I recently tried the Australian wine Irvine Albarino and agreed with a fellow taster that it smelled like marijuana. It didn’t only smell like marijuana. The first smell was petrol and made me think of a Riesling. The second smell was a cupboard of herbs and that included a sticky hint of marijuana. (It also led to inevitable remarks like “I don’t know if I should drink it or smoke it” and “This bottle should come with rolling papers”.) The wine eventually mellowed to lighter herb, grass and fruit aromas atop a fairly balanced body that had a slightly sweet initial taste and a lemony finish. I liked it.
Anyway, Irvine Albarino is among the more intriguing wines I have tried this year so I decided to see what other people smelled. I didn’t find anything about it in the guidebooks by Australian wine writers Jeremy Oliver and James Halliday, though they both cite the Merlot from Irvine as good. I found tasting notes on the Internet that didn’t note petrol or marijuana but peaches (huh?), pears (really?) as major smells. It seems that either those tasters were smoking up or, as is more likely, other factors were at play, perhaps the age of the wine (we tried a 2007), the peculiarities of this particular bottle or, according to several people in the wine industry, the impact of the screw top on the initial smell. To be fair, those fruity smells did come through later.
I tried this wine at The Loop, at a tasting organized by manager Weiley Lu with Philip Osenton of Wine Culture. Ostenton says that while the label says this wine is made from Albarino grapes, originally from Spain, testing has shown that it is actually made from Savagnin grapes, originally from France. This will be indicated on later vintages. It retails for RMB218 and is available from philip.osenton (at) wineculture.com.cn. Some other wines from the tasting:
Chateau Mas Neuf Les Conviviales Cabernet Sauvignon (2008: RMB122): Given the price, this is a decently round and deep fruity wine with a mildly spicy finish.
Bogle Petite Syrah (2006: RMB174): If I could pick one bottle to finish on this night, it would be this Bogle. A pleasing aroma, especially of blackberries, and a round body with a pleasant fruity finish.
Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel (2007: RMB191): Ample fruit, though it took a while to reveal, with a hint of cracked black pepper. This one is juicy, and at times borders on jammy, with a dry finish. Osenton said he picked up the smell of cranberry (I didn’t) and strawberry jam (I did).
Casa Gualda Unico Sauvignon Blanc/Muscat (2009: RMB82): If you seek something slightly sweet, floral, easy to drink and inexpensive, this blend might fit your needs.
Altor Las Hormigas Malbec (2008: RMB134): I’m including this partly because of the name, which means “the ants”. It has a lot of dark fruit, one person called it “stalky”, and it seems like a wine that would be best with a nice steak.
Wine Culture also has a sparkling red wine, from Malvasian grapes, at RMB226. You don’t see those every day…