One of the great things about wine production is that there is no one universal taste, and even “sophisticated palates” may disagree on which wine is “great,” a “ho-hum,” or “not my style.”
I’ll admit that while I think a lot of great wines are “edgy,” that is, almost over the top, I generally prefer classic wines. But as a wine critic, I always try to keep in mind that unless a wine has an obvious flaw (corked, volatile acidity, generally dirty, oxidized beyond intent), then a reader may reasonably like it better than I do. So I try to describe a wine in a way that a reader can say “yeah” or “I don’t think so,” whether or not I would buy it.
This edition of The Dozen features classic wines from Ricasoli, a venerable Italian producer of Chiantis, and wines from 19 Crimes, the Australian-based producer who tries to be more provocative from its labels to its contents. It’s not a back-handed compliment to say their wines are not subtle. The fruit comes at you, the degree of sweetness is not hidden, and the oak and the alcohol are at times edgy. Although some of the wines that I didn’t prefer on first taste, I did find myself going back for a second taste.
But, enough. Let’s get to the wines!
2020 19 Crimes “Hard Chard” Southeast Australia Chardonnay ($10). The 16% alcohol is strictly buzz city, so it’s almost like a liqueur with considerable oak and eau-de-vie fruitiness.
2020 19 Crimes “Martha’s Chard” California Chardonnay ($12). ‘The Martha’ is Martha Stewart, who did spend some time in prison for white-collar crimes. The wine is buttery in the KJ mode but is a little greener in fruit and leaner at the finish.
2020 19 Crimes “The Uprising” Southeast Australia Red Wine ($10). Some of the wine was aged a month in previously used rum casks, with lilting blackberry flavors and the rum flavor showing up in the end—some dusty tannins.
2019 19 Crimes Southeast Australia Cabernet Sauvignon ($10). Dark berry flavors but light in structure and impact.
2020 19 Crimes Southeast Australia Red Wine ($10). Slightly sweet and fruit-forward cherry flavors with a powdery note in the finish.
2018 San Felice Toscana Pugnitello ($59). I love this wine made from an obscure grape that has been revived and is now showing up in blends and – as here – as a varietal. It has rich, tangy cherry flavors, almost like a cross between a Sangiovese and a Grenache.
2016 Vallone “Graticciaia” Salento Rosso ($67). Rounded, fruity cherry and dark berry flavors with very good tannins and acidity.
2018 Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($75). A smoothie with richness and depth of flavors – mainly cherries – and balancing savory notes.
2018 Ricasoli “Roncicone” Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($96). It’s almost like a Saint-Julien from the Left Bank in its fruitiness, but the finish is definitely Sangiovese raspiness.
2018 Ricasoli “Colledilà” Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($98). Very enjoyable – tart and well-structured with some herbal notes among the almost-red fruit, with a pleasant touch of gaminess in the finish.
2018 Ricasoli “CeniPrimo” Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($98). Very lively, with slightly tart, black fruits – cherries, blackberries – with a lingering raspy finish. An excellent food wine.
2018 Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore ($253). A surprise at the finish! This classic wine has the structure to keep its garden of delights under control, with smooth dark berry flavors, slight savory earthiness, fine tannins, and a hint of creaminess in the finish.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo courtesy of Treasury Wines.