Monday, April 13, 2009

Root: 1 Cabernet

Viña Ventisquero
Root: 1
Cabernet Sauvignon
Colchagua Valley
Rancagua, Chile
$8.99 -- Grape Vine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Deep ruby
Nose: Cassis, tar, cardboard
Body: Medium
Front: Cherry
Middle: Bittersweet chocolate
Back: Herbs, raisin
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

There are two selling points for this wine, which has gotten some oenophile press. First, it's cheap and strong! Second, it's from ungrafted original cabernet vines, which are rare in the world thanks to the phylloxera epidemic back in the day. Presumably the appeal here would be that you are drinking the wine the ancients drank: that there is something about ungrafted vines that is unique.

That may be. Certainly the overly decorated bottle, with its long historical narrative on the front, would lead one to believe it, referring to the vines it's made from as "pure." I love history as much, probably slightly more than the next girl. But a caveat: really, Nietzsche would warn us about the invariably impure genealogy of vines. That is to say, hybridity is hard to avoid. And what's more, whether pre- or post-phylloxera, vines channel terroir. So it's still a lot about care, feeding, and character. And not over-manipulating the grapes before they get to the emptyer.

Having said that, I think Root: 1 is reasonably tasty, and probably the best 8-9 dollar Cabernet that I've had this year. It seems to have about a two-stage delivery, fruit and a little chocolatey thing, but it's interesting and good with the aged Irish cheese I broke out before dinner tonight. It is not very tannic, compared to its acidity, so I fear it won't age--but I bet in about six months to a year from now, it'll be way better. That notwithstanding, if I were having a reception tomorrow, I'd order a case of this and a case of the Veramonte Chardonnay to serve.