocking in at the maximum 12.5% ABV. Again, the lite red failed to impress with green flavors and lightweight body. Maybe there is something to this alcohol thing, after all. And Derrick, I’d suggest you check out Spanish reds for your house wine ;-)

Fellow podcaster Bill Wilson from Wine for Newbies pulled out the big guns for this WBW with his write-up of Château Margaux 1999. Yep, First Growth Bordeaux makes it’s debut on our humble monthly tasting. And what a wine this was. Full and rich, and worth every penny of the $70 Bill paid for the half-bottle and at only 12.5% ABV, score one for the lite side! Also check out Bill’s companion podcast for WBW 22.

Ted from Houston’s Space City Wine Blog makes his second appearance on WBW and was the first to try an Italian wine meeting the 12.5% maximum alcohol content level, a 2001 Pinot Nero from Pojer i Sandri. Sounds like a satisfying wine, but I wondered if anyone but me was going to venture lower than the limit…

Across the pond in Brussels, Andreea from Glorious Wines enjoyed a Romanian Pinot Noir that was just 11.5% ABV. Way to go, Andreea! The Valea Calugareasca, Pinot Noir 2000 seems like the perfect summer red.

Just up the road from my home-base here in the Twin Cites, Alec from Wine in the ‘peg (as in Winnipeg, Canada) continued the Pinot Noir roll with an Ontario grown Konzelmann Estate Pinot Noir 2004. At just 12% ABV and a reasonable $12.30 CDN price tag it might make for a good introduction to Canadian reds. I’m a little worried about those beet aromas, however ;-)

Another post from Downunder and another lite Shiraz, this time from Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once who enjoyed the Yarra Yering 1997 Underhill Shiraz. With just 12% ABV this Shiraz sounds like a true (and lite) winner.

Craig from Wine Camp conjures up an old Elton John song in his poetic post devoted to a 2004 Beaujolais, L’Ancien, Vielles Vignes, Terres Dorees from Jean-Paul Brun. This 12%er sells for a bargain $15 over here and is imported into the U.S. by the always reliable Louis/Dressner. From Craig’s write-up, it would seem this wine is a true expression of lite red goodness.

The Corkdork checks in with a Loire red, the 2003 Domaine des Corbillieres Touraine Cabernet (Franc). Although it’s unclear exactly what the alcohol level is from his post or winery website, I’d guess it to be right at 12.5%, given the heat of the 2003 vintage in France. Sounds from the tasting notes like it’s a full-bodied red that is worth a search, especially with it’s $12 price tag.

Joanne and Jack from Fork and Bottle keep it in the Loire with the 2000 Clos Rougeard, “Les Poyeux”, Saumur Champigny. A tasty Cab Franc with the limit 12.5% ABV, this elegant wine will continue to please for many years to come according to their excellent post. Great “his and hers” tasting notes, BTW ;-)

WBW founder Lenn from LENNDEVOURS was next to chime in with his usual New York selection. But he changed it up a bit and picked a red from my old stomping grounds in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The Standing Stone Vineyards 2003 Pinnacle keeps the heat down at 11.5% ABV, but the Cab blend is undermined by green flavors. Maybe you should just keep looking for your lite reds on Long Island, Lenn.

The folks at Vino Keeno joined our monthly tasting again with an organic blend being marketed as, “Our Daily Red.” WebWino didn’t find this California wine too keeno but did come up with a classic tasting note that summarizes the flavors as being just like, “…yesterday’s wine. (Or maybe the day before yesterday)”. Yuck! Hmm, I’m gonna chalk this one in the “bad due to organic methods” category and not for being lite in alcohol.

Marcus from Doktor Weingolb returns to French wines and tastes a 2003 Château Cahuzac Côtes-du-Frontonnais. He also learns a lesson about tasting your lite red following a high octane wine – even a white – dilutes your perception of the lite red. Very interesting information and thanks for your kind words regarding the theme, Marcus.

Next up was a post and podcast from Ryan at Catavino. The former Twin Cities resident and American expat living in Madrid found an interesting Spanish red that was just 12% ABV, the 2005 Talai Berri, Getariako Txakolina, Txakolin Beltza. Talk about an obscure variety! Listen to Ryan’s podcast by clicking here.

Serge the Concierge picked an Algerian red made from southern Rhone grapes, the Sidi Brahim, Vin Rouge d’Algerie. At just 12% ABV this wine delivers the goods and is popular with Algerian cuisine. Most impressive considering the North African terroir and grape varieties involved.

We now go to a “hot” appellation for Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington’s Walla Walla Valley AVA with Catie from Through The Grape Vine. If you thought there would be no chance to find a Walla Walla red in the 12.5% or less range, you’d be correct, as Catie, well, bent the rules a bit and picked a 12.8% Cabernet from Washington’s Columbia Valley. It’s from L’Ecole No. 41 and a reasonably priced library selection from 1996. Looks like a winner and it’s not that heavy in the alcohol department. Too bad she was not able to track down a bottle to taste for this event, but says it was great 5 years ago.

