A continuing series on wine labels, and the wines that wear them, under the macro lens.
I love to take photos of pieces of things with my macro lens — pieces of wine labels seemed like a natural extension of that inclination. It’s a lot of 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.
Do you recognize any of these guys??
Balbas Ribera del Duero Reserva 2001 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/93
I love the background texture on this monogram label — reminds me of tiny honeycombs. The Balbas Winery was founded in 1777, and they (along with a handful of other wineries), were instrumental in creating the Denomination of Origin (DO) for Ribera del Duero. A Tempranillo based wine (90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon), and an outstanding one. I’m a total sucker for Ribera del Duero. Loaded with minerals, leather, tobacco and herbs. Simply superb. Oh! And I got this from WTSO for something next to ridiculous, like $20.
Champagne Émile Leclère Blanc de Blancs Brut NV ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
The Émile Leclère label sports a pretty fabulous double-lion family (I assume it’s family) coat of arms. Lions make frequent appearances on coats of arms — who wouldn’t want their family represented by a symbol of bravery and strength? And I now know (because I fell down an Internet rabbit-hole researching this wine) there are about 7 billion ways to describe a lion’s position on a coat of arms (is it rearing up, standing, sitting, laying down, tail between its legs, facing in, facing out . . . you get the idea). The lions on the Émile Leclère label are in the Lion Rampant Regardant position (rampant is Old French for rearing-up, regardant is looking away). I wonder what, exactly, the lions are regarding??
This is another one of my WTSO “Exploring Champagne” purchases. The Leclere Family has been making Champagne, just outside of Epernay, since 1832. They have 12 hectares (30 acres) of vineyards, composed of 70% Pinot Meunier, 6% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay. The Blanc de Blancs Brut is 100% Chardonnay. And it tastes like Breakfast in Paris (well, my breakfast in Paris, anyway) — fresh croissant with brie cheese, apple jam, and a grapefruit juice chaser. A steal at $24ish.
Piper-Heidsieck 2006 Brut Champagne ⭐⭐⭐⭐/91
Champagne is a treat, vintage Champagne is an über-treat. Florian Louis Heidsieck (if you’re thinking Heidsieck doesn’t sounds like a French name, you’re right — Florian was a German) founded Piper-Heidsieck in 1785 (thought it didn’t become Piper-Heidsieck until 1839). That would have been during the French Revolution, and the reign of Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette (Louis’ wife) was said to be a huge fan of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, and often served it at Versailles. The red label has become somewhat iconic for Piper-Heidsieck. According to their website, the red label is a “symbol of enthusiasm, passion, panache and excellence, to convey a message of conviviality”. Wacky weather in 2006 produced a particularly intense Pinot Noir, so winemaker, Regis Camus, increased the proportion of Chardonnay in this blend to near parity — 49% Pinot Noir. 51% Chardonnay. Superb balance. So precise, it’s like tasting a laser beam. And an apricot-almond Linzer torte. Retail on this bottle is $70ish.
Btw, the lion on the Piper-Heidsieck label is in the Lion Dormant position.
Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/93
Paul Hobbs is a globe-trotting winemaker/consultant — he’s got his own label in Sonoma & Napa Valley, and ventures in South America, Canada, Cahors, Hungary, and the Finger Lakes. The Paul Hobbs label features a wood-cut grape leaf silhouette — a moss green print set against a black background. (I made a woodcut in art class once. Mine was very, um, primitive.) The Paul Hobbs label is very distinctive, as is the wine. From the cool-climate rockstar, Russian River Valley, this is beautifully integrated and balanced (red fruits, spice, minerals and a super interesting blast of tea) — a bottle that ended all too soon. Truly outstanding. $46ish.
Damn. I had a pretty good week in wine, didn’t I?