For this installment, I took a chance on a fairly expensive version of an ugly duckling grape as produced by boutique winery Conalbi-Grinberg of Mendoza. (If I get a chance, I'll add some notes on three local Viogniers I've tried...)
In a preview of coming attractions tacked on to my previous posting, I judged the wine 'unarguably overpriced', which I'd like to retract, as there is-- arguably?-- always room for argument-- at least as far as wine is concerned!
To make a long story short, I'd tipped my hand as to my particular interest in the grape when I phoned the winery, so I had precious little room for argument-- read, 'haggling'-- when Sergio Grinberg sprung the news that-- however diminished the wine might admittedly be from its younger self-- he was letting bottles of his remaining stock go for 150 pesos. That's just about fifty dollars, give or take a buck, depending on exchange rate fluctuations. I swallowed hard. See, the bottling was from 2001, product of a relationship that went unfortunately sour & cut off the winery's source for their only white wine.
Double gulp. Long-in-the-tooth white wine from Rodney Dangerfield grapes? Call me a glutton for punishment-- maybe I should link back to all the posts where I decry my weakness for iffy white wines... but then again, better I should not.
Some background on this particular Vitis Vinifera subvariety, from the Rhone Rangers' page on white varietals:
This ubiquitous grape is perhaps better known by its Italian name of Trebbiano... Although very few people in the United States have heard of it, the varietal is France’s most planted grape [Robinson, 1996], outnumbering Chardonnay five to one in the 1980s. The varietal is so prolific that it produces more wine than any other grape (even though Grenache and Spain’s Airén may cover a larger vineyard area). It is relatively low in alcohol but high in acidity, and, when not overproduced, makes wines with delicate fruit and floral aromas.
...& from Appellation America's grape listing:
Trebbiano (aka. Ugni Blanc, Saint Emilion, Procanico)
...Few grapes can or would admit to being the source of as many generic wines as this Italian native... Trebbiano’s global reach stems from its highly-productive nature and its ability to ripen easily. Beyond that, Trebbiano is afforded little respect for the quality of the wines it produces. Jancis Robinson aptly describes a typical Trebbiano’s character as “...pale lemon, little nose, notably high acid, medium alcohol and body, short. And that, I am afraid is it.”
Time to cut to the chase. The color was lovely: exceptionally deep, limpid yellow, managing to give off both golden straw & green hay glints. The nose was indeed terribly shy, with lemon & herbs & a reminiscence of white flowers. Sergio Grinberg had sighed for a distinct white rose note he said he found in the wine's aroma during its youth, & this helps fuel my regret that they're not making it anymore. In the mouth, the body was medium light, thinning quickly in the glass as it warmed. Some refreshing citrus & not much more in palate except for the surprise of lingering, spicy herbaceousness in the aftertaste: something like green ginger & fennel.
I had the chance to share most of the bottle with a lovely couple from London (--although Aidan is Irish from County Clare, & Debbie is originally from the Channel island of Jersey) who have been traveling for six months & keep their own blog, here. I feared the wine might have deteriorated-- this was two days after I opened the bottle for notes-- but there was some staying power to the juice, which made the high price seem worth it...mostly. The color was still its most dramatic selling point, but they also noticed the subtle herbal-citrus interplay, & lamented the mouthfeel's tendency to quickly lighten & wash out in the glass.
All in all, I'm happy Sergio & his partner, Pablo Conalbi, overcame my skepticism regarding 'boutique wineries' & welcomed my visit. I'm also unutterably glad of the chance to sample an 'upscale' product coaxed out of what is considered a 'common' grape. Call it part of my personal crusade to shake inherited prejudices & fight condescending & dismissive attitudes, wherever they may originate. But, as is so often the case with me-- especially as I usually make a point, like our virtual tasting hostess for this month, of ferreting out exceptional quality at an accessible price-- my feelings are ultimately so mixed regarding what the wine delivers under the circumstances as to render a clear, cut & dried judgement, whether in numerical terms or not, impossible for me...so there. See you in July!
(Missed my chance to blare, 'Hold The Presses!' from the masthead: as last Wednesday's deadline approached, I was visiting a winery by the name of 'Cavas de Chacras' which produces versions of both Ugni Blanc & Viognier from organically grown grapes. On first taste, the Ugni Blanc was peculiarly reminiscent of Sauv Blanc, with grassy gooseberry character, while the Viognier was rather tight & unyielding to the senses. Will taste again this evening, in good company, & will post a link here to a separate post for tasting notes & the story of how I discovered the winery. Cheers to all participants this month!)