Sin Qua Non
I had my first taste of this cult Californian wine when MD brought a bottle to dinner at Tom Aikens in September 2013. We had a 2006 bottle of ‘Raven’, 90% grenache and 10% syrah. It is intensely ripe, bursting with orgasmically deep black fruits and balanced with peppery charcoal and soft tannins. It stands up particularly well to fat marbled meats.
Frank Krankl and his wife launched the brand in 1994 using grapes that originated in the