Mother’s Milk

30 07 2009

So much for not marketing.

I was really hopeful that this wine would be an exception to my general rule about Australian wines (I have had some decent ones). Somebody out there thought that his wine was great and I picked it up in the PLCB for about $16 (not so bad). I hadn’t had a decent Syrah in a while, and thought it might be fun for Erin and I to share something nice.

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Unfortunately, this wine turned out to be a fairly typical marketing nightmare. Comic book label, catchy-name (hey, who doesn’t want to drink “Mother’s Milk”?) The wine turned out to be super-alcoholic, though. Not a lot of fruit quality, plenty of tar and heavier flavors, lots of rich spice (particularly clove), and hefty wood, but the main thing going here is that it smells mostly of alcohol. Yeah, OK, so they estimate an ABV of 14.5 % but still, I love Pax wines, which regularly creep up to 15% or more, but they manage to make something that smells like wine not ethanol. I should add that with a little time (and air) the wine mellowed out. So, long story short, it’s not all bad. When Erin first opened the bottle, she thought it was cooked (overexposed to heat, ruining the wine) and in a sense, it is. The grapes were more likely than not very over-ripe at harvest, and once you have too-developed flavors in the grapes, it’s hard to go back. I wish people would focus on making wine, not ridiculous stories.

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One potential saving grace is that it is screw-cap, so if you want a catchy-looking wine with a cool label and a great tag, go for Mother’s Milk, if you want something that tastes like wine and that you can actually inhale the aromas without choking, then you may want to skip this wine, or give it an hour in an open bottle or maybe even decant it (if you’re into that sort of thing) and it should be decent.

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French wine: Montpeyroux

26 04 2008

Imagine if you would a small rural town deep in the heart of France. The road from the highway winds its way to the village, which is set on the crown of a small hill. The houses lining the street are made of stone and look as though they have been here forever. The people bustle by, headed to the market with empty baskets, or coming back with a treasure trove of fresh produce, flowers, poultry, wine, everything that makes life good and livable, the riches of the land to share with a hungry family at home at the family table.

Looking north from the village there are the Massif mountains, and between the village and the mountains are vines-acres and acres of vineyards. Among those vineyards are the vignerons, artisans of untold worth, toiling away in the hot Mediterranean sun, pruning their vines and checking their grapes. They are like artists stretching their canvas and preparing pigments for their paints. Each plot of land is chosen for its soil. Each vine is patiently tended. The earth collects beneath the fingernails of someone deeply connected to the land, the seasons, the passage of time. When autumn comes, they will harvest the grapes, pull them from the stems and crush them, releasing the sweet nectar held within each globe, patiently waiting to be transformed by the artist’s hand. The vigneron will carefully paint their first strokes on their canvas, some bold passes of the brush leaving behind the framework for the art to follow. Every detail is lovingly tended to, patiently addressed by the grower of wine.

For truly, here is not some mechanical production of vinified grapes, not some harsh approach to one of the most delicate balances between art and science. Here are those few who continue to grow wine with their own hands, by their own toil. The families here, from one generation to the next, work to produce what can only be called one of the greatest wines in the world. The vignerons of Montpeyroux produce one of the best wines in all the Coteaux du Languedoc. Its base of Grenache and Syrah, often with Mourvedre and Carignan, adds complex levels to the wine. These winegrowers build a wine inspired by the past, with hundreds of years of experimentation and learning before them, producing robust wines that can stand up to hearty fare, with acids and tannins that add to the quality of the wine and the food. But the people who make Montpeyroux wine also appreciate the heralded future of wine: big berry and rich fruit flavors and aromas.

Pour some out of the bottle and stare at the mesmerizing ruby color of the liquid. Smell the wonderful scents of raspberries and roasted fruits along with clove and laurel, bits of lavender or mint. Every time you raise the glass, a new scent introduces itself gently to your senses. Then the flavor, with the richness and breadth of the liquid on your palate, a bit of soft fruit and spices and herbs, followed by a soft, delicate finish that lingers and invites you to come back for another sip.

Wine from Burgundy is beautiful, but can be rather one-dimensional. It is a versatile wine in the sense that it can pair with many dishes, but the qualities of the wine really are quite similar. Bordeaux has long been heralded as the most amazing source of wine, but the best bottles often require years of careful cellaring before they reach an enjoyable state. Even then, despite a variety of grapes, Bordeaux all too often has the same flavors over and over again.

What is amazing about Montpeyroux, is that each glass of each bottle is its own adventure. Not to imply a lack of consistency, but rather that there is something truly beautiful about the wine here. It’s wild and untamed, and all the more amazing and delicious because of those qualities. Drinking a great Bordeaux or Burgundy can be like watching a tiger in the zoo. The animal is beautiful, powerful, amazing and mesmerizing, but in the wild, the same creature is somehow magnificent, feral, terrible and great all at once. By stepping away from the borders wherein we all feel so comfortable, by taking the bars away from the tiger’s cage, we can truly experience the wild side of wine. True, it takes an adventurous heart to venture into unknown territory, but like the quiet meal at home with family, the rewards that lie waiting in the wild are some of the things that make life worth living.