Australian Faith and Liverwurst

The Fleur de Lyeth “proprietary blend” is gone — the last third went into the sink. Some might consider that a sin. Mea culpa. Now, moving on….

The next wine is from The Cellar, their March offering (yes, I picked it up ‘way late). It’s a Shiraz (that’s the grape) from St. Hallett of the Barossa of Australia, a wine they call their 2011 Faith. I actually opened it on Thursday, two days ago.

Thursday was a tough day. When I went to bed on Wednesday, I was a bit uncomfortable between the legs, and poking around, I felt something that scared the living crap out of me. Women are supposed to check their breasts, men their testicles. But they never tell you exactly what you’re looking for.

So I didn’t sleep much. I got an appointment with the doctor on Thursday afternoon, and it turns out to be a Nada Grande — a Big Nothing, a very-typical-in-men-your-age Big Nothing. These are the hypochondriacal pangs of aging, so stand warned, you young whippersnappers. You’ve got a lot to look forward to.

When I came home, I opened the Faith to celebrate. Maybe it was the stress and lack of sleep, maybe it really was the wine, but the first whiff of the bottle was not a fragrance, nor even an odor, but a reek. Liverwurst. If you think green bell pepper doesn’t belong in a wine, liverwurst doesn’t belong anywhere near the bottle, much less in the bottle. I actually was foolish enough to pour a bit and taste it, and it was a cacophony of horrible off-flavors. Ack.

I screwed the cap back on — a footnote, here, more and more wineries are turning to screw caps. The cork that has traditionally been used for corking the bottle comes from the underlayer of the bark of the cork tree, which grows only in Portugal. And there isn’t a lot left. For a while wineries switched to recycled cork, a mixture of some polymer and bits of authentic cork, and a lot of other vineyards went to straight plastic, but the increasing trend is the screw-top. We’re starting to see screw-tops on even the top-end wines.

I screwed the cap back on, and uncorked a Fleur de Lyeth Cabernet — another of my own random choices from Wilbur’s — and it poked me in the mouth with both green bell and jalapeño peppers, at three or four times the intensity of the blend that went down the sink. Ack.

So I did the smart thing and uncapped a Sam Adams. That tasted just fine.

Palates go south. All the senses do. I remember days back when I played the violin a lot, where every note I played — or heard — sounded flat. It didn’t matter if the note was actually sharp: it still sounded flat. I don’t really know what is the best thing to do when that happens. A professional would learn to compensate and soldier on. My strategy has always been to step away from the whole mess and get a good night’s sleep. So far, it’s always been back to normal the next day.

So I hadn’t gotten around to the Faith again until today. I just now uncapped it, and tentatively sniffed, and this time it smells like wine. Not liverwurst. That’s a good start.

The color is a deep purple typical of a Shiraz. Not the blood-red vampire memoir ink color of the last one, but a cherry red edging toward purple. I tasted the wine, gingerly, and it was really, really “hot,” which — to me — means it’s chock-full of compounds related to fermentation: aldehydes, ketones, and all the other volatile hydrocarbons that taste like floor cleaner. Fumes go up your nose and burn. Hot.

Did I ever mention that I’m kind of stupidly persistent?

I poured a glass through my $25 aerator. The Cellar’s notes on this wine — on all their reds, so far — say that it “needs air.” One way to do this is to pour the wine into a decanter and let it sit for a day or two. The quicker way is to slap an aerator on the bottle and just pour. The next sip of aerated wine suggested the wine was actually drinkable.

Sometimes, stupid persistence pays off.

After thorough aeration, it (now) has a good Shiraz nose, very fruity, with a pleasant fragrance that smells floral, but like a fruit blossom rather than a woman’s perfume. It’s not as tart as some Shiraz I’ve had, and I like that — Shiraz can be a pucker-fest, sometimes. Full fruit flavor, almost too much. This one has a medium-length finish, where the tartness and the alcohol evaporate and leave a sharp — pleasantly sharp — memory of sour cherries that slowly fades. I experience some puckering, and it leaves my mouth feeling dry.

Overall, I’d call this at best a very touchy wine that needs — not wants, but needs — some thorough aeration before you even want to sniff around it. Even after that, it’s too tart for my taste buds. Not a keeper.

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