Non-California

Audacia Winery Says Goodbye Sulfites, Hello Rooibos

The rooibos tea latte at Starbucks is my jam on days I am too hyped up for caffeine, so when I heard about a South African company using rooibos chips as a wine preservative, my ears perked up.

Audacia Winery has patented the technique, which reduced traditional preservatives like sulfur dioxide by using the natural one–a plus for folks like me who are technically allergic to sulfites, but drink wine anyway.

Trevor Strydom, a managing partner at Audacia, told Reuters that he, along with the company’s winemaker dropped rooibos teabags in wine to experiment with the effects. And they were pleased by the effects. While rooibos leaves are used for tea, it’s the wood chips that Audacia incorporates into its process.

Check out Strydom’s conversation with Reuters in the video, below:

Wood has long been incorporated into winemaking–think oak barrels and chips, which are thought to be more sustainable than the former–but not rooibos chips.

Rooibos has no caffeine and is low on tannins, making it a good option for winemaking. Strydom told Vice last year that the rooibos wine could cut back on headaches.

Rooibos and honeybush chips are used to make Audacia’s Merlot, which has a sulfur dioxide level of 3 mg/liter, according to wine-searcher.com. I was curious and checked my wine bottles at home, but most say “contains sulfite” and not an exact amount. But Winemaker Magazine instructs that the rule of thumb for sulfite concentration is 25 mg/l to 50 mg/l with 100 mg/l being used if you’re using moldy grapes.

This Chilean Wine has a Chinese Label

Let me tell you a story from my annual Oscar Party (I know, I know, the Oscars were weeks ago! Forgive me.): My friend brought over two reds from Chile, but the labels were in Chinese! Well, maybe Chinese, maybe Korean, but for sure Asian characters, and my money’s on Chinese.

She bought the wine, a 2012 Sapphire Merlot, at a grocery store in LA called Jons, which is known for international fare. I feel like the wine could have had the funky label–fit with a female Anime character–because Jons caters to an Asian and Latino population, but more likely, the language-specific bottles were residuals from imports to China.

IMG_20150222_161845

Imports of foreign wine into China have been on the rise since the early 2000s, but at the beginning of the year, import tariffs on Chilean wine were lifted in mainland China, which further underscores why this Chilean wine most likely had a Chinese label. Imports from Chile jumped by 37% in volume in 2013 and in the firs nine month of 2014, increased by 50% in volume, according to DecanterChina.com.

IMG_20150222_161835

So with that economics lesson taken care of, let’s get into how this wine tasted.

My reaction: “I don’t hate it.”
My friend who brought the wine: “I’m not offended.”

The truth is the Merlot didn’t taste like much. It was pretty plain, flat had soft tannins, and emitted little smell. It kind of just exists there in your glass. We all thought it would make for a good Sangria base or maybe a reduction for a marinara. But I must say my other half tried marinating some steak with leftovers of this wine’s Cabernet Sauvignon cousin and the result wasn’t pretty–too grapey and not smokey enough.

That said, we did finish off a whole bottle of the Merlot that night, so it was easy to glug.

Nuts and Bolts

Winery: Sapphire
Type: Merlot
Origin: Central Valley, Chile
Price: Unknown
Alcohol content: 13%
When to drink: I’d skip this unless you want to buy the wine for the novelty of the Chinese label.

Review: 2012 Etc. Malbec

When I think etcetera, I think of it as an aside, everything lumped in that category is not worth mentioning after some standout examples are thrown out first.

Now, this bottle of Malbec was a nice drink, but I would say it matches it’s name, it’s not THE BEST Malbec I’ve had and it may not be worth mentioning as the first example in a list of good, cheap Malbecs, but it is a sturdy wine that can hold it’s place during a weekday family dinner, especially if you have dark fruit lovers at the table.

IMG_20150209_222950

This wine is fruit-forward–dark cherry, perhaps?–and has a pungent flavor that lingers on your tongue, with a hint of plum and black licorice (which was nicely spotted by my other half).

