Finca Nueva Rioja Crianza 2011

A good Crianza is enough to make you cry tears of joy.

Wait. That’s what it means, isn’t it? Crianza?

Sold to me as an example of the “new wave” of Rioja, it didn’t vary enormously from the old wave, as far as I could tell. If anything, it was bigger and carried more fruit but none of that was out of context, or, for that matter, balance.

When a guy asked me why I enjoyed it so much, I figured to baffle him with wine words. Dark fruit balsamic, I said. A silence. Hey, he said, I get it.

On the cusp of bluffing, I realized that I’d accidentally found the critical quality of this thing. Temperanillo, mildly aged, but before that made with an eye to upping the volume for – probably – American palates. So much so that it’s easy to compare to the most recent Reserva I’d drunk, which must mean something.

The late seventies and early eighties were the upslope and downslope of the musical new wave. Screw those noisesome faux rebels; bring on the Spanish wine new wave.

$15.99

Montresor Valpolicella Ripasso Capitel Della Crosara 2014

Let’s quote from the bottle:

This wine has been produced following the very old tradition of “Ripasso” method. The wine, obtained from the fresh grapes pressed during the mongth of October, is passed on the pomaces of Amarone dried grapes crushed in the following month of March. Deep and intense ruby red color. On the nose it displays very particular and enjoyable candied fruit hints, with elegant scent of spices and cinnamon. The taste is warm, smooth, velveted enveloping pleasant flavours of ripe cherry on the palate. Serve with game, red meat and aged cheeses at 18 – 20 degrees C”

Yep. This too.

Another hint on the nose is the distinctive raisin character typical of the upper end of the valopolicella pyramid; it’s enticing, mysterious and demonstrates yet again the immense variation between wine.

What the notes do not mention is the finish. Evidence of oak asserts itself here along with a cooked cherry thread, which makes the glass just that much more seductive. It works as both a wine for food and for aperitif purposes. I use the word bandwidth to indicate the amount of complexity and depth, this wine being a case in point of deftly handled big bandwidth.

$16.99

Baronia del Montsant Clos d’Englora AV14 2005

Men reputedly keep clothing long past the time it should have become a donation. That’s part of our charm.

The point about keeping stuff we like is that it fits and it feels comfortable. The tale is of one old pair of jeans that for no reason at all make us happier than seventy-five identical ones. No logic or reason applies; for whatever reason we have a connection.

Wine might induce the same behaviour. The back of the bottle says:

Red grenache 37%, carginan 21%, merlot 14%, cabernet sauvignon 12%, syrah 8%, cabernet franc 4%, monastrell 2%, temperanillo 2%.

There’s a jumble sale for you. My suspicion was immediately aroused by the specificity of the blend. In my experience, such accuracy can be used to hide something under the guise of false technical nonsense. In this case, it seems not.

What we have is a limited production beauty that immediately feels like a favorite tee shirt. Clearly in evidence is the fruit quality. No stemmy nastiness, there’s a quite reserve that needs not to force itself upon you. Despite the smorgasbord of grape types, the winemaker(s) integrated them seamlessly (overused wine word that actually means what it means here.)

Primary aromas dominate still after a decent maturation process, meaning the wine is lively and yet still calm in the glass. It feels as if the grapes have collaborated themselves to put their best food forward, without treading on the others’ toes. Grenache for fruit, definite cabernet for boldness, merlot for eversoslightly chalky finish, temperanillo for delicious dryness and the whole lot adding a little spice and lovely warmth.

Balanced oak evident on the other side of the acids.

$29.99

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas 2015

Ooh, my word, that’s a white wine nose for me.

Lemony, rich, full of stuff I cannot name, I love alborino’s guts. Unripe peach and some of that super, super mild geranium note that can work well of fail miserably. Here, terrifically.

In the mouth bursting bright acidy lemon peel and delicious salinity. Oh my word.

There’s more to this glass than the mere constituent nouns. For one thing, the way the nose layers itself into your cerebellum is beautiful, a work of bio-engineering par excellence. It builds from nothing into something like a swelling aria.

Then the mouthfeel gives the same crescendo from fruit to nuanced fruit and acids to delicious zesty citrus balanced with great minerality.

Think Galicia, the Norway of Spain. Think seafood. Think of nothing more.

$14.99

Uro Toro Finca La Rana 2012

Around 1972, when I was ten, I remember the outdoor grills my father enjoyed. He tossed lesser cuts of beef – we weren’t rich –  lamb chops and sausages onto the hotplate. The full panoply of fleshy comestibles sputtered and spat. Fat and heat are an exciting combination.

Then he’d get a glint in his eye, look at me, and out of nowhere toss his glass of wine over it all. For a few seconds the whole hot fatty mess sizzled, steam rose, and the impression of culinary secrets impressed the urchin.

Weirdly, he was probably right. The sugars and other weird molecules in his glass of shiraz likely added the kind of contrasting note chefs nowadays call interest, or zest. Fat is flavor, and sugar is appeal; what could go wrong?

Fear not, this is much to do with wine. And the meat is not peripheral. This wine is quite something, a product of the earth, and it shows. That’s related to the meat in the same way that steak reflects the life of the beast. We pay for free-range raised animal flesh. In the same way, we should prefer wine free from the industrial-booze complex. Are you willing?

For a start, buy this bottle. Fruit, earth, must, tapas, siestas, bullfights, secession, heat, torrid sex –  it’s all here.

