Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Safe Reds

I recently tasted two wines that had nothing particularly compelling about either, but no reason to pass and go look for a beer, or (gasp) water. They are indicative of the new world style that has made buying wine easier and duller at the same time. Value wines from all over the world now can be purchased with near impunity. It is extremely rare to find what I like to refer to as 'commercially unacceptable' wine on the shelves of reputable retailers. However, those wines almost never take us anywhere. Perhaps that's too much to ask of a value priced wine these days, but it never results in me racing out to buy more bottles.

Ravenswood Shiraz 2006 - This wine used to come form Australia and had Kangaroos where the Ravens are in the iconic logo. This vintage is California fruit. Is this a permanent change? Are they bottling two now? Did they think no one would notice?
I think the "No Wimpy Wines' tag line of the winery does not apply to this effort. Decent dark fruit, a dollop of oak on the nose and palate with no discernible acidity or tannin made this an easy quaffer. However, it is the vinous equivalent of easy listening radio. It blends into the background of gatherings, acquits itself adequately with dinner, is unlikely to create a strong negative reaction (as long as one is not stuck with it forever), and it will not make most people search out more of it. My wife and I were searching for a good descriptor for it and the winner was, safe. $9.99-$12.99

Fairview Goats do Roam 2006 - This wine brought Charles Back untold publicity after the French INAO (Institue National des Appellations de Origine) sued him to prevent his usage of a clear reference to the famed Cotes du Rhone appellation. The blend here is half Shiraz, 20 percent Pinotage and small amounts of Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Carignane. A similar blend to classic Cotes du Rhone, with the addition of the uniquely South African Pinotage grape. More red fruits are featured here with smoke on the nose and hints of pepper on the back end. The only aspect of the wine that offers any sort of intrigue at all is the palate, where the Pinotage lends a bit of its inherent meaty quality; not enough to make it truly unique, but enough to set it apart from many other wines in the same price range. You could do a lot worse. $8-$10.

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