Thursday, July 1, 2010

World Cup of Wine - The First Quarter Final

United States

Here we are with our first quarter-final match in my little World Cup of Wine. While there have been a number of upsets on the actual soccer field, I can't say that there was much surprise in our opening round matches - at least not in terms of who actually won. Due to the fact that I could only find red wines from 13 of the countries participating in this year's World Cup, there were three byes given (Australia, Spain and Argentina) and five "drink offs." But the preliminaries are behind us and the four quarter-finals are set:

Australia vs. United States
Argentina vs. France
Italy vs. South Africa
Chile vs. Spain

These are some serious winemaking countries going head to head - and our first turned out to be a bit of a romp.

504. 2008 Manifesto! Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast - California)

505. 2004 Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz (Langhorne Creek - Australia)

Much like the German soccer team - that is fielding a crew that includes a number of youthful players, new to the world scene - both of these producers are relatively new. From what I can find, Manifesto is brand spanking new, although many of its players have long pedigrees in the business - like winemaker Jamey Whetstone who was an assistant winemaker at all-star winery Turley. Bremerton has been around since 1988 but that's still fairly young for a long-established wine region in Australia.

A youthful exuberance is certainly evident on the both the Manifesto! website and in the wine. They claim to make a simple wine for a complex world - a red that "won't shrink back in the face of boldness." Sound advice for fielding a soccer team, but I'm not so sure that I take to their style in the bottle. It was big, ripe and concentrated, with a nose that sure didn't remind me of the Cab Sauv's that I'm used to.

Manifesto! gets some decent press but it just goes to show that you need to find out what you like in your wine glass and not just rely on some score that a pundit doles out. The Manifesto! site states that the principals are intimately involved - "from pruning to harvest...we do it all." They continue, "then we go surfing." The wine may work perfectly after catching a California wave, but we're talking soccer now and the Americans might have been better served in this match by the Washington state Columbia Crest that was opened in Round 1.

On the other hand, the Bremerton was bold in its own way - but, it was bold in an Aussie Shiraz kind of way. Plenty of dark fruit; however, there was structure and tannin and the fruit was more integrated into an overall balance that wasn't so evident with the Californian wine.

I don't know the Bremerton brand at all. I don't think of it as a producer that I see on local shelves and that makes me think that I might be a bottle that I picked up at one of the Vancouver Playhouse Festivals over the years. This winery also sees its share of praise in the press. James Halliday, one of Australia's foremost scribes, says that the winery "can fairly claim to be the best producer in Langhorne Creek."

I can't claim to be able to say yea or nay to such a statement, but it was clear to us that the Aussies should move on to the semi's. Result: 2-0 for the Wineroos.

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