Wine: Plantaze Vranac Dry Red
Grapes: cabernet sauvignon (85 percent), merlot (10 percent), barbera (5 percent)
Region: Lake Skadar Valley, Montenegro
In the glass: Plantaze Vranac wine is a deeply opaque blackish-red color with a dense purplish core going out into a saturated crimson-red rim definition with naturally high viscosity.
On the nose: The wine explodes with olfactory sensations led by blackberry liqueur, creme de cassis, plum wine, boysenberry sauce, blueberry pie, phenols, vanilla, creme brulee and soft black licorice.
On the palate: The wine attacks with concentrated black fruits, melted licorice, black currant juice, spice box, chewing tobacco, cherry liqueur, well-integrated tannins and soft creme de cassis. It has a smooth and well-balanced midpalate and a lovely finish that comes as a surprise from this relatively unknown grape variety that, by the way, grows only in Montenegro.
Odds and ends: This is one of the most interesting wines I have tasted in a long while. Not that I don’t taste a lot of wines from various strange appellations and regions, but it’s hard to imagine a wine made from the indigenous vranac grape variety to perform so nicely in a blind tasting against wines from Spain, Italy and France.
What’s also interesting is that if you consider that Italy looks like a long boot on a map and you just jumped into a boat and sailed straight across the narrow Adriatic Sea around where the Achilles heel (of Italy) is, you’d arrive right at these vineyards in Montenegro, so it’s very much a European wine we’re tasting here. The vranac grape variety is not too dissimilar to primitivo from southern Italy and that, in turn, is related to zinfandel from California, so you know to expect a sturdy, full-bodied wine here. It is just perfect for any hearty meat dishes at this time of the year. Give it a good hour out of the bottle before serving, perhaps in a decanter. Drink Plantaze Vranac now through 2015.
Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89106-0749, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.