A pile of dessert wine (intensely jealous my UK friends get to call them pudding wines) occupies a small and lonely cellar corner. Pulling a few bottles out of their racks reminded me of the country and continental indiscrimination I apply to this wine category with bottles from Germany, France, Australia, California, South America, Italy, Portugal, and beyond piled one on top of the other. Last week’s wine encounters highlighted two heretofore undiscovered pudding (there, I said it!) wine sources, Uruguay and Alto Aldige, Italy, producing sweet wines of totally different styles that are both worthy enough to compete for remaining but limited rack space. These two wines were constructed from Tannat and Moscato Rosa respectively.
I buy and drink the massive Tannat wines produced in France’s southwest appellation of Madiran, but most of my bottles still rest in the cellar working off their heavy tannic armor. The grape produces seriously full bodied wines with alluring aromatics and enough tannin to halt a tank. Uruguayan winemakers riding on favorable terroir, are serious about making a market with somewhat softer Tannat, but only about 5% of their production is exported outside their borders, making the wines easy to miss.
My first experience with Uruguayan Tannat turned out to be sweet, drinking the (*** $25 500ml) NV Viñedo de los Vientos Alcyone at LeFarm in Westport, CT. The wine is thick and viscous, almost black. It feels syrupy, but in a tolerable way that does not suggest over cloying, sugary sweetness. Still, the wine has a syrup quality, and chocolate syrup to be exact. It is fortified with brandy and tops out at 16% alcohol. NV Alcyone offers rich fruit, a velvety fat mouthfeel, and dessert spices in the nose making the wine feel exotic. Honestly, I was not sure whether to drink the wine or pour it over my dessert. It is a borderline fine wine, offering full pleasure and exotic personality, but weighing just a touch too rich in the mouth. It is definitely something to experience, and with vanilla ice cream or very cold cheesecake it will be a shoe-in to wow your dinner guests.
(*****$50 375ml) 2009 Franz Haas Moscato Rosa, from the northern reaches of Italy in the Alto Adige region, is so compelling I have been scanning the market for some since pausing over it at an awe inspiring Alto Aldige event in Boston last week that showcased numerous white wines that I will enthusiastically share in an upcoming post. This Italian winemaking region abuts Austria and Switzerland under protection of the Alps to the north, creating valleys that allow Mediterranean airflow to infiltrate its terroir, blending Italian and German culture in all ways. The Moscato Rosa grape made in this top edge of Italy first found its way north in 1851, all the way from Sicily. It is not an easy grape to work with boasting naturally high sugars, yielding low, and easily damaged by any degree of botrytis.
As such, the wine is not late harvested and is fermented like red wine. It produces a magical wine that is bright red in color and has a weight and aroma that is so impressive it caught me by total surprise. Haas’ 2009 Moscato Rosa is as silky, light and elegant as you can ask from a sweet wine. The nose is full of flowers and this powerful aromatic combines with the cherry smells you get when you open a pack of Cherry Charms. But the wine is always classy, restrained, and overall it is as pretty as you can imagine. It is unlike anything I have ever poured into a glass and is fully recommended as a serious and immensely pleasurable wine all wrapped into one. I do not have a feel for its aging potential, but the wine is so completely compelling right now, it seems like a wine to just buy and drink every year, and maybe put one bottle away simply as a chemistry experiment.