Hi from Seattle. It has been raining and foggy here, as expected. Earlier this week I drank 1990 DRC La Tache. If you don’t know what that wine is, don’t ask. One can buy a used car for the current price of that bottle. The ’90 Tache is a beautiful thought provoking wine. I had been meaning to save it for the next big special occasion but I changed my mind. I was in a small car accident on Monday and decided that I needed to drink these wines sooner rather than later. The quality level was grand cru from an excellent vintage. My parents had no idea what we were drinking although they did remark that it was very good. Ha! They had no clue how great this wine was indeed. However, for the next year, I’m going to try to focus on posting on more widely available wines such as...
2004 French Rabbit Merlot
Youthful ruby color with black cherries and spice on the nose with the same one dimensional black cherry on the palate. Dry with medium body, medium acid, medium alcohol, medium disjointed tannins that left a short grainy aftertaste suggesting oak chip use, medium balance, medium- intensity, medium-length, short on both complexity and concentration with a short finish. An average mass market wine in innovative packaging. It is a fair value at $10 for a liter. Easy drinking wine with limited varietal character and too much So2.
The website claims that both the merlot and cabernet come from the southern part of France in an area called the Minervois region in the Languedoc-Roussillon, known more for carignan and grenache. It is a Vin de Pays d'Oc, which simply means it could come from anywhere in the the Languedoc-Roussillon area. Vin de Pays d’Oc is a regional vin de pays and probably the single most important vin de pays in France. Including Languedoc wine, the area has around 700k acres under vine and is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world. As recently as 2001. the region produced more wine than the entire United States. Although it is varietally labelled Merlot, it tastes like some addtion of Cabernet, Carignan or Grenache. In Napa for example, a varietally labelled wine only needs 75% of the stated variety.
This wine had a higher level of So2, sulfur dioxide, a wine's most important addition serving as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, and preservative. At high levels, it gives me a headache. At the end of natural fermentation, So2 levels reach up to 30mg/L, based on the varietal, PH, temperature, and growing region. S02 is produced by the yeast in the fermentation process. Excessive use reminds me of a pool that has too much chlorine. The combined free and bound S02 constitute total S02. At levels of 15-50 mg/L free, most people detect a distintive burned match odor. In the US, the total S02 in wine cannot exceed 350 mg/L. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) requires that the wine label must say "Containing Sulfites" when the level is greater 10 mg/L (ppm). According to the Oxford Companion, within the EU maximum permitted levels of total sulphur dioxide are 160 mg/l in dry red wines, 210 mg/l in dry white, dry rose, and sweet red wines, and 260 mg/l in sweet white and rose wines. Certain very sweet wines could contain up to 400 mg/l, however, including all sweet white bordeaux, Jurancon, and a number of sweet white Loire wines, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Ausbruch wines. The maximum level permitted in Australia was reduced to 250 mg/l in the 1990s, except for wines with 35 g/l or more residual sugar for which up to 300 mg/l sulphur dioxide is permitted. However, although a minimum is generally necessary for wine, the cleaner the fruit, the less the need for high levels of SO2.
The other big question mark for me was the older vintage. I typically would never buy an older vintage of a cheap and cheerful wine. I expected to see a 2006 or 2007. Be weary when purchasing older wine. No one else likely wanted it. For a 2004, I would not have expected as much primary fruit. Likely the producer purchased the wine in bulk and blended some newer vintages. There was likely some technology manipulation like concentrators involved.
Minimizing the carbon footprint has been a recent trend in the wine industry with eco-friendly moves towards lighter packaging. Tetra Pak weighs just about four percent of an ordinary glass wine bottle. According to Tetra Pak, the package itself is made from polyethelene, aluminum foil and paperboard, so it's 100% recyclable, and its collapsible, which reduces waste volume by about 90 percent. The twist-on cap makes using cork a thing of the past. For wine that will be consumed in the short term, it is an excellent method of packaging as it has worked well with other liquids such as juice, dairy, and stock.
Plastic ‘PET’ bottles and lighter glass bottles are coming to more to market. The SF Chronicle wrote: “Fetzer commissioned a study from the British environmental consultant group Best Foot Forward, which determined that if all of the winery's bottles - from the 28-ounce magnum to the 17.5-ounce 750 ml bottle - were converted to lightweight glass, the average glass reduction would add up to 16 percent annually. The reduced manufacturing and transportation emissions would mean a 14 percent reduction in the winery's carbon footprint.
The most noticeable difference between the new and old glass bottles, which are produced by Owens Illinois (O-I) and are already rolling off the bottling line, is that they do not have a punt - the traditional dimple on the bottom of the bottle that is often deep enough for sommeliers to use as a thumb handle when pouring.”
I wouldn’t ordinarily drink this type of wine at home but I need to train my palate to recognize mass-market wines.