GameFace

Hulu is the distant-third online video drug dealer, and deserving of that spot.

The big dogs are Amazon Prime and Netflix. Although a dispassionate observer would only separate them slightly by quality, consumers aren’t so discriminating. Which explains the recent publishing – on Hulu – of GameFace.

Presumably, the Brits chose Hulu because they were turned away by the first two: either that or Fox or a Fox friend had some part in the production. In any case, here’s an astonishingly recent UK production on American devices, a turn of events worthy of applause under any circumstances.

For those with an edge blunted by US bland-oh, anything that salts-up our viewing is welcome. Think of it as a vindaloo secreted in a menu of burgers; sometimes the change is enough.

Which is a very long way around to thanking Roisin Conaty for her show. Without hesitation, and with some surprise, the charm of her show is worthy of more approbation. The American version of this conceit is Difficult People, an almost unwatchable homo-correct and yet borderline brilliant show. GameFace channels the Pommy self-effacement part of our nature, an altogether more warm quality. For a first-timer, the imagination and inherent polish of the production is a treat.

Conaty’s unfiltered writing from the POV of a vulnerable ladette lost in red wine and lack of goals is a heartfelt antidote to overly-smooth scriptedness.

A warning for Roisin: less politics. Resisting the temptation to criticize current US politics might be difficult, but will lead only to good places.

GameFace, on Hulu.

Amadieu Cotes du Rhone Roulepierre 2015

Bootleather. Spiced blackberry. Vanilla. Warm dry fruit potpourri.

The nose on this glass was crackerjack right from the off. Simple big elements of ripe dark fruits, alcohol and a wake-you-up alarm. HEY! HERE I AM!

Even without tasting she’s utterly lovable. This is wine. Dry. Musty. Big. Slightly challenging, but in the way of a close friend. She wants  you to like her, putting her best…shall we say assets forward.

A little spice, a little earth, a little dryness, a little lingering acid, some seductive bordering on soft (but not really) tannins, there’s a wonderful mystery here. What’s next? What will she show us. Yes, it’s a kind of burlesque show, at once comfortable and titillating.

 

$13.49

 

Vecordia Ribera del Duero Joven 2016

Wine is chock full of granular knowledge. For instance, what the heck is Joven? And did you know that winemaking in Ribera del Duero proceeded forward from at least 2000 years ago?

Joven is, apparently, a reference to the age of the wine. Actually, I can’t find a definitive age range or quality classification. This is about as much as I can nail it down:

A term potentially applied to any DO or DOC wine; typically the wine spends little or no time in oak and is sold as a fresh and fruity wine.

Well alright then. Just for fun, alongside the Ribera Del Duero DOC certification is the “Cosecha 2016” attachment. Okay, so it’s the cheapest, least aged version of the 2016 vintage. I get it.

Not really, but, like I said, wine is cheeky with facts sometimes.

Fresh and fruity I don’t know about, but the beguiling nature of tinto fino clear; intense red fruit, medium body and notable tannins, together with a latent penchant for food. Daily wine, for sure, but so much more.

$9.99

Porta Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2016

Sauvignon blanc is pretty much the great-grandmother of grape varieties. In that wonderful way that wine has of obfuscating even the most important facts, who would know? Retail customers are besotted with Kiwi sauvignon blancs like they discovered the damn thing, which is both dispiriting and an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity because while the clamour for southern hemisphere sauvignon blancs is almost entirely focussed on New Zealand, you and I can look elsewhere. If you’re not impressed by the blow-your-sinuses-out overdone citrus of those wines, may I suggest a few thousand mile journey east across the Pacific to South Amurrica.

Ah, Chile and Argentina. Literally and in the glass, these countries are half-way houses between Old and (the most disant) New Worlds. And yes, that does by some measures make them the best of both – not to purists, and probably not to wine industry competitors, but for the average punter, for sure.

In summary: this Chilean sauvignon blanc shows excellent qualities of cool-climate versions of the wine. Enticing zesty citrus and herbal with a palate of mid-ripe passionfruit meat, tangy minerals and a citrus thread pretty much says it all. Oh, and a lasting, more-ish finish. Darn good acids.

9.99

Tesoro della Regina Chianti Classico Riserva 2014

Little reflects the Byzantine complexity of Italian wine wonder better than Chianti. Maps of regions, DOCs, DOCGs, variations between towns, arguments over cultivation methods – it’s wonderful and chaotic.

And if that’s not a description of Italy worth keeping, I don’t know what is.

The bottle promises “…(a) balance between spicy and smooth with this harmonious estate-bottled…” beauty. That’s about right. My own notes mention sweet leather, earth, spice and dark fruit, but the overall impression is of drinkability.

Not to say there aren’t the characteristics folks like in a Riserva; fruit, devilish acids and the powdery tannins that go well with red food. Almost missing in this drive for fluidity is that ever-so-rough agricultural note reminding us of the humble path to making a wine from this region. Almost.

