Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

Last night's wine (the 2006 Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colchagua Valley in Chile) was an impulse buy at Costco, and I began to regret the purchase as soon as I haded over my credit card at the register. I'm not a bit fan of Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines (probably a result of a psychological need to be different), and I have not had very good experiences with Chilean wines (most of what I've tried has been green and thin and not very appealing). In the store, though, I was won over by the stylish packaging, the price ($8, if I recall correctly), and the marketing schtick. Namely, the grapes used to make this wine are from ungrafted vines. Since the phylloxera destroyed European vineyards in the second half of the 19th Century, most of the world's commercial vitis vinifera vines have been grafted. The grape-bearing part is vitis vinifera, but it has been grafted onto roots from non-vinifera North American grape species. North American non-vinifera grape varieties, you see, are immune to the ravages of phylloxera, and the discovery that this was so saved the European wine industry. But phylloxera hasn't reached every corner of the wine world, at least not yet. Specifically, most of South America has never been visited by it, and so grafting is not nearly as widespread in Chile and Argentina as it is in the rest of the world. Root:1's marketing claims that the lack of grafting makes their grapes have a more intense fruit and varietally authentic character. I'm more than a bit suspicious of that claim, but I had to try it. And so I bought a bottle.

Cabernet Sauvignon is famous for having a green streak. Given that one of its parents is the Cabernet Franc, which is about as vegetal as a red grape variety gets, this isn't particularly surprising. There is a good bit of green bell pepper on the nose, as befits a Cabernet Sauvignon wine. But there is also a very sharp and distinct rhubarb aroma. I like rhubarb. There is some decent red fruit on the palate, along with some olives. It's a bit thin and a bit short, but I still enjoyed it. It's better than most other Chilean wines that I have tried, and it offers good value for $8 a bottle. My impulses were good in this case.

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