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Sunday, July 29, 2007

The All Consuming High Alcohol Debate, Alban Style....

I’d like to use a particular wine, the Alban Central Coast Viognier 2006, to bring my two cents to the high alcohol debate. While this may not strike you as a rhetoric commentary or demand blatant attention like Randy Dunn’s commentary did, I find that speaking of a particular wine can help one achieve some personal insight and reflect on its relevance towards broader issues.

I'm happy to introduce one of Alban’s wines that any of you may actually be able to locate at retail (and won't break the bank for roughly 22 dollars). Nearly the wines in his stable are perfect fodder to begin an alcohol-level based debate, especially when one notices that the small number in the bottom right hand corner of the label says 15.8%. Make no mistake about it, this Viognier is a product of uncompromising ripeness, vision and extreme intensity of cool climate terroir. His decisions to fanatically crop thin, leaf pull and late this case, result in a heady, forward and deliciously rich white.

To generalize, Rhone varietals are tend to attain much more depth of flavor when achieving higher levels of ripeness, and the opulent flavor development is necessary to achieve a balance in their overall profiles. Viognier (as well as Grenache, in particular) can accumulate very high levels of sugars and still be quite lean in flavor; so pushing back the harvest dates in cool, hillside regions has proven to be a very successful viticultural practice. This 2006 Viognier is no exception to these rules.

The color has a light golden shade, w/ flecks of grin from the base to the rim. The scents are exotic and alluring, w/ shades of citrus blossom, lanolin, tropical oils and jellied quince. Flavors are intense, but still focused and evoke notions of dried apricot, honey and cinnamon spices. Sure, I guess there are traces of heat, but nothing severe enough to detract from the precise character and overall harmony of this endowed effort. Serve slightly chilled, drink early and often…91 points.

My wife mentioned that she thought it smelled like a Gewurztraminer, which actually brings up a good point. Nearly all outstanding examples of Gewurztraminer I've had exhibit exotic, flamboyant and heady profiles that people tend to love or hate...balanced or not. Gewurtz, not unlike successful Rhone Rangers of California, is not bashful nor apologetic for the intensity it brings nor for the gaudy expressions it conjures. Not everyone will like it, but considering the uniqueness, not everyone should. Those that find wines of this nature offensive will choose not to drink them (but certainly should refrain from their elaborate protests, crying heresy), but those that adore them should not be ashamed nor defensive of these precocious elixirs...if Alban's Viognier could talk, I don't think it would be ashamed or defensive of what it is, so don’t be afraid to drink up :)


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