$16.99

Cantine Lanzavecchia Cren dell ‘Ape Piemonte Cortese 2016

Light colour, much bigger size. I’d even say this was full-bodied.

But what the heck is this thing? Bring on the search engine beast.

First, let’s imagine ourselves half-way between Turin and Genoa. I know, I’ve not been there either, but let’s do this together. Next, add what the internet calls a long cultivated grape of Piedmont and Gavi. The DOCG on the bottle says Piemonte: Good enough for me. High yield, resistance and bugs and other anti-vine forces: good enough for the grower.

Ever-so-slighty hot, but otherwise inviting floral and just-ripe apples and white peaches on the nose, with a noticeably creamy (fruit-creamy methinks, not barrel-derived) and wonderfully understated mineral mouthfeel. More opulent as she warms.

Simple wine, but clearly intelligently made, reflective of all that good stuff that goes into wine. Fruit, weather, soil and people. Add some seafood or creamy pasta, please.

Let’s go there. Now.

$8.99

Quinta Do Vale Meao Meandro 2014

Good-bye Californian mystery blends, hello precision-driven Portuguese blends. From the bottle:

Touriga nacional (40%), touriga franca (30%), tinta roriz (20%), tinta barroca (5%), tinto cao (3%), sousao (2%).

Take that! And my answer is: Yes, please.

There came a point early on when I figured out how to describe this glass. Think of an Aston Martin, or one of those German luxo-sports numbers and translate that into red wine. They’re all refined, sleek, compact, fatless, focused, serious and likely will age beautifully. Who doesn’t look at a DB4 and not pause at the sheer harmony of the design?

A few points worth noting include the notable restrained nature of this wine. Vanilla and oak evidence along with big, dark fruit on the nose give a kind of restrained punch -like a fighter only giving it 20% until he’s sure he won’t hurt us.

In the mouth it feels like a kind of compressed spring. Dry, but not overwhelmingly, and completely in balance with the subtly handled acids, the impression is of that expensive sports car having so much capability and still happy idling around city streets.

Long, decadent, grippy tannins on the finish, creating the question: What will this be like in ten years? Or twenty?

$25.99

Owl Ridge Hunted Zinfandel Lodi 2015

Ah, yes, there’s the dry licorice and grainy tannin feel so beloved of…well, me.

Funny to think how an easy to mock wine like red zinfandel continues to beguile a decent number of us. What shouldn’t surprise is the producer: Owl Ridge won’t garner you any brand-recognition points at the dinner table, but let ’em mock. We know better.

This nose is not of the cola variety, more reminiscent of brandy and marinated dark fruits. Hot, yes, but in a Christmas pudding kind of way, in which the baker was a little too liberal with the booze. Spice is here from the first swirl to the last swallow. Problem?

I didn’t think so. But there’s more here than a brooding high-alcohol baked fruit affair. As the label suggests, wisdom and thoughtful winemaking is evident, not least from the lightness of touch in the mouth. Big nose, sure, but the lasting tannins – read: long finish – are completely in balance with the acids, more so with air.

Beware someone swooping down to steal your glass.

$13.99

Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2016

Recommended by my Portuguese wine advisor, Frederico, this is a wine to awaken one’s day. It’s been quite a while since my last vinho verde, a lapse of judgement I shan’t soon repeat.

Made from loureiro grapes, the sheer energy of this glass is worth the (small)  price of entry. The immediate impact is from the colour; lovely green tinges in a yellow-greenish body start the party.

Then the nose – made up of herbaceous, rose-like and zesty citrus elements -give it an almost punchy character. Punchy in a kind of light-hearted, joshing kind of way. Let’s call it a sparring session between good friends.

At this point it feels easy to dismiss this wine in the standard “oh, it’s just vinho verde, beach wine” kind of way. That’s unfair. Sure, the elements are clearly pointed, which might be considered unsophisticated, but the fact that there’s so much going on here is reason enough to take a little time.

The mouthfeel is of mouthwatering acids and zip. Minerals, crisp green apple juice, lemon juice and a lingering almost chalky finish make for one helluva taste. Lasting fruit here, but no sweetness.

Begging for a salad or fresh seafood or anything light and white, I think we’ve discovered a new level of quality in an often overlooked drink.

$9.99

Altimo Dao Red 2014

My Brazilian friend explained, exasperated, how to pronounce Dão. He is not impressed with my Portuguese. However, we can agree on this wine; not too shabby.

Portugal appears to be an emerging force in winemaking. Crippled for so long by the overwhelming burden of an unbreakable association with Port, the folks who use their grapes for table wine might be creating a new tradition.

This is a great start, and one that could appeal to even the most entrenched American drinker. Think Oregonian pinot noir and add a certain mineral thread along with a complexity of fruit I can’t quite put my finger on. Do all that and subtract a substantial number of dollars.

$12.99