Recent Dinner- Food and wine TN: 1940 Justino's Sercial, 1992 Fiorano Malvasia, 1964 Faustino I Gran Reserva, 1949 Banyuls

Appetizer: Umeboshi Onigiri

1940 Justino’s Madeira- bottled in the 1980s
Musty and surprisingly sweet out of the bottle. Sat in the decanter for 4 days and the wine transformed. What a rich nose of Italian prunes, raisins, dried apricots, toffee, molasses, sticky caramel pudding, and fruitcake, but at the same time, in the background, is plenty of bright lemon aromas, almost Chablis-like. It’s a fascinating nose.

The wine enters medium sweet, rather rich, but after a second the acidity comes zapping me right in the tongue. The flavors are simultaneously rich, decadent, voluptuous, caramel, toffee, fruitcake, beurre noisette, but also lemonade, bright fresh oranges, lemon oil, grapefruit pith. I’ve never had anything like this before. The more I drink this, the less sweet and the more high acid this becomes. Reminds me in a weird way of young Kabinett Riesling, in which the sweetness balances out the sweetness perfectly. Such a unique wine…amazing to drink. Side note- an amazing pairing with umeboshi rice balls.

Main Course: Soba, tamagoyaki, miso eggplant with shrimp, braised mixed mushrooms

1964 Faustino I Gran Reserva, Rioja
A fascinating bottle. The first year of a brand that has since become ubiquitous, which just so happens to be one of the top Rioja vintages of the 20th century. Uncorking this feels like unboxing a first-generation iPod. Moreover, this particular bottle supposedly spent its entire life at the winery until just a few years ago. The bottle itself is a thing of beauty- patinaed frosty glass, a tastefully tattered label, and a sense of decades gone by. The wine itself is pale garnet with a brown/yellow rim. It looks old. The nose if full of old leather, shoe polish, soy sauce, and maaaaaybe some dried cherries (if I’m being generous).

In the mouth- light in body, medium high acid, intensely earthy, mushroomy, umami. Not a hint of tannin or fruit. The complexity is high, though picking out individual flavors for a detailed tasting note feels like an exercise in masochism. On a purely aesthetic level, this wine is a dud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry I opened this. It’s a fascinating experience, and worth it just for the history. But at the end of the day, who really wants to listen to music on an old iPod?

1992 Fiorano Malvasia
What a weird wild wine! Fill way up in the neck, color is lovely deep gold. This is an excellent bottle. The appearance is aged but by no means “old”. What a nose!!! So complex, endlessly intriguing, not for the faint of heart! Beeswax, preserved lemons, sweet citrus preserves, honey, over ripe golden apples, shortbread, cantaloupe, cloves, petrol, white flowers, honeysuckle, the list could go on forever. I opened this with a fellow wine nerd who described it as a cross between a Normandy cider and Scotch whisky. I think that’s an excellent description.

On the palate: lemons and wax, lanolin and melons, heather, toffee, yellow apples, and definitely, a weird whisky note on the back end. A nice long complex finish. This is a super unusual wine, with an amazing story behind it. A 31-year-old Italian Malvasia…who would have thought? I feel lucky to drink it.

Dessert: Orange and Almond Cake

1949 Domaines et Terroirs du Sud Banyuls Grand Cru
Simply gorgeous.

I was recently in the Douro where I had my share of aged fortified wines. This vin doux naturel is made in the same method as Port, so I assumed it would drink similarly. Wrong! The nose is undoubtedly Port-like; black cherries, plums, toffee, orange marmalade, milk chocolate, espresso. But the body is surprisingly light. The acid is so lively. The complexity is of a wine that is many decades old, the energy is that of a youngster. In the mouth, the first impression is sweetness, which is immediately swept away by a surprising degree of acidity. Fruity, tart, earthy, spicy, rich, and lively, all at the same time. It’s like all the flavors together mingled in the same glass somehow remaining light bodied. This is a beauty. It will last forever.

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I had the 64 Faustino GR in 2000 at the winery. Along side 70 Vega Sicilia, they are my 2 greatest Spanish experiences.

The Fioranos are eccentric, but delicious. We had a 1986 white which was gorgeous.

I finished off the last bit of the bottle last night, which was day 3. It held up well throughout, though was best on day 1.