California Style

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A few weeks ago, to the merry accompaniment of barking dogs, a friend arrived clutching a bottle of Mill Stone Cabernet Sauvignon, which he’d just picked up at Foodland. From the aroma, taste and quality I guessed the price of this wine to be around Bt. 395. Well off the mark, as it turned out, for this super little wine and its Merlot cousin are terrific bargains at just over three-hundred baht. Imported by the California Wine Company of Bangkok, they’re available in several supermarkets in town at the same price.

Wines invariably taste better when they’ve been aerated by tipping them into a decanter. It gives the oxygen time to improve the aroma and the texture. A decanter doesn’t need to be a heavy crystal ornamental jug with a glass thing stuck in the top. By all means use an ornate decanter if these things turn you on, but I use simple, absolutely plain decanters made of light glass and bought at the kitchen shop next door to Foodland.

Mill Stone Merlot 2009 (red), California USA (Bt. 309 @ Foodland, Villa, Friendship)

This is a dark red with an attractive aroma of red berry fruits, cherries, plums and somewhere in the background, brambly herbs. But you’ll need to give the aroma time to develop, which is why the wine needs a good airing. It has a very soft texture, completely dry and just the slightest touch of acidity. You’ll find that the mouth-feel softens considerably after about twenty minutes of air contact.

There’s hardly any tannin but even so, the wine reminds me of the light reds from southern France. You might pick up a very soft touch of tannin on the long dry and slightly peppery finish. A long finish (which is the length of time the flavour stays in your mouth after you’ve swallowed the wine) is usually one of the hall-marks of a well-made wine. And well-made this is, although it’s a rather commercial style, being easy to drink, not too high in alcohol (it’s just 12.5%) and has a pleasing texture. There’s an attractive “edge” to the taste, so I think this wine would probably go well with pasta dishes. It certainly made a good partner to a splendid Fettuccine Carbonara. That’s the pasta which looks like flat ribbons. Actually, the name Fettuccine means “little ribbons” in Italian. I just thought you might like to know that.

Mill Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (red), California USA (Bt. 309 @ Foodland, Villa, Friendship)

Well then, here’s a surprise. I was quite expecting to end this article by saying that if you prefer softer wines, go for the Merlot but if you like something a bit drier and leaner, try the Cabernet Sauvignon. However, the opposite turns out to be true.

Tasted side-by-side, both these wines look pretty much identical in the glass but there the similarity ends. The aroma of the Cabernet is more reserved than the Merlot and will probably remind you of blackberry fruit with perhaps a suggestion of mint. And another surprise – the mouth-feel is significantly softer than the Merlot whereas I was expecting it to be the other way round. The wine is very dry but exceptionally smooth and silky on the palate and there’s plenty of jammy black cherry fruit which gives the wine the tiniest hint of sweetness. Oddly enough, there’s hardly any tannin at all, but the finish is satisfyingly long and fruity.

This is made very much in the Californian style, gentle on the palate and easy to drink. If you know anyone who avoids red wine because they don’t like the tannins or they find reds too assertive, give them a swig of this. I think it would go down well with some of my Thai friends too. It’s a soft and undemanding wine that, at 12.5% alcohol would be fine to enjoy on its own, but it would go well with many cheeses. Some people prefer dry whites with Brie and Camembert, and I admit that Chardonnay and Pinot Gris work splendidly. But low-tannin reds like these also make good partners.

And don’t forget to go and buy a couple of decanters. They cost only about sixty-five baht each, so you don’t need to sell the cat.