Musings on Wine

A Story of Two Wines for the In Laws

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting my inlaws for a celebratory birthday dinner. This is a great group of generous and kind people who love wine and food as much as I do. Like many Europeans, they eat and drink with plenty of zest and share non-stop conversation around the table, generally but not always, between mouthfuls. They are, however, less likely to spend the kind of money I might spend on a good bottle of wine on a celebratory evening such as this. They are mostly accustomed to drinking their own home made wine, which is often boozy, sweet, slightly oxidized and generally a guarantee for a hangover the day after. With that in mind, I decided to purchase a few magnums of inexpensive red wines from the LCBO to go along with my 4 hour slow-roasted (and lightly smoked) mature chickens and risotto. My wine selections included the Sogrape Grao Vasco from Dao, Portugal ($15.95 - 1500ml) and the Trapiche Astica Merlot-Malbec from Argentina ($13.95 - 1500ml). Much to my surprise and delight, both wines were actually quite good for the price. Both were soft and ready to drinnk, and simple enough to pair well with the food. The Dao, a blend of native Jaen and Touriga grapes, was full of sour cherry, light peppery spice, hints of strawberry and leather and was quite succulent and alive on the palate with very delicate tannins and moderate alcohol. The Argentinean wine was darker and offered sweeter, softer dark berry fruit with subtle hints of chocolate and smoke in front of a little green leaf and earth in the background. Although there were mixed opinions around the table, I'm not sure I would say that one was ultimately better than the other as both offered pretty solid value.

The following night almost exactly 24 hours later, with roughly 500ml left in the Dao and 800ml or so in the Argentinean, I sipped a little of both to see how they had held up overnight. Not surprisingly, the Portuguese red was still full of life, juicy and fruity and even a little gentler and expressive that it had been the night before making it even better value. The Merlot-Malbec on the other hand had all but disappeared. The boisterous fruit was gone, the flavour seemed blah and what little structure it had had the night before had all but dissolved. Clearly, like so many wines from the new world at these price points, this was a wine made to drink immediately. It was an interesting discovery, especially given that I might have purchased it again if I hadn't had the opportunity to see just how short a life it would have. Valuable lesson learned and without a doubt, good justification to splurge and spend the extra $2 on my in-laws!

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