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28 March 2006

Muscat Ottonel Gets a Bad Rap

WmlogoRecently, Basic Juice received some Austrian wine samples from Winemonger. Since I’m a lover of all things sweet, I was ecstatic to find several dessert wines in my goodie box. I was instantly drawn to the two Muscat Ottonels in the bunch; while I’ve never met a muscat I haven’t liked, I couldn’t recall drinking a solo Ottonel, or at least one that was openly labeled as such. I needed a refresher on its place in the muscat family, so I heaved out the textbooks and looked it up.

Ottonel is apparently the most planted muscat variety in Austria and Alsace. It’s the palest in color of all the muscat varieties, it ripens the earliest, and has the least intense aroma. Jancis Robinson sure isn’t shy, calling the grape vapid and a relative parvenu. A parve-who? I looked that up too. It’s not a compliment.

Given Ottonel’s less-than-stellar reputation, I wondered if these wines could be any good. Both were late harvest: one a Beerenauslese, and one a Trockenbeerenauslese. Could there be enough acidity in these extra ripe grapes to support the sugar, or enough fruit and aromatics to make them interesting? I had to find out. Both wines were from Burgenland, and both listed at $29.99 (for 375 ml):

PaslertbaPasler Muscat Ottonel Trockenbeerenauslese 2002 - I jumped to this right away because I’m a big TBA fan. Light to medium gold color, with a moderately-intense fruity, floral nose of apricot and honeysuckle. A good amount of acidity kept the sweetness in check. But while the palate was pleasant like the nose, it dropped away to a dried fruit finish that ended quickly, almost with a bitter citrus pith character. Overall, a decent wine for the price (a TBA for $30?!), but not my top pick.

VelichbaVelich Muscat Ottonel Beerenauslese 2001 - This wine rocks. Amber gold color (a bit darker than the Pasler TBA). Intense, complex nose of caramel, honeysuckle, smoky apricot and tangerine. Velich's M.O. was aged 18 months in oak, and you sense it right away. The sweet, succulent palate matches the nose, with fresh acidity, and a looooong nutty, fruit-filled finish. Did I say I loved this wine? Hands down winner of the two. And for $30? You’ve got to be kidding.

Okay, if you know Austrian wines, you know that Burgenland is world-renowned for its amazing botrytized wines year after year. Muscat Ottonel need not feel bad for itself, because it's clearly a star in this region. Hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a bottle of d’Yquem or a German TBA when you can get treats like these for a fraction of the price!

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22 September 2005

brown spice-accented peaches

Shakespearer_2Back in June, Beau snarked about wine words he hates.

I had to revisit that post yesterday when reading about Robert Parker’s Wine of the Day. Here’s some of his review:

The 2004 Gruner Veltliner Weinzierlberg, harvested mid-November, offers ripe aromas of brown spice-accented peaches and plums as well as Veltliner-typical snap peas. The palate is sappy and fruit filled, with plenty of cut, clarity, and crisp vegetable, juicy pit fruit, and tart red raspberry character. The finish is long and refreshing, with subtly salty suggestions of minerality…”

Huh? Can someone tell me what the hell “brown spice-accented peaches” are? Would those be brown spices or brown peaches? Lots of the spices in my cabinet are brown (cinnamon and nutmeg, cumin and coriander, just to name a few), and the only brown peach I’ve ever seen is the one I found rotting behind my fruit bowl. How about the palate being “sappy”? Okay, if I let my imagination run wild, maybe. But having plenty of “cut, clarity, and crisp vegetable, juicy pit fruit”? Anyone??

Is this review really written to inform and describe a wine, or merely to flaunt his own absurd loquaciousness? I respect Parker’s intelligence and his contributions to the wine world. But unfortunately, many people are still intimidated by wine, and this esoteric crazy-speak certainly doesn’t help. Maybe Parker should take up poetry?


20 September 2005

Pagani Ranch Zin

Utahfall_3Fall is coming and that means bring out the red – red wine and red meat. But as much as I love red meat, I can’t go around eating rib eye and rack of lamb seven nights a week. Sadly, this means that a lot of my big tannic reds collect dust when it comes to mealtime. For example, last night was stir-fry chicken night, and although a crisp aromatic white probably would’ve sealed the deal, I wouldn’t have it. Football was on, and the leaves on the tree outside of my window were starting their annual fade to orange. I was in the mood for red, and a BIG one at that. So I looked passed all the cabs and found a bottle of 2000 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel.

