Wines of the Month

JULY, 1999

Immigrant Wines

Here in the USA, July 4th marks the celebration of our nation's independence, and as a result, many writers focus on lists of "All-American" wines to drink at patriotic parties. However, the USA is largely a nation of immigrants and their descendants, and, in particular, the US wine industry has been fueled by immigration. I've put together a short list of wines which have immigrated (well, at least they've been imported) in order to reflect a small part of that heritage, and most importantly, to offer good drinking no matter where you're from or what you happen to be celebrating this month.

My list starts with a couple of wines from Germany's Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. Why? If you look carefully at the names in the US wine industry, you'll find more than a few of German origin. Also, I grew up in a town with a healthy German-American population, and I'm a big fan of German wines, which make great summer sippers.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett '92 -- Some people think that Kabinett whites should be drunk when released; however, some of them can reward your patience with an interesting transformation. The flavors of this wine may be somewhat of an acquired taste, but it is reminiscent of some older aged higher-pradikat Rieslings, though with less intensity. One mark of aging is evident in the prominent petrol note in the nose. This wine is fragrant, with aromas of wet stones, cola, apples and grapefruit. The palate is light-bodied and off-dry, with plenty of citrus, grapefruit, pinapple, along with some peach and apricot, apples and minerals. Good acidity, and a long, citrus, slate and apricot finish. This is a really nice Kabinett from a very good producer and vineyard, which I found in a bargain bin for less than US$10.

Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese '97 -- This wine is a step up in both quality and price. Very pale yellow, with a lime, citrus and mineral nose. Lots of lime, apple and grapefruit flavors on the semi-sweet palate, with hints of apricot and pinapple, and minerals. The finish has a distinct honey note, and is quite long with plenty of acidity. Honeyed lime and citrus dominate the aftertaste. This is a very young, elegant, racy, well-balanced wine which gives the impression of restrained power.

Italian-Americans have made many contributions to the US wine industry over the years (as well as to the country in general, of course), and their influence continues to be seen in the many "Cal-Italian" wines which are becoming quite trendy. As a result, the list continues with a not-too-expensive red from northern Italy.

Paitin Sori Paitin Dolcetto D'Alba '97 -- The nose opens initially with bright cherries and some oak, but it becomes more complex with air. Leather, tar and meat show up when the glass is swirled. Tastes of red cherries, plums, leather and spice keep the wine lively and interesting in the mouth. The palate also fills out with some air. I think this will be better with a year or two under its belt, but the light tannins suggest that you shouldn't wait too long. The finish is brief, with relatively simple sour-cherry flavors, which is the only shortcoming of this nice, decently-priced wine. It shows better with food, which is a trait I find in many Italian wines.

OK, so now you're probably thinking, "Hungary? He's really grasping at straws..." Granted, Hungarian-Americans probably aren't the first (or second or third) immigrant group which might come to mind when studying the history of the USA. However, in the wine world, one particular Austro-Hungarian immigrant, Agoston Harazthy, played an extremely important role in importing grape vines to California and in bringing the state's wine to the attention of the rest of the country. In his honor, my short list finishes with a great dessert wine from Hungary.

Royal Tokaji Wine Co. Red Label Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos '93 -- Gold-amber color. Expressive nose of dried fruit, quince and honey, with plenty of botrytis evident. Lots of dried fruit (quince, fig) flavors, along with some apricot, honey and botrytis flavors. There's plenty of acid backbone supporting the rich flavors. A long finish with more botrytis, dried fruit, honey and acid. This wine will definitely age for a while. Note that this wine is NOT oxidized, unlike many examples of Tokaji produced during the Communist era.

For another tasting note on the supposedly identical (according to Hugh Johnson, though not according to some tasting notes I've seen) RTWC Blue Label Tokaji Aszu '93, along with some of the single vineyard offerings from the same producer, see my Tokaji notes from the 1999 Boston Wine Expo. If you're interested in the method of production of this wine or more information about the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, see my notes from Hugh Johnson's discussion at the Expo.

Comments on these wines are always welcome.

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