Friday, May 27, 2011

Splitting The Pie

A quick hitter. Decanter Magazine just released the results of its 2011 Decanter Wine Awards and The Rock made its presence felt with 1 Regional Trophy for the Southern & Eastern Mediterranean, 2 Silver Medals, 11 Bronze Medals, and 6 Commended Awards.

The Regional Trophy was awarded to SODAP's 2007 Agios Barnabas Commandaria in the sweet fortified under £10 category, while the silver medals went to the 2010 SODAP Kamanterena Dry Rose and the 2008 Lefteris Monahiakis Anama, a Commandaria-like wine with an interesting maple-glazed bacon component in the mid-palate but too expensive for my taste at roughly €50. I guess part of the latter's hefty price tag includes its handcrafted collectable bottle which is touched up with silver, natural wax and silk.

The boys at Zambartas could not repeat last year's double Silver Medal success and garnered a couple Bronzes for their cultish 2010 Zambartas Rose and the 2009 Zambartas Shiraz Lefkada. Definitely check out their recently launched website which is quite nice and comprehensive. Also on board with a few Bronze medals were the Vassilikon, Ezousa, Tsangarides, Tsalapatis and Makkas wineries.

I am sure I will have more to say once the print edition including the venerable judges' comments is published in September. So for now, since most of you must be wondering, Chuck Norris is the last digit of π.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Push Me Over

I am not the best judge of talent, particularly when it comes to wine. To be honest with you, I am not trained in the art of wine; I only know what I know because I read at the same pace a ravenous hyena preys on a carcass and I taste, analyze and rate wines on a quasi-nightly basis. All of this happens, of course, to the chagrin of The Wife, Ph.D. who'd rather have me spend countless hours working on the first-and-probably-only Great Cypriot-Ecuadorian Novel. Therefore, given my rather limited knowledge, all of the scores I give wines must be taken with a healthy serving of (preferably rock) salt. Generally speaking, I score wines quite liberally, handing out above-average scores to wines that probably do not deserve them. I guess it's in my nature to be a pushover an easy grader.

So a few weekends ago, I dragged The Wife, Ph.D., Cousin #2 and her husband, Radio Free Cyprus (or My Personal Skipper), to a tasting of wines from the Greek island of Crete to test out my scoring system. I must admit that peer pressure is a bitch; on this occasion, thanks to my strict companions, I metamorphosed into a disciplinarian and dispensed mediocre marks left and right.

2010 Karavitakis Sauvignon Blanc - Grapefruit and green apples on what is a pretty closed nose. Savory (sea salt) and herbal components dominate. Little fruit but good acidity. Scores (mine are in bold): 55/100, 70/100, 78/100 and 75/100. Average: 70/100.

2010 Karavitakis Chardonnay - Fresh aroma of pineapples and peaches. To the mouth, peaches at first, an empty mid-palate and a citrus finish. A tad flabby. Scores: 70/100, 80/100, 65/100, 75/100. Average:  73/100.

2009 Karavitakis Red (Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon) - The nose seemed all over the place with hints of leather, red fruit, flowers, sewage (?!?), Coca-Cola and vanilla. The mouth was dominated by red fruit but was a tad fizzy showing signs of refermentation. Worst of the lot. Scores: 45/100, 60/100, 55/100, 65/100. Average: 56/100.

2008 Karavitakis Cabernet Sauvignon -Nice smokiness and blackberry on the nose with undertones of top soil, vanilla and butterscotch. Full-bodied, smooth wine that was slightly tannic for my taste. Scores: 75/100, 80/100, 70/100, 70/100. Average: 74/100.

2007 Karavitakis Elia Refosco (80% Refosco, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) - Made primarily of the northern Italian varietal, Refosco, this wine had a pleasant aroma of raspberries, coffee, pepper and cloves but seemed rather disjointed to the mouth. Best and most unique wine of the five we tasted that afternoon. Scores: 75/100, 80/100, 78/100, 75/100. Average: 77/100.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Wife, Ph.D: "I Am With Stupid"

As part of this blog, I often find myself scavenging through my friends' refrigerators, bedroom closets and makeshift wine cellars in search of unique island wines to drink and judge. Some of our friends, like The Man Who Lost His Sense of Taste, consume little to no alcohol so their stash is ripe for the picking. Last year, for instance, I raided his liqueur cabinet (under the kitchen sink, mind you) and found a 2003 Domaine Vlassides Shiraz that held up quite nicely when uncorked a few months later. Unfortunately, I also came across several "promotional" bottles of a Cypriot red wine called Blue Moufflon that would have been put to better use as liquid abrasive, analgesic cream or bowling shoe polish.

What we unearthed from My Zolpidem Supplier's pantry.
This leads us to a weekend brunch at My Zolpidem Supplier's apartment. A closet full of heard and unheard-of old Cypriot wines. An opportunity to test palates, the thrust of our tongues when spitting, and our courage given the wines' age and unfavorable storage condition. The Wife, Ph.D., refuses to partake in the tasting, citing her "fear of vertigo" as a thinly-veiled snobbish excuse. I don't blame her since the wines are probably waaaay past their prime, but when it comes to my preferred activities "stupid is as stupid does."

