A (hopefully) continuing series on wine labels under the macro lens . . .
I’ve been experimenting lately, taking photos of pieces of wine labels with my macro lens. It’s great fun to see the colors, and especially the textures, on a wine label that you wouldn’t ordinarily see (or maybe even notice). It’s almost as fun as drinking the wine. Almost.
So, I thought . . . why not stitch the photos together into a collage?
Voila! My week in wine labels.
Before you scroll down, do you recognize any of these guys??
Domaine Zind Humbrecht Riesling Turckheim 2005 ⭐⭐/84
An old-school label from an Old World producer, Domaine Zind Humbrecht, one of the best-known producers in Alsace. The bottle looks blue in this photo, but it’s an accidental camera trick — it’s not blue (it’s brownish-green). I almost took a photo of the iconic fleur-de-lis crest on the label, but decided that was too obvious. I was drawn to the neck of the bottle, with its old world lettering and gold metallic paint.
My husband and I enjoyed a 2006 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling at The Inn at Little Washington while celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary. I couldn’t find the ’06 Herrenweg for sale anywhere, so I ordered the closest thing I could find — an ’05, from the much broader Turckheim region. It’s not nearly as good. It was probably good a few years ago, but it’s jumped the shark now. Tastes like apricot and Werther’s Originals candy. Needs acid, in the worst kind of way. $45.
Creta Roble Ribera del Duero 2011 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
There’s an absolute dearth of information on the Internet about this wine. Other than finding out it’s “a custom cuvee made exclusively for importer Eric Solomon,” there’s just crickets out there. So, I poured myself another glass of this pretty nifty cuvee, and started thinking about terroir . . . and that nautilus shell on the label. En Español, Creta means chalk, and Roble means oak. So, literally translated, this is oak chalk wine. I get the oak (Tempranillo and oak have a great affinity). But what about the chalk?
The seashell on the label was a bit of a head-scratcher for me, since Ribera del Duero is nowhere near the sea. So, I started digging around on the Internet (dangerous, I know). Seashells are made of calcium carbonate. And, since the only thing I know about calcium carbonate is absolutely nothing, I knew I had to reach out to someone who does know. My aunt’s husband is a professor of Organic Chemistry (and also a wine lover), who very patiently tolerated my pedestrian questions about seashells and chalk. Stay with me.
Calcium carbonate is the foundation for limestone, which is a sedimentary rock, made up of ancient sediments from the shells of various marine critters. Limestone is also one of the key soils in the terroir of Ribera del Duero. And, depending on what kind of ancient seashells contributed to the limestone, the limestone could be chalk. If the ancient seashells were mollusks (like that nautilus shell), the calcium carbonate in their shells would be its crystallized form, as aragonite. And aragonite is named after its place of discovery, in Aragon, Spain, which is only about 400km from Ribera del Duero. Is your head ready to explode yet?
I feel like I just completed the world’s most complicated connect-the-dots puzzle.
I have no idea if this is really why there’s a nautilus shell on the label, but it sounds at least plausible, right? (It’s equally plausible that Eric Solomon just really likes nautilus shells). Oh! Before I forget — this is an almost obscene value for Ribera del Duero — $17 bucks. If you see it, pick up one or six.
Stinson Merlot Monticello 2013 ⭐⭐⭐/87
This Merlot is from one of my very favorite Virginia wineries. Stinson is a small, family-owned, boutique winery just west of Charlottesville, modeled after the garagistes of Bordeaux. Garagistes (the French word for mechanic) are a group of winemakers who make small batches of some pretty killer wine in (waitforit) a garage. Stinson is built into an old three-car garage — and there is a representation of the garage doors on the wine label. I love the use of brown kraft paper on the labels. It’s so simple, and yet so elegant. It reminds me of when we used to cover our school-books with brown paper grocery bags. (Yep, I’m that old.) I received this Merlot as a sample from Stinson, and it came with exciting news — 2013 marks the first time they’ve made a red wine from all Stinson Farms fruit (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon). There’s a great softness and approachability in this Merlot that’s often absent in Virginia Merlots. Another indicator of the really good things going on at Stinson.
Standing Stone Vineyards Riesling Old Block West 2013 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
Located on the east side of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, Standing Stone Vineyards is named after the Oneida Tribe of upstate New York. Oneida, or Onyota’a:ka, means People of the Standing Stone. I couldn’t find any information on the impetus for the label, so I’m left to surmise (it keeps my brain from getting all cobwebby). The label looks to be a pen and ink drawing of the vineyard property. But under the macro lens, it reminds me of a medieval village. It’s not a medieval village, of course, but the macro lens does change perspective. Absent on the label (as far as I can tell) are any standing stones. 😉 This wine was probably the stand-out Riesling of our summer trip to the Finger Lakes. It’s a beautifully dry Riesling that’ll hold up to just about any food you match with it. $20.