It’s a very juicy wine that smells like flowers.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Etc.
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Price: $12, but gifted
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: When you’re in the mood for a red at dinner in the middle of the week that is happy to deliver without stealing the spotlight.

Review: 2012 Presswork Cabernet Sauvignon

A very talented friend of mine invited me to read his latest slasher screenplay. Slasher and good time aren’t what I’d usually pair together in a sentence, but I knew this would be fun because wine would be involved and I can handle gore on the page, even if I can’t on the screen.

Before we cracked open the script on our tablets and phones, looking like a horde of millennials with glowing faces, we popped open some wine, one of which was the 2012 Presswork Cabernet Sauvignon.

IMG_20141109_170047

This medium-bodied cab seemed appropriate on its face: The label has a typewriter, which may have been why it was purchased by a clever reader, but I never found out who brought the bottle to do some questioning.

The Australian wine is warm, but that warm transitions from pleasant to an alcoholic burn. Points off for that, but that dissipates the more you sip and it’s drinkable, with a pinch of violet. It has pucker, for sure, even though the bottle describes it as having soft tannins. It’s berrylicious and fruit forward. Despite that, however, it felt watered down.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Presswork
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Australia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $10 (at Trader Joe’s)
  • Alcohol content: 14.3%
  • When to drink: I probably wouldn’t buy this Cab again, but the wine had enough redeeming qualities that I’d try other varietals from Presswork. Maybe the Shiraz? Review inspiration…

Review: 2013 Terrenal Chardonnay

My dad loves when he finds kosher wines, even though he doesn’t keep kosher. He brought this kosher Chardonnay to meet my other half’s parents for a brunch we hosted at our apartment–like three years after we’ve been dating. I know, I know, weprocrastinated. We ended up sticking to mimosas, so this bottle was left over.

We cracked it open this week when we finished another bottle of white, but wanted one more glass. We needed a bottle we could sacrifice, one that it would be OK if we didn’t finish and we could toss later.

I pulled the 2013 Terrenal Chardonnay out of the fridge. Now, don’t call me mean. 1) I don’t like chardonnays much. It has to be a special chardonnay for me to enjoy it (And I actually do have a good one chilling right now) and 2) I’ve had meh luck with Terrenals in the past. Although the 2010 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon was good enough to bring to a Passover Seder.

IMG_20141106_224852

All I can really say is that the wine tasted watery. It’s made from grapes harvested at the foothills of the Andes mountains, according to the bottle. I already had low expectations, but I thought there would be some traditional tenets of chardonnays. But where was my malolactic buttery taste? Where was my full body? Where was the apple flavor?

So what zinger did my other half give when I asked if he liked it after I turned up my nose? “It reminds me of sticking my tongue on a Duracell battery. The aftertaste is just not good.”

He was referring to the wine’s acidity.

So thanks for the sacrifice, but we’re saying sayonara to the 2013 Terrenal Chardonnay.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Terrenal
Type: Chardonnay
Origin: Chile
Vintage: 2013
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Alcohol content: 12.5%
When to drink: I’d highly recommend you don’t drink this wine, even if it is kosher and that’s an important factor.

 

Review: 2012 Gaetano d’Aquino Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie

This Italian Pinot Grigio is dry with a tangy aftertaste. An apple flavor dominates here. Did I like it? Well, better said perhaps that I didn’t hate it. It was OK.

The 2012 Gaetano D’Aquino Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie is a very cheap Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s, so that’s a plus. It’s a fruity, non-demanding easy drinker.

 

IMG_20140716_205152

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Gaetano D’Aquino 
  • Type: Pinot Grigio
  • Origin: Italy
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $3.99
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: Don’t think I’d buy this again, so I can’t recommend a situation when to drink it.

Review: 2013 Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s warm, it’s fruity, it’s spicy–everything you want in a cheap cab.

The 2013 Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon has lingering flavors of what is that, raisin? I was pleased with the smoothness of the wine, which I sipped at a pre-concert picnic with some friends.

