Import Selection: Chardonnay, 1989. Marcus James

Brazilian wine? Just consider this: Vinecola Aurora Ltd. is, sur­prisingly, the largest grape grow­ers’ cooperative in the world. The Marcus James brand, from Vale (“Valley”) Aurora, vanguards their U.S.A. marketing campaign.

A wine co-operative is an asso­ciation of grape growers who pool their crops to make wine under one roof, rather than independently. Such operations offer many eco­nomic benefits to the participants. Too often, however, quality gets lost in the shuffle for profit.

Not so in this case. Aurora’s members brought with them, when they settled in Brazil in the late 1800s, their European vineyard experience and their old world pride.

“At Aurora, we go further to make quality wines. It is much more than a commitment; it’s an obsession,” explains Maria Regina Ferretto Flores, Director of Wine-making for all Marcus James Au­rora Valley wines. Flores’ educa­tion features a degree in Oenology with honors from the Technologi­cal University of Oenology in Mendoza, Argentina. She was a professor of Oenology at the Viticulture and Oenology School of Bento Goncalves/Brazil, as well. Her “right stuff” means access to the most advanced winemaking technologies available.

In Brazil grapes are harvested and crushed in January. Aged six months longer than 1989 Califor­nia or French counterparts, this se­lection is a fully matured wine.

Chardonnay is responsible for the great white Burgundies of France: aristocratically crisp, au­thoritative, at times austere, dry white wines. Unexpected sources (Italy and Australia, for instance) are occasionally successful in turn­ing out Chardonnays which bear an uncanny resemblance to these forebears. Elsewhere (as in this Brazilian example and in Califor­nia), the grape yields wines which have distinctly different regional characteristics: fruity, soft, laid-back and mellow.

This wine has a yellow-green, medium-deep, appetizing color. The bouquet offers pear, peach, mango and more, plus a hint of va­nilla (oak). Soft, rich and mellow in the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied and irresistibly laden with delicious fruit flavors. It finishes completely clean and dry with a hint of the matrix of fruit flavors lingering.

Serve chilled with glazed poultry, pork or ham, or with a selection of summer fruits.

Cellaring Notes: Most enjoya­ble now and throughout 1992.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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