We start off with a 2004 Alina Dry White Wine (I assume 100% Xynisteri) from Vouni Panagia Winery which smells like sweaty socks and mold and tastes like second-rate white wine vinegar. This is followed by the 2000 Santa Monica Slightly Sparkling White Wine from Monolithos Winery in Pahna with an aroma of apple cider vinegar but outright undrinkable. I gag as I spit it into a flower vase and then I really start questioning my overall intelligence. We switch to the 1999 Socrates Red Dry Wine from Omodos and this one has the scent, taste and appearance of rain-soaked cardboard boxes with some body odor undertones. Last but not least, the 1986 Keo Othello Special Reserve, whose mold-ridden cork crumbles as I pull it out with the corkscrew. I push what remains of it into the wine for a swim and then My Zolpidem Supplier uses a sift to strain some of the swampy liquid into my glass. Rightfully so, she opts to sit this one out. To the nose, it reminds me of tomato sauce but to the mouth it is flabby and foul.*

You might be wondering what we gained from this experience. Well, I guess the main lesson learned is to avoid wine that has spent decades upright in a closet and was not meant to be aged. Next up on Stupidity On The Rock with host Claret Chump, The Wife, Ph.D.'s grandparents' collection with all of its decade-old gems. Stay tuned.

* In all fairness, I will make it up to Keo, Vouni Panagia and Monolithos by tasting their latest vintages of Alina, Santa Monica and Othello and providing them with an objective and thoughtful appraisal of their products. This here was solely an exercise in idiocy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Donkeys For All!

My fancy friends officially consider me a drunk. Here are my birthday gifts
Picking birthday gifts for loved ones is a pain in the ass. You gift-wrap a two-sizes-too-big mini-skirt which once unwrapped and inspected is followed by a teary "Do you think I am fat?" The funky blouse's pattern/color/fabric/shape is so last season you're nonagenarian grandmother wouldn't wear it to her own wake. Maybe the thoughtfully chosen cookbook does not do justice to the Atkins diet suddenly embraced as a lifestyle. Or the set of Tahitian-inspired plastic place mats and porcelain statues of clowns suffering from gigantism scare the living crap out of the striped house cat. You can always go with gift certificates to favorite shops or wads of unmarked cash stuffed into white envelopes but this is just a poor use of one's survival skills. Truth be told, if it were up to me, I would adopt a Cypriot donkey for each one of my fancy friends and call it a year. People always love asses.

Two weeks ago, it was my birthday and so I realized that this blog has made things REAL easy for my fancy friends and family. We had a few dinner parties and all I received was wine: Chilean Pinot Noir (four bottles; only two appear in the picture above) and Carmenere, a northern Greek blend, two Sicilian reds, a Cypriot Xynisteri, a 2005 Listrac-Medoc, a 2004 Chateau Chasse-Spleen and a 2009 Chardonnay from Limoux, France. Heck, even The Wife, Ph.D., bought me a spot in a wine tasting course that will (finally) teach me how to differentiate over-oaked California Chardonnay from Argentine Malbec. I am not whining or anything, it's just that I feel bad for not challenging them and getting their creative juices flowing. In the past, I would have received books or music but I guess that phase of my life is over; my friends must think all I read now are the labels on the bottles I polish off and that the sweetest sound to my ears is that of wine glasses fleetingly kissing. Cheers to that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One For The Homies

For a while now, I've been meaning to comment on the royal wedding: the Miro-esque hats, the horse-drawn carriage, the coats of arms pinned to Prince William's lapel, the makeout session, grandma Elizabeth, Lady Di's ghost let loose in Westminster Abbey, the white laced dress, the thousands of fans regaled by the pomposity. To be honest with you, I might have caught ten minutes of the entire affair only because The Wife, Ph.D., like many other women across the world, tuned in to vicariously live the fairy tale that was denied to her when she picked a paunchy, gassy couch potato as her forever after. But each time I started this post, that other white dress would appear before me like a specter, hugging her curves the way a light breeze covers one's bare body at the beach, and I would give up. Instead of being haunted by writer's block or outright laziness, I was being harassed by images of Pippa Middleton and the sole solution was to binge on dark chocolate Kit Kats until I was so nauseated all I could think about was nausea itself. I guess it does not help that her name is a lewd act in Greek.

In any case, that royal Friday we went out for some celebratory wine and pizza with The Wife, Ph.D., My Zolpidem Supplier, The Godmother and My Life Coach. Don't worry, I made sure to spill some wine on the ground in honor of Diana.

2008 Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir - Nose is dominated by raspberries, strawberries and cherries. To the mouth, it is really loaded with red fruit and some hints of white chocolate. Gulpable wine that matched the Neapolitan and vegetarian pizzas to perfection. 87/100.

2008 Makkas Shiraz - One of the up-and-coming producers in Cyprus. Hints of bread pudding (?!?), green peppers, vanilla, honey and red fruit. Short yet overall well done. 88/100.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cosa Nostra Would Be Proud

Here's Gary taking on a couple of Sicilian wines that end up receiving very high marks. Maybe the mobsters sent him a nasty e-mail that "pushed" him in a certain direction, or perhaps the wines are just that good. Track down a bottle or two, invite me over and we can judge for ourselves.