Short review: yum

Continue reading "Pagani Ranch Zin" »

21 August 2005

Colonia LL Bonarda

2003 Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda ($8)

ColoniabonardaClear, opaque ruby fading to a pale, purple-ruby rim. Clean, youthful, pronounced nose of ripe plum, cassis, roasted meat and chocolate. Dry, with balanced acidity and medium-high tannins. Medium-full bodied, with an intense palate similar to the nose, with a marked absence of oak. Medium alcohol and medium length. A good value bonarda from Mendoza, this wine can be drunk now, but the will soften over the next 3 years.

18 August 2005

Burgans Albarino

Burgans2003 Burgans Albarino ($14)   
Clear and bright, pale lemon yellow fading to a pale watery rim. Slight petillance detected in the glass and felt as a slight prickle on the tongue. Clean, youthful, pronounced nose of floral melon, citrus, apricots and minerals. Dry, with crisp acidity. Medium-bodied, with a pronounced palate like the nose. Medium alcohol and long length. A very good quality albarino from the Rias Baixas region.  Fresh and fruity, this wine should be consumed now and over the next 3 years.   

12 August 2005

St. Henri Shiraz

Pensthenri_11999 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz ($40)   
Clear, deep ruby fading to a thin ruby rim. Clean, with an intense, developing nose of caramel, sweet dark fruits, chocolate, leather.  Dry, with medium acidity and medium, ripe tannins. Full bodied, with an intense palate of supple black fruits, chocolate and leather.  High alcohol, with long length and a slightly warm finish. A very good quality, lush shiraz from South Australia. It is drinkable and enjoyable now, but may be drunk over the next 10 years, as the ripe fruit will carry, and the tannins will soften a bit.   

08 August 2005

Clos Apalta

Closapalta02_12002 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta ($65)   
Clear, opaque ruby core fading to a dark pink rim. Clean, youthful and medium-high intense nose of oak, black plums, smoky oak and cinnamon. Dry, with medium acidity, and moderately high, ripe tannins. Full-bodied, with an intense palate of vanilla oak, spicy black plums and dark, almost raisined red fruits. High yet balanced alchohol, with long length.  Exellent quality merlot-based Chilean wine. Drinks well now, but could use some time - up to 10 more years of aging.   

05 August 2005

Thelema Sauvignon Blanc

Thelemasb_12002 Thelema Sauvignon Blanc ($14)

Clear, pale lemon fading to a pale watery rim. Clean, youthful, pronounced nose of a vegetal and mineral fruit character.  Dry, with crisp acidity. Medium-bodied, with a pronounced palate of green pepper, gooseberries, citrus peel and wet stone.  Medium alcohol with medium-long length.  Good quality sauvignon blanc from the Stellenbosch region. Drinks well now, but could develop complexity with another 2-3 years in bottle.

01 August 2005

Northstar Merlot

Northstar1998_11998 Northstar Merlot ($50)   
Clear, medium to deep, ruby core fading to a pale garnet-ruby rim. Clean, with an intense, developing nose of jammy black berries, plums, chocolate, leather and cassis. Dry, with a sweet attack from the ripe, concentrated fruit. Medium acid with medium, soft tannins. Full-bodied, with an intense palate layered with chocolate, toasty oak, blackberries, plums and leather. Medium alcohol and a long length. Smooth and silky, this merlot from the Columbia Valley drinks perfectly now, but could easily last another 5 years without losing too much fruit character and tannin structure.

26 July 2005

95 St. Julien

1995 Chateau Lagrange St. Julien ($50)
ChlagrangeClear, deep garnet fading to a brick red rim. Some sediment in the wine indicating some age. Clean, with an intense, developing nose of cedar, earth, black currants, spice. Dry, with medium acidity and medium-high, still somewhat drying tannins. Full bodied, with an intense palate of black pepper, black currants, mint, cedar and earth. Medium alcohol and long length. An excellent quality cabernet-based Bordeaux showing maturity. As fruit is still persistent on the finish of this firm, structure-driven wine, it will age well and tannins will soften even more over the next 5-10 years.

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