One of the focuses when studying for the Diploma in Wine and Spirits is to be able to determine, through practiced tasting and writing a tasting note that conforms to the WSET standards, if the wine you’re drinking is a quality wine. In one class Lisa Granik, MW, gave us an acronym — BLIC. Which stands for balance, length, intensity and complexity. This is easy to remember. But in practice, it’s not enough to say the wine is balanced. You have to say the high acid is balanced by the intensity of the fruit, or the high alcohol is balanced by the high extract. Or all the structural elements — acid, alcohol, tannin — are at medium levels; one’s not out of whack.
At dinner with my sister at the Patio in Westhampton last night, which was just OK (why no music?), I went along with her California jones and we ordered a 2002 Stags’ Leap “The Leap” Cabernet from Napa Valley. She had had this wine before and loved it. I like California cab, but there are so many things I like better (especially from that north west corner of Italy) that I rarely drink it. I amazed myself and my sister by guessing the alcohol content was 15 percent. (It was 14.9! I find small achievements like this very encouraging; it means I’ve learned something along the way and that maybe I did pick the right speciality.)
What this wine has that makes it so popular and an example of a style is the mouthfeel. The mouthfeel of superripe tannins. The kind of mouthfeel that makes my mother, an example of a valuable wine-buying demographic, say “Oh, that’s smooth.”
I served a bottle of Insoglia del Cinghale to two of my favorite customers last weekend and Russell said, “It tastes just like it looks.” And I knew what he meant. The Leap tastes just like it smells, which is sometimes a good thing, but wine is definitely more interesting when the smell and the palate are a surprising combination.
The Leap was still a bright ruby color, opaque and saturated to the rim. If I were tasting it blind, this would lead me to believe it’s a young wine. But the nose belied the color. Secondary aromas were prominent. While there was still blackberry in the background, the smell was dominated by chocolate, leather and graphite. There’s some of Lisa’s complexity.
In the mouth it sure is smooth, and the lingering fruit is real pleasant, as are secondary flavors similar to the nose, but the finish was dominated by the sensation of alcohol evaporating in my sinuses. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Was the wine balanced? I’d say no. But it was complex. It did linger on the palate, as well as in the sinuses, and the flavors are medium to high in intensity (WSET does not allow you to say “pretty intense”) which gives the wine three out of four.
It seems the 2002 Napa vintage is like the North Fork’s — a sleeper that is surpassing the 2001s, which everyone was more excited about.
Homage à Honig at 2daysperbottle. The Leap is a little oxidized the next day. Don’t be lightweights like my sister and me. Drink the whole thing at once.