Response to Green Wines for Spring Sippin’

By Jesse on April 4, 2008

We returned to Newsha’s this week for the first time in a few months, and we welcomed some newbies into the fold as well (check out Jessica’s sweet photos below). This week the Winos were asked to bring one of four zesty, herbaceous, “green” varietals: Albarino, Arneis, Gruner Veltliner, or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I was pleased that we had representations of each one on hand for the tasting.

The five of us who had tasted the Cab Franc from Chinon were about fifteen minutes late due to Wine Blogging Wednesday. The newbies were justifiably miffed. We decided to appease them with some alcohol.

First up was the 2006 Burgans Albarino (Rias Baixas), the ’05 vintage of which we’ve had before. The nose was resplendent with lemon, citrus, honeysuckle, and “stone fruit” (i.e. peaches, apricots, etc…. thanks for confusing us, Jordan). Jessica also got some “cat pee” on the nose, and we weren’t even into Sauvignon Blanc territory yet. Good acid on the palette, yet some Winos reported that a creamy element made itself known throughout — other Winos didn’t get any creaminess at all. Jason offered that “it starts acidic, and then it softens,” prompting Sasha to respond, “it’s like you!” The creamy vs. sharp and lemony camps refused to see eye-to-eye, and all we could agree on was that for $10, this was a great buy.

Next was the 2006 Malvira Renesio Arneis (Roero), our one offering from Italy’s Piedmont region. Andrew immediately tagged the nose as warm cantaloupe (“I ate a lot of cantaloupe as a kid, and I’m a slow eater, so I know what warm cantaloupe tastes like”). Other notes included brie cheese, Mr. Sketch markers, or super-glue; the eventual consensus was that it smelled like a peach super-glued to warm cantaloupe, a little something for everyone. Good acidity on the palette with more body than the Albarino; some big honey in the mid-palette was perceived by all. I detected a Muscat character (orange blossom, etc), while Matt offered that “the alcohol takes over on the finish and makes it burn your mouth.” Responses on this $19 bottle were enthusiastic but mixed.

The next bottle was the first Austrian we’ve had since our Grüner Veltliner day, and it had a few years on it. The 2002 Weingut Johann Donabaum Loibnergarten Grüner Veltliner Smaragd (Wachau) certainly delivered in terms of complexity of label, and we were eager to see if we’d enjoy complexity of palette as well. Our first impression was the bizarre pigmentation, summarized by several as “bright green ecto-cooler.” The nose offered thyme, rosemary, and fennel — in short, herbaceous — and I got some sandalwood. The mouth was grassy; Sasha got an ash character. Several people complained that it had no flavor. Jason described a “weird fruit that can’t be identified, which slimes around your mouth like a flavorless jello. Then it kind of oozes down your throat and it’s gone.” I agreed, no finish at all — only the lightest hints of that white pepper we were supposed to be getting.

My offering was the 2006 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough), which I lifted from a Vendome tasting for $15. The nose was grassy, with Jason picking up green onion notes. Other tags included pineapple, lemon, and lime. Jessica summarized the nose as “grass growing next to a running brook.” The pal was pegged as pretty simple by Jordan, who thought it wasn’t dynamic enough. Jason got “all citrus all the way through.” The overall consensus was that it was too acidic, although Jessica and I appreciated the hugely herbal flavors and lingering finish. I asked the group what they reckoned Wine Spectator had rated this one; guesses ranged from the mid-80s down to 64 from Sasha, and Jordan’s 89 came the closest to the magazine’s actual score of 90.

The ’06 Kim Crawford was always a big winner for us, so we had high hopes for the $13 2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough). After the acidity of the last bottle, newbies were looking for these tropical fruit flavors they’d heard about in New Zealand Sauv Blanc, and the nose immediately made these apparent: Brain contended that “the passionfruit is almost smothering.” An ancillary conversation on the other side of the room led Leah to admit that “Sasha said B.O., which made me think of mango,” and she thought it smelled like both. Newbie Michael got Juicy Fruit, but others leaned towards “orange Bubbleicious” in the realm of chewing gum descriptions. Jason got honeysuckle and lemon zest, and Chris got guava; I agreed, and added some straw. The palette offered honeydew melon and lemon to some; I picked up heavy herbaceousness and even some orange. Jordan, the booster of the 2006 vintage, found this one “really acidic and a little harsh — it needs to mellow out a little bit.” This was agreed upon by many, but for $13, it was still a good buy.

Finally, newbie Katie brought us a back-to-back vintages of the same New Zealand Sauvignon. The 2005 Teawa Sauvignon Blanc (Hawkes Bay), it must be said, had the most bizarre nose we’d encountered in a while. “Garlic flavored candles” was the first descriptor, but this quickly was superseded by “burnt plastic.” Andrew elaborated: “like when you’re at Boy Scout camp and some asshole throws a plastic bag on the fire.” Honestly, one of the strangest rubber/plastic funks we’ve ever smelled, and it didn’t shake off. We moved on to the palette, which several of us thought was ok; light body, some acidity, a little creaminess, and some lemon. Noah and Chris agreed with me, but others found as much to hate on the tongue as they did on the nose. Jessica got bile and dumped her glass; moments later, she apparently reconsidered, as Newsha was heard to cry out, “don’t dump yours and then drink mine, bitch!” Andrew posited that “this would be a great wine to drink if you were the robot at the monster truck rally who eats cars.” The bottle was 50% barrel fermented, and Brian wondered if the other 50% was done in old tires. Nuff said.

Hopefully the 2006 vintage would fare better; the nose was immediately generous with its dried apricots and brown sugar. Leah got “noodles,” and explained that she meant dried semolina pasta, but she was alone in this one — after five or six bottles, her nose of gold begins to lose its luster. The palette was total key lime, with prominent acid throughout; that 50% barrel fermentation should’ve probably been 100% if they wanted to get any softening effect out of it. It wasn’t the most herbal or fruit-forward NZ Sauv we’ve had, but Andrew reckoned that “the New Zealand cultural authority would not object.” After this bottle we ate heaps of cheese and ruined our palettes.

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Some serious edutoxication going on; newbies just want to have fun.

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When Jessica’s battery gets low, her camera stops shooting in color; Sasha gets hints of B.O.; Jason starts acidic, but then he softens… and a newbie flips us off.

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