WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

13 August 2013

Pink Port and Amarone: a couple of "headbangers of the moment"

I don't usually recommend wines based purely on alcohol content - and I'm not really going to this time either - yet the alcohol is an intrinsic part of these two totally different wines (but 'still only' 19.5% and 16% abv respectively, so we're not talking schnapps/eau de vie here). Besides, a Sun-style headline doesn't do any harm every now and then, and helps bring a 'little theme' nicely together...
So, over to Croft Pink Port then: I first tried it over five years ago when just launched, in Barcelona of all places (links to feature on the 2008 Wine & Climate Change conference; not sure what this wine has to do with that, but maybe Croft was a sponsor...); and again in 2010 in the line-up of a special Douro Valley 'masterclass' tasting (links to post about this). If you can be bothered clicking on that, you'll see that I was trying to like it but was "... struggling... too techno... boiled sweets and bubble gum in that ester-y chemistry lab kinda way..." Well, I've sampled it again a few times recently, on its own and with different things; and I think I was being a bit mean before. I doubt the wine's changed much, if at all, winemaking or style-wise, so I must have. It was still a touch ester-y and 'nouveau' at first, but got more interesting in an ultra-fruity sweet rosé way with intriguing earthy kirsch aromas/flavours, nice zing and kick too (without being overpowering) to counteract the quite high residual sugar. Serve well chilled as a summer dessert or milk chocolate wine, or with/on fresh red berry fruits. Or a few sips with salty crisps or peanuts is also strangely quite nice... And Croft is keen on promoting it in trendy bars as a cocktail base: check out croftpink.com for some ideas, there are quite a few. I like the look of simply mixing it with Champagne, especially their 'Decadent' recipe including Pink Port, Champers, tea, lemon juice and "Absinthe soaked sugar lump." Mind you, I'd dispense with the sugar though! Anyway, in the UK, it's £11.99 for 75cl at the Co-Op, selected branches of Majestic and Selfridges, which might sound a tad dear, but this would do you for a week or so kept in the fridge and poured half a glass a go.
Back to the Amarone red finally, obviously no similarity whatsoever as a wine; though, as I said, with 16% (natural rather than added like Port) abv, it certainly 'packs a punch'. This one's full title is Tenuta Pule 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and is new to Lidl's 'wine cellar' range (£19.99 UK). The raised alcohol content comes from the grapes being dried out before fermentation, which concentrates the sugar in them while water evaporates; then they make it like a regular dry red wine (with cask ageing in this case). So, you get plenty of rich earthy cherry and damson flavours with balsamic and toasted almond (!) touches, big powerful and rounded mouth-feel with lush dark berry and spice fruit vs attractive meaty leather edges; turns gamier and more savoury after opening for a day or two, yet still retains that nice wild kirsch fruit. Went well with South African style chunky sausage (a version of Boerewors made by my local butcher with beef pork and coriander) and a slightly wacky spiced red cabbage risotto I made up as I went along!

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