Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Boston Wine Expo: Pinotage Rosé to Cape Verde

Here is a sampling of some of the other wines that I found interesting at the Boston Wine Expo, and I will be posting about even more wines this week too.

Long a fan of South African wines, I am even a lover of the Pinotage grape, a rather divisive variety which I don't feel gets enough credit. The quality of Pinotage wines continues to improve all the time. At the Expo, I found a delicious Rosé wine made from 100% Pinotage, the 2010 Fantail Pinotage Rosé.

Fantail is the second label of the Morgenhof Wine Estatesituated on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountains outside Stellenbosch. The winery dates back to 1692 and is currently owned by Anne Cointreau, part of the famed French liqueur company, and she was the first women to invest in South Africa post-apartheid. The winery is small, with 74 hectares under vines and only producing about 35,000 cases each year.

The Pinotage vines for this wine average about 15 years, and the juice receives about three hours of skin contact. It is a small production wine, sells for under $15 and has an alcohol content of 12.75%. It possesses a rich pink color, with a nose of red fruit, and on the palate it is crisp and dry, with tastes of strawberry and bright cherry. It is more an Old World style, and does not possess any of the negative characteristics that some try to attribute to Pinotage. If you tasted this wine, you probably would not even guess it was produced from Pinotage. But you very likely would enjoy it and it is well worth giving it a try.

Several New England wineries were present at the Expo and one of my favorites is Turtle Creek Winery of Lincoln. I posted about some of their wines last year, have written other posts about the winery, and am back with an update on some of their new wines. Kip Kumler (pictured above) is the owner and winemaker of Turtle Creek, a small, artisan winery which produces around 900-1000 cases annually. Kip is very passionate about wine and I believe he is a skilled winemaker.

As a treat, Kip was pouring a barrel sample of his 2010 Pinot Noir, the grapes being from the Carneros region. Though a bit rough, it showed plenty of potential with excellent red fruit flavors, good acidity and a touch of earthiness. This promises to be a very good wine when it is ready for bottling and I look forward to its release. The 2009 Syrah seemed to me to be even better than the 2008, possessed of deep, rich flavors, and being powerful but not overly tannic. Its complexity was attractive and it screamed out for a hearty steak. Check this one out.

Kip is introducing a special Reserve line and those wines will be identified with a black backed label rather than the usual white (and you can see that label above). Most of Kip's wine are priced $18-$20, and the Reserve line will be priced around $30. The 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve appealed to me, possessed of ripe black fruit flavors, a spicy backbone, and no green, vegetal notes. This is my preferred style of Cabernet Franc so I was very taken with it. It has plenty of complexity, a long and pleasing finish and is well balanced. Another recommended wine and I look forward to more of his Reserve wines.

One of the most unique offerings at the Expo were two wines from Cape Verde, which was the first time the wines had been shown in the U.S. Cape Verde is an island country in the central Atlantic Ocean, consisting of about ten islands. During the 15th century, Portuguese explorers found the islands, soon after settling there and planting grape vines during the 16th century. Cape Verde gained its independence in 1975.

The island of Fogo (which is a Portuguese term for "fire") has an active volcano, which includes a nine kilometer wide caldera, and the island rises to almost 3000 meters above sea level. There is a small village, Chã das Caldeiras (“Plain of the Calderas”), situated within the caldera, not exactly the safest place to be cause of the active volcano. Most of the grape cultivation of Cape Verde occurs on Fogo, and actually within the caldera itself at altitudes of 1500-2000 meters. Wine has been produced in the caldera for about 120 years. The manual agriculture and harvesting is difficult work in this terrain. Two cooperatives, Chã das Caldeiras and Sodade, produce all of the wine and production is very small, only about 160,000 bottles annually.    

The first wine I tasted was the NV Chã Branco, made from 100% Moscatel and with an alcohol content of 14%. It has a light yellow color with an amber tinge and a nose of perfume and herbs. On the palate, there were flavors of flowers, herbs and spices with a mild grapefruit taste as well. It had decent acidity and a touch of sweetness. I would have enjoyed this with some spicy Asian food. The second wine was the Chã Passito, also made with late harvest Moscatel grapes but which had been dried in the sun. It only has an alcohol content of 10.6%. This was a sweet wine, though balanced with nice acidity, and there were flavors of honey, dried apricot, raisins and with some floral notes and even some minerality. Both wines were good and I would like to try more wines from Cape Verde.

Next time you visit a large wine tasting or expo, skip the California Cabernet and French Bordeaux and seek out the less common wines, the more unusual choices.

Update 1/15/12: I have learned that Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose will soon be carrying the 2010 Fantail Pinotage Rosé.


Paula Cristina Neto said...

had no idea that cape verde was a wine producer! Did u try any portuguese one? I am a wine lover in a quest to find good portuguese wines under 6€!You can find more on my blog, under the category "Wine Diaries" :)

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Paula:
I am a big fan of Portuguese wines and if you do a search of my blog, you will find numerous recommendations, including a number in that price range.

emanuele said...

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