What, you thought I wasn’t going to review wines too? You’d better go back to Thinking School, Jack!
The Lowdown: The Vinzelo is a red blended wine from Quinta de Ventozelo. It’s made up of 4 different varietals: 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Toriga Franca, 30% Tinta Barroca, and 10% Toruriga Nacional grapes. I picked it up for a few reasons:
1. I’ve never had any of those kinds of grapes, so why not give them a shot?
2. It’s from Douro Valley, which is a region in Portugal already known for its Port wines, and word on the street is that it’s slated to be the one of the next big interesting wine regions.
3. It was under $10*
When I got home and looked it up to learn more, I found out that the 2005 won Top Value and was a recommended wine by Wine Spectator. Let’s hope the 2006 is just as good (or better!).
The Whiff: I get all kinds of red fruits up my nosepiece. Raspberry and…uhm, well other red berries, fresh and delicious. It’s “bright”, if that makes any sense. What I don’t smell…oak. Tons of wines reek of the oak barrels they’re matured in, both in scent and in flavor. Looking at the bottle tells me that there was no oak aging involved, that it spent it’s life growing up stainless steel tanks (just like my sisters!). After having so many chardonnays and cabernets recently that were aged in oak (most are), it’s kind of refreshing to not have that soaked-in-sawdust element and let the grapes speak for themselves (Apparently, they all want free healthcare. Who knew?).
The Taste: Fruit out the wazoo. The red berries continue, and are joined by their rambunctious friends cherry and apple. There’s more to it than that though, a creamy element, like a butter component. It’s semi-sweet, but not like pure sugar (or, God forbid, White Zinfandel)…more like molasses. Yep, that’s it, molasses…adding a little complexity to the fruit flavors, and giving it some backbone. That being said, this is VERY easy to drink. It’s a very soft flavor, no bitterness or “pucker” really (which probably means low tannins). The alcohol is 12%, and it shows as there’s almost zero alcohol burn. The alcohol burn is something I relish in other drinks, especially my whiskeys. That warmth lightly burning your mouth and throat as the first gulp goes down, I love it. But I’m perfectly OK with it not being here in my wine. These bright delicious fruits backed up by a creamy brown-sugar backbone doesn’t need that alcohol weight that liquor has to fortify it. I know from this description it sounds like drinking pure sugar-water, but I promise you it isn’t. It still very much has that red wine taste that all red wines have, and that I’m not quite able to describe any other way than that.
Would you drink it again? You betcha. Really, this wine was good at teaching me some things about the kinds of wines I like and don’t like:
1. I don’t like a lot of oak
2. I don’t like bitter tannins
I’ve never liked bitter or sour things, so that’s no revelation to me (go to hell pickles, mustard, and olives!). But to my knowledge, this may be my first un-oaked red wine I’ve ever had, and not having it there really changed the flavor profile. As I said, I like LOVE whiskeys, and they’re often heavily oaked…and given all of the other flavor profiles of bourbon and scotch, I think oak is great flavor component in that context. In my wines…not so much. Based on this experience, I’m going to seek out some un-oaked chardonnays (assuming such things exist), because I suspect there might be some great grape flavors that I’ve been missing because they were buried under a mountain of plywood.
Would you recommend it to someone else? Yes indeed. This is really a wine that’s great to just have a case of it lying around. You could pull a bottle out and talk about Portugal and Douro and sound super-smart to your friends like you actually know something about wine, and it’s accessible (and cheap) enough that it won’t be overwhelming and could go with most foods you might serve. If you’re friends with wine snobs, they’ll probably lament the lack of complexity and call it a “fruit bomb“, though not near as dumbed-down and simple as something like Yellow Tail**. For the average person, it’s complex enough that they’ll not just enjoy it but feel smart for picking out the complexities that are there (that you’ll probably have to explain to them).
Overall Score: 91
Could it be more complex and interesting? Absolutely, but for most people this will be a fantastic wine that’s more than worth the price.
*When you run your own website that makes you virtually no money and you’re not yet well-known for doing booze reviews so no booze companies are sending you free review samples, then you can call me a cheapskate. Until then…enjoy all the free entertainment my site provides you! Want to help out? We sell shirts!
**Yellow Tail is like the Nickelback of wine: critics across the board hate and despise them, cry from the rooftops how shitty they are and how there’s so much better out there, yet somehow they manage to sell millions. People love them, no matter what they’re told by those who know better. This phenomenon can also be used to explain why people who are ordinarily rational human beings vote the way they do, despite knowing better.