$13.99

Almodi Terra Alta White 2016

Banana. Yep. In this wonderful universe of ours with all of its gravity holes and dark matter and polyester, here’s a wine with aromas of banana.

And why would we need such a thing, you ask? Good question. The answer is that for its own sake. Who doesn’t want a Spanish white wine blend that smells of candy-shop banana? Who? Who are these people?

Me, for one, initially. The nose is round and perfumed, as noted, with enticing fruit and banana. On the palate she’s just fine; balanced acids and ripe-ish fruit, a mouthfeel that will complement less aggressive white protein.

Then there’s the finish. Similies that include turpentine would work here, but I’m not violently disposed toward this wine, so I’ll refrain. Let’s just say awful organic molecular and rotten.

But here we are, a day later and many oxygens later, and all that’s gone away. The mildly floral and Dole nose remains, acids and fruits ditto, and the finish is just so much better resolved. That astringent Jersey petrochemical strain resolved into attractive, lasting grapefruit pith and general citrus.

$12.49

Valminor Albarino 2015

Discovering ways to link our senses with our words keeps us from learning so much. Imagine the day when we can plug into each others’ minds and understand precisely what we – in the case of wine – are smelling, tasting and feeling.

That will be an awesome experience.

In the meantime, while they develop boring old driverless cars, we have to make do with English. In a way it’s okay, because it forces us to linguistically pixelate smells and aromas and tastes and sensations into the closest words. Even that act keeps us thinking.

Here’s an Albarino from Spain, although the grape grows in Portugal too, and this one hits all the classic notes defining the varietal.

Rich, inviting and still clear-cut nose. High acidity, lightish body, but still imposing enough because of…medium alcohol, and…lots going on.

Great mouthfeel, lime-y, citrus sitting on a wet granite chopping board, grape skin tartness, saltiness to complement acidity and still the element of ripe fruit.

This is why wine is such a delightful part of life. We humans search for patterns and reflections of life, and a wine like this is one big glass of enticing reminiscence and delight.

$22.99

Chopo Jumilla Monastrell 2015

The decision to place a striped horse on a bottle of Spanish wine might be inspirational. That, or plain weird. What it does is to make all other labels look pedestrian…which might or might not be an advantage.

What label inventiveness means is that a potential drinker wonders less about the contents and more about the bit on the outside. Frankly, zebras make me think of zoos, which, in my opinion, should all be banned. Animals shouldn’t be penned up like that; they should be free to kill and eat each other as nature intends.

Thorough investigation mutterinternetmutter reveals a few nuggets. The most pertinent for we wine neophytes is that monastrell is the same grape as mourverdre. Those nutty Europeens, confusticating life by naming the same thing differently just because the Pyrenees lie between them.

Dry spices, baking spices and cured meats emanate from delicious dark fruit. Big, soft, gravelly mouthfeel that’s somehow dry and juicy. There’s one of those wine mysteries that require another glass to investigate. Mouth-watering acids and surprisingly firm tannins.

$9.99

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

Falling into the chasm of uncertainty affects many wine buyers.

By wine buyers I mean retail buyers, because we fervently hope that wholesale buyers are not so disabled.

Spain is one place neither should resist. Here’s a an example of what should be a part of Spain’s flag; a bottle of rioja. These are temperanillo grapes chosen for their excellence and aged…aged, according to regulation, at least three years and one in oak.

If one tastes enough wine, the connection between them reveals itself. In this case, the nose of ripe fruit, cherry cola and sweet tobacco is reminiscent of Californian zinfandel, and yet.

And yet the over-riding sensation is that of a dryer, less tannic cabernet sauvignon. In accordance with the place of origin, a noticeable liveliness inhabits this wine. It’s muscular without being showy, which isn’t a bad way of expressing the modification of wine with time.

One reason this wine’s a winner is the nose of rounded dry fruit and leather. That’s a weird-sounding but ultimately winning combo; give us big inviting aromas and the battle’s one. Thankfully the taste follows through.

$15.99

 

Difficulties

Imagine a picture puzzle. It’s on a table, complete, but as you walk towards it, you note that the pieces don’t all fit together snugly. The end result is clear but the constituent parts look a bit doggy.

Difficult People on Hulu has an obvious conceit: New York Jewish woman pals around with gay best friend floating on a bed of pop-culture snark. Julie Klausner, the writer and lead actor, connects a loose federation of jokes and set-ups that create a cohesive whole until you notice the detail. Enter the dogginess.

After we understand the outline, too many gay set pieces begin to overwhelm everything else. Billy Eichner’s whining monotone drowns out his lines. Snappy zingers could (and I imagine the writers feel should) balance his lovelorn self-pity, but one ends up tuning out both to focus on…well, anything else.

Klausner gives herself some funny moments – one in particular being an adventure into questionable taste in Hoboken – but in general she’s more amusing acquaintance than rapier wit.

Because of that, the show’s overarching feel is that of gently entertaining pastime rather than destination viewing. Perhaps that’s what they’re aiming for; a docu-snicker at big city single/gay life with a few sheathed barbs for interest.

Performances of note include that of James Urbaniak and Andrea Martin, as Klausner’s shack-up stud and mother, respectively. Urbaniak has only two-dimensional lines with which to work, but manages to be both comic and sympathetic. Martin is blessed with some of the best material and the ability to work with it.

People’s singular failure is an inability to create laugh-out-loud moments. That’s a shame.