Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup of Wine - Round 1

So, my little concept here is that I'm counting on a tournament format - with bi-national taste-offs between countries participating in this year's World Cup - to give us a neat opportunity to try wines from around the globe, all while finding our own way to have a little hands-on participate in all this "soccer madness."

Prior to our Wine Boyz World Cup-themed tasting the other night, I'd hit a couple of the bottle shops in town (government and private) to find a bottle or two of red wine from as many countries as I could that were participating in South Africa. It was a given that there wouldn't be wine available from all 32 nations competing - although they likely make wine, the expectation of finding juice from soccer favourites like Brazil, England or Holland wasn't too high. Indeed, it was a bit of a stretch to find the 13 countries that I did. There was actually a 14th - Uruguay - but our market only has one wine and we've already tried it and added to The List (early on at #7 actually) and if that tasting was any indication, I think the Uruguayans would have a whole lot more success on the soccer field.

So, the best I can aim for is a draw of 16 - allowing for 3 byes into the quarter-finals. Since we Canadians don't seem play soccer as well as hockey or curling, there wouldn't be any BC wines in the tournament. That likely leaves Boo's and my favourite red wine producer as Australia. Therefore, the Socceroos (or should that be Wine-aroos?) get the number 1 seeding and a direct spot in the next round. When Spanish and Argentinean wines took the first three spots at our Wine Boys tasting the other night, they also earned a free pass.

The highly anticipated draw was facilitated by the youngest niece, who happened to be gracing us with her appearance. I'd seeded the participating countries into two groups - the bigger guns in the red wine world and those that aren't necessarily considered top producers - so that we wouldn't end up with a France vs. Italy or a Germany vs. Mexico match right off the bat.

The draw ended up as follows:

Australia - bye
USA vs. Mexico
Argentina - bye
France vs. Germany
Italy vs. Greece
South Africa vs. New Zealand
Chile vs. Portugal
Spain - bye

There might not be a Group of Death to fight your way out of, but I think there are some intriguing match ups there. We'll see if there are as many surprises in the wine glass as there are on the soccer pitch.

Our first taste off is between the US and Mexico. Not the easiest start to our tournament since there aren't exactly a lot of Mexican wines in our market to choose from - particularly since we recently opened a bottle for Cinqo de Mayo.

But let the games begin. We're off and sipping -

489. 2008 Casa Madero San Lorenzo Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo (Valle de Parras - Mexico)

490. 2005 Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve (Columbia Valley - Washington)

I've never actually seen San Lorenzo wines in our market before this. Usually, L.A. Cetto is the only Mexican producer that I see on a "regular," if very limited, basis. It didn't help that the producer, Casa Madero's, name isn't anywhere on the bottle, but I eventually found a website for Casa Madero. That wasn't necessarily offer a whole lot of assistance though because the English translation pages weren't working. If my meagre Spanish skills got it right though, it seems that the winery claims to be the oldest winery in the Americas, having got its start in 1597.

Despite the winery's pedigree, I still don't think of Mexico as much of a wine hotbed. Hot, yes. Top notch wines, not so much. But, Boo and I were rather surprised at how drinkable the wine was. The only problem was that we were drinking the Columbia Crest at the same time.

The Washington State wine was one of the bottles forming the "Costco Collection" from January's trip below the 49th Parallel. A Bordeaux blend of almost equal parts Cab Sauv and Merlot (with 7% Cab Franc thrown in for good measure), the Walter Clore was just a more sophisticated and balanced wine. I didn't know this at the time we were drinking the wine, but the "Private Reserve" brand actually is the higher end of Columbia Crest's portfolio and the '05 Walter Clore vintage was scored at 92 points by Wine Spectator. I'm not a regular point-chaser, but I think the scribes got this one right. I'd easily pick this up again.

Maybe not the fairest of line-ups for the Mexican bottle, but, hey, the Mexcians have no problem taking it to the Yanks on the soccer field either.

Verdict - a big win for the US (but a surprising performance by Mexico). Let's say 3-1 (and the US had some near misses that could have driven up the score).

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