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Chateau Des Tours 2006 Vacqueyras

One of the world's great producers, Chateau Rayas, owns several "second" labels, including their entry level wines from Chateau des Tours. Of course, "entry level" is a relative term, considering that almost without exception any Rayas-owned wine is going to be stunning.

Though Rayas is prevalent in Chateauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone in the Southern Rhone (and they dabble with some killer Syrah up in the Northern Rhone portion of Cotes du Rhone,) I have never seen a Rayas-produced Vacqueyras--- until now.

As expected, this wine is stellar. 100% Grenache, the Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras retails at $60, but can be found for as low as $51 if you look hard. It's got the elegance meets pure deliciousness I've come to expect from this producer, and of note it also had this Je Ne Sais Qua liveliness in the finish I almost always notice in Rayas reds. Tasting it almost feels like when a lightening bolt of creativity strikes you -- an aha! moment. It's something I can't get out of my head, even now, a week after I last tasted it. It's brilliance, beauty, and headiness. It makes you feel smart, somehow, perhaps because buying this bottle actually *is* smart.

This is ready to drink now. An hour if decanting will be rewarding, but it honestly doesn't need more than that. Ripe, gorgeous Rhone fruit. Enjoy.


Thank goodness the Fleurie Fairy showed up tonight.


Wine 101: Riesling Ripeness Levels

Recently, at a wine tasting, I had a gentleman ask me about the type of German Riesling we tasted. Unfortunately, for him I did not have an answer. However, I was made aware that German wines are classified according to the ripeness of fruit - the higher the sugar content, the higher the quality of the wine. In a country with lots of bad weather (hail and frost) and challenging conditions (ex. steep, exposed vineyard slopes), it is easy to understand how this system came to be: ripe grapes (at least until global warming) were not easily achieved.

There are six ripeness levels in the German system (Pradikat) - with increasingly hard-to-pronounce names. The first level is Kabinett, which are the lightest and simplest wines. After that are the Spatlese wines (this is the first level of truly ripe grapes; these are sweet with a good acidity). Third, are Auslese wines, made from bunches of grapes left on the vines after the Spatlese grapes have been picked. Then, there are the Beernauslese wines, dessert wines which are made only in great vintages of grapes left even longer on the vine. Also, there are the rare Trockenbeernauslese wines, made from the grapes that are shriveled like raisins from botrytis, the same noble rot that creates the most prestigious dessert wine of France, Sauternes. Finally, the sixth type is Eiswein made from botryised grapes that actually freeze on the vine.