Back across the Atlantic, Andrew from Spittoon – the blogger responsible for getting me hooked on WBW last year – tasted a German blend. A Weingärtner Cleebronn-Güglingen Samtrot Lemberger 2004, to be precise (say that one 3 times fast). Sounds like another nice lite red for summer enjoyment that clocks in at 12% ABV. Well done, chap!

Food blogger and sometimes WBW participant Alberto from Il Forno (the founder of “Is My Blog Burning?“) also selected a German red. The 2004 Herzog von Auerstedt, Regent Saale Unstrut is made from the French-American hybrid Regent that is a cross between the German white Diana (itself a cross between Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau) and the red Chambourcin. Too bad Lenn didn’t choose a New York Chambourcin to compare tasting notes, but it would seem the Regent was a bit disappointing in the terroir of Germany.

Garry from tales of a sommelier certainly had a tale to tell about his cellar selection, a 1982 Chateau Branaire, Duluc-Ducru. Even though it was a bit over the line at 12.8% ABV, I’ll accept this one as yet another example of a fine, old and somewhat lite Bordeaux from days gone by. It’s also interesting to note that he had a fair amount of difficulty finding this one in a cellar of more than 1,000 choices.

Tyler, the good Dr. Vino, pulled out a fine Cabernet Franc/Sauvignon blend, Clos Roche Blanche, Touraine, Cabernet from 2004. At only 12% ABV and $15 a bottle, this wine seems to present an elegant expression of fruit and terroir. Definitely one to look for at your local wine specialty store and it would seem best to pick up a case if you find it to avoid the Doctor’s pain :)

Catherine from Purple Liquid also turned to Bordeaux for her selection, the fine and reliable Château Langoa Barton 1999. At 12.5%, it gives you the real deal; full body, rich aromas, plenty of flavors and deep color. She even concludes her post with a poem as a bonus.

Wine Foolery head fool Erwin was stymied in his quest for lite Zinfandel, just as I was. Instead he selected an Italian wine, Montagnana Cardinale 1999. Big and bold flavors on this blend and only 12.5% alcohol. Not bad, Mr. Dink :)

Dan from Red Wine with Fish found a Loire red to try, the 2004 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine. Made from Cot (a.k.a. Malbec) the wine showed a bit of that cool climate green character. It seemed to be just OK and not the style Dan favors, but he managed to pair it with an interesting chicken dish.

Top wine blogger and longtime WBW participant Alder from Vinography went to two wine stores before coming up with a Coteaux du Quercy. The 2001 Vignerons du Quercy “Les Hauts Lastour” is from Cahors and is made from Cabernet Franc. Seems Alder thought this to be a quaffable choice, particularly with his Chinese take-out. I only wished I could be a fly-on-the-wall of those San Francisco wine shops when he asked for his lite reds ;-)

My Wine Education blogger Michelle selected a 2002 Gerard Raphet Bourgogne that made it under the wire at 12.5% ABV. Seems like this Burgundy measured up to expectations and didn’t lose any of it’s flavor intensity or charm for being a bit lite in alcohol. It’s also a bargain at about $20 a bottle.

Akron Beacon Journal wine writer and VIN VINI VINO blogger Trish went to the cellar for her selection, a Chateau Castera Rouge 1994 Cru Bourgeois Medoc. Although she originally intended to round up something from California, the demands of a busy schedule made the decision for her. Sorry to say that both bottles opened of this wine were disappointing; the first corked. Oh well, that makes room for some more of the good stuff!

Leave it to the Caveman, Bill, to come up with some surprising vino. He didn’t just look for a lite red, he looked for an über-lite red, a Brigantino 2003, Casorzo Doc, Accornero that has just 5% ABV. That’s right; 5%! That’s so inspiring, that I will forgive him from raiding his archives instead of searching through the bins like the rest of us ;-)

Dave over at Avenue Vine went to the vineyards of the East. No, not New York, but the Far East with his selection of a Grove Vineyards, Cabernet-Shiraz 2003 from the Nandi Hills in Bangalore, India. Right, the land of high-tech call centers also produces some vino. Most enlightening and seems like Michel Rolland’s long plane rides don’t affect his winemaking advice. You win the most obscure appellation this time, Dave!

Pam and Joe from A Guy, A Girl and A Bottle podcast neither liked my theme or fully understood the “rules” (it’s 12.5% or less, not less than 12.5%, guys!). They ended up with a couple of wines, a “heavy” Chilean Santa Ema, Merlot 1999 (at 12.8% ABV) and a “lite” Portuguese Quinta D’Aguieura 2001 (at 12% ABV). Sounds like the Merlot was a bit over the hill, and the Portuguese blend of 40% Touriga Nacional and 60% Cabernet Sauvignon was too watered down for the hedonists from California ;-) Listen to their podcast for their full tasting notes and their suggestion I should have picked “high” alcohol wines as the theme.

My own post and podcast features a trio of selections from hot climate appellations Spain, Italy and California. Of the three, I thought the J. Lohr, “Wildflower�, Valdiguié, Monterey 2004 was the standout.

So 30 entries and 33 wines rated. Not bad, considering the degree of difficulty. I didn’t expect to see so many Bordeaux in this round-up and it’s interesting to note that about 50% of the wines tasted were at or above the alcohol limit.

Thanks, Lenn, for letting me host and see you all next month as a participant.

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