Although I am most often weary of the “big” wines, I do enjoy ripe fruit and bold flavors just as much as the next guy. As long as the ripe fruit doesn’t jam the glass, if you see what I mean, and as long as other elements give it structure and balance.
Case in point: Viña Chocalán’s 2004 Gran Reserva Blend, which was an accessibly-priced addition to a 2007 edition of the Courrier Vinicole, a mail-order catalogue by the Société des alcools du Québec, our very own wine and spirits state monopoly. At 22$, it seemed like a safe buy, and proved to be more than that.
When they say this Gran Reserva is a blend, the folks at this young and ambitious estate founded less than a decade ago really mean what they say: 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Malbec, 15% Merlot, 13% Syrah, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, according to the web site. If that doesn’t bring at least a touch of complexity…
This is the kind of wine that doesn’t require you to stick your nose deep in the glass. Instead, it just jumps at you with a big burst of raspberry, blackberry, followeb by a good spponful of spices, all wrapped up in rich chocolate. As the very dark color hints at, it’s quite a mouthful, but with suppleness and enough acidity to sustain the mass of fruit and all. You even get a little herbal character and eucalyptus showing through, and a very velvety mouthfeel from tannins that are very smooth and ripe. Very, very yummy.
The wine didn’t feel overdone or overblown. Nothing like a California grenache. Drinkability was reasonably good – meaning I could pour myself another glass without feeling stuffed. I’d be lying if I said I had any kind of problem with it.
Yet, tonight, when I was drinking a bottle of Hurluberlu, a joyful Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil cabernet franc from Sébastien David with 12.5% alcohol per volume, a touch of residual CO2 and expansive, fruity character of another kind, I was reminded of why I generally try to aim for slightly lower alcohol than trends are currently pushing. The wine, which did wonders with homemade chicken wings (first, use them to make the best broth ever, then finish them in the oven with your favorite marinade) just went down easy. So easy. Much more easily than the Gran Reserva.
Hurluberlu was gone just after dinner. And I felt like opening another bottle right away.
The Chocalán lasted two good days.