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The Magnificent Three April 7, 2010

Posted by Alex Sawit in About Wine.

By Alex Sawit

07 April 2010


“The great evening lay before us like a world: an evening filled with talk, stories, games music and lamplight.”

Edwin Muir       


In a purportedly civilized world, it’s ironic how elegant drinking is often out of place in modern night life. Hanging out in a fashionable but rowdy city pub, for example, demands something bawdy and frothing from the tap, while bar-hopping gives way to hard-hitting liquids in tiny but innumerable doses, all to be downed quickly before stumbling on to the next trendy destination.

But for wine lovers, the art of the magnificent evening, of drinking to the pleasures of conversation and companionship, can never go out of style. Cyrano friends know by heart that good wine nurtures a more thought-provoking gathering. And we know by experience that no wine is more thought-provoking than a full-bodied red.

So be it. Say good evening to “The Magnificent Three” – Spy Valley Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Snake Charmer Shiraz from Australia and Marques Carménère from Chile – our new signature series for Cyrano friends.

It’s only our second signature series, by the way. If you recall, last year we overhauled our inventory in order to position our little neighborhood shop as the home of “fun wines, smart buys” (adopted the motto, too). We assembled half a dozen quirky labels – Los 3 Bandidos, Goats Do Roam, Fat Bastard, Goat Door, Bored Doe and The Goatfather – and made them the cornerstone of our revised selection. Customers have loved the “Silly Six” ever since.

While not quite as whimsical, The Magnificent Three is likewise a collection of amusing labels. They’re pricier but don’t let that mislead you. Together they offer the kind of quality that one normally encounters only at much higher price ranges.

And they have what we need for our kind of evenings. The Aussie red has the classic profile of big Shiraz, while the Chilean boasts a fullness of style second to none among the world’s best Carménère. Even the Kiwi entry is hefty for Pinot Noir by New World expectations.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word on all this. Put the wines to the test. By all means, you’re welcome to drop in and uncork a magnificent, leisurely night among fellow Cyrano friends. It’s what you love doing anyway.

As we already know by heart and experience, evenings at Cyrano can never go out of style.




Spy Valley Pinot Noir (Retail Price: P995). “The devil made Pinot Noir,” a famous winemaker once said out of frustration. Cultivating Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult, which is why when you do find something good it’s almost always expensive. That’s why I’m so pleased, even relieved, that we have this great-value Kiwi offering. Though New Zealand is best known for award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, its reputation as one of the New World’s top exponents of Pinot Noir is equally well deserved.

Found in the famed Marlborough wine region, Spy Valley Wines takes its name from an unofficial moniker for the winery’s locale, which is home to a satellite communications center for military intelligence – a “spy base” shall we say. The spy theme is even subtly played on every bottle (labels display a pixilated vineyard photo in the manner of a raw satellite image, while the name “Spy Valley” is printed in Morse Code around bottle necks). These are jeans and T-shirt winemakers, which in New Zealand is a sign that we have passionate, capable people here. Until now, most of the accolades the winery has received have been for its white wines. But I met Spy Valley winemaker Kathy-Lee Bird when she was in the country and it was clear that they’re excited about the future of their Pinot Noir.

I like this fleshy Pinot Noir style, which is the result of the region’s sunny yet colder growing conditions. Think of it as Old World finesse meeting New World savor. Think, too, of beloved Pinot Noir sensations – cherry, raspberry, beefy juiciness, peppermint – just make them more full-flavored. And make the wine heftier but keep it smooth. That’s Spy Valley Pinot Noir.

[Snack Suggestion: When drinking Spy Valley Pinot Noir at Cyrano, try it with a take-out order of gravy-rich poutine from Gustavus steak house, which is just a short walk up the street from Cyrano. Remember to ask for more goat cheese toppings.]


Snake Charmer Shiraz (Retail Price: P850). When Australia burst onto the global stage as a formidable wine producer in the 1980s, it was done on the back of its powerhouse Shiraz. Aussie Shiraz was big and bold and the world loved it, resulting in Shiraz becoming one of the most sought-after varietals on the planet. Today, the Aussies also produce milder, softer versions for a more diversified world market, but it’s the old-school stuff that I find most endearing.

Thank goodness for Snake Charmer, a classic Aussie Shiraz that tastes the way I like it.



Just read the promo material, which declares, “Bigger, darker…and more seductive!!” Like the shapely circus temptress depicted on the bottle, this Shiraz is daring from the first pour, exploding with plum jam and red licorice. Let it breathe and it mellows into a voluptuous harmony of vanilla-infused blackcurrant and thick, spicy espresso.

Sourced from top quality grapes from different vineyards in McLaren Vale, South Australia, Snake Charmer belongs to one of the country’s most flamboyant wine negociants, Vinaceous Presents…! (yes, that’s their official name, punctuation marks included). How flamboyant? Vinaceous madly promotes its wine range in the image of a post-Victorian troupe, each wine represented by a circus character. The ringmaster is Cabernet Sauvignon, the mermaid act is Pinot Grigio, the fire eater is the Rhône-style red blend and…drum roll please…pree-zenting the snake charmer! Taa-dah!

[Snack Suggestion: When drinking Snake Charmer Shiraz at Cyrano, try it with a take-out order of fantastic pork rillette from Restaurant CiÇou, which is at the corner of San Lorenzo Drive and Arnaiz Avenue and several minutes walking distance from our shop.]


Marques de Casa Concha Carménère (Retail Price: P1,500). This is currently the only offering in our selection that exceeds our theme-imposed retail ceiling of P1,000 per bottle of wine. But it’s worth the exception. Made by Chile’s most celebrated producer, Concha y Toro, the Marques de Casa Concha range of varietals has been one of the most consistently praised Chilean brands of the last decade (their marketing people like to point that the brand has been listed every year for the last ten years in the Top 100 Wines of Wine Spectator magazine).

It’s the first time in the brand’s history that it has been made as a Carménère, my favorite varietal. I was jumping for joy when I got my hands on my first bottle because 1) Concha y Toro makes the best Carménère; and 2) this is probably the best Carménère they have in terms of quality-to-price ratio.

I’ve always appreciated how Concha y Toro’s Carménère style is consistent from the top of the portfolio down to the entry level. I salute their winemaking culture, which takes inspiration from the best traditions of Bordeaux. This helps explain why their Carménère has always been mellower than those of their rivals.

But while the suaveness may have Old World origins, the exquisite richness of our Marques is pure Chile in a glass. The gentle scent of fine Italian leather and spicy Java cigar wrapper on the nose serve as a prelude to the melding of heavily concentrated blueberry with deep mocha flavor, punctuated by the subtle sweetness of tangerine. Tannin levels are substantial but comfortable in the mouth, giving it a big yet balanced feel that should reach optimum smoothness after two to three more years in the bottle. It’s projected to keep until 2015 but by all means enjoy it now.

[Snack Suggestion: When drinking Marques Carménère at Cyrano, try it with a special order of my foccacia beef burger wedges that you folks have come to love. And when I say “special order” that means it’s only available when we have the ingredients. Please don’t just spring the idea on me when you get here – you gotta let me know in advance, well in advance. Sigh, I’m such a pushover with Cyrano friends.]



Re-edited 28 May 2012





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