IMG_20140802_193054 (2)

For the price, I’d buy it again.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Douglas Green
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: South Africa
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $10
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • When to drink: Make some peppercorn steak, invite a few friends over, play some Bananagrams and drink a bottle of this smooth baby.

Review: 2009 Marques De Riscal Proximo Tempranillo Rioja

On a scuba trip to Catalina Island, my other half and I attempted to hit up a wine bar on the main drag. But by the time we got inside, we were kicked out because turns out, the wine bar was actually part of a hotel and only open for guests. Boo.

We asked the Australian concierge where could two folks like us get a bottle of wine at 10 p.m. and not have to go to a Tiki bar or listen to someone sing karaoke. He suggested a fancy restaurant down the street and we gave it a shot.

IMG_20140816_211850

We sat at the bar, which was nicely backlit with moody colors shining through a wall of wine bottles and ordered the 2009 Marques De Riscal Proximo Tempranillo Rioja. This Spanish red tastes earthy and has cherry notes. It’s very spicy, and warms the soul–and the tongue as it burns a bit at the finish. Yet, it still felt a bit flabby to me, but not enough to downgrade it too much.

The wine delivers round tannins, so we didn’t have that super-puckery mouth feeling.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Marques De Riscal
  • Type: Tempranillo
  • Origin: Spain
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: We paid $30 at the restaurant, but wine-searcher.com has the price falling closer to $10. That’s what you get when you drink at a restaurant.
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • When to drink: If I paid $10, I’d buy this bottle again, but not if it cost more. Have a friend with a fire pit. Light that baby up and bring a bottle of this with you. Ghost stories aren’t included.

Just for fun: Here’s me under water 🙂

1907853_10102769674516921_8219643980094118622_o

Review: Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava

I’m not a constant sparkling wine drinker. Proseccos and Champagnes are a rarity in our fridge. But I had a very cute, 187 ml bottle of Freixenet Cordon Negro in my fridge the other day when I was on the hunt for wine to drink with a nice grilled fish and all we had were Cabernet Sauvignons and Malbecs. I took a chance and opened up this baby wine that I got off the free table at work.

IMG_20140711_201848

This brut sparkler smells like pear and tastes like apricot It has an oily feel that coats your mouth, but not in a bad way. It’s tastes almost like it has a slight aftertaste of almond extract. When asked how he felt about it, my other half said: “It’s better than Cook’s.” I replied: “That’s not saying much.

“It’s saying a lot, it’s not Cook’s,” he said.

So much for feedback. Anyways, I enjoyed this cava and would buy it again.

Interesting note, it had a screw top, not a cork! It looks like a cork, but don’t be fooled.

IMG_20140711_201933

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Freixenet Cordon Negro
  • Type: Cava
  • Origin: Sant Sadurni Danoia, Spain
  • Vintage: No date on the bottle
  • Price: $12.99 for full bottle, according to wine.com
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: You just got a new job, or a new boyfriend/girlfriend or a new puppy, yay! Have some friends over and pour some bubbly.

Review: 2013 Les Portes de Bordeaux Savignon Blanc

I was tired of not having white wine in the fridge when I was hankering for a refreshing sip on a hot summer night, so I went to Trader Joe’s and stacked up on whites.

I picked up this Les Portes de Bordeaux Savignon Blanc that I hadn’t tried before. Savignon Blanc, in my mind, evokes memories of a wine that is usually crisp, citrusy, melony, sometimes grassy, and dry. This one was citrusy, but more in the grapefruit-camp, kind of like a Viognier. It was really tangy, like in your face tangy, and that caught me off guard.

IMG_20140724_073728

To me it smelled like Pine Sol and to my drinking partner it smelled like white grape juice, so there wasn’t a lot of depth here. It did have some acidity, which gave it a redeeming bubbliness, but I wouldn’t buy it again.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Les Portes de Bordeaux
  • Type: Savignon Blanc
  • Origin: Bordeaux, France
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $4.99
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: I’d skip this bottle if you’re wandering through Trader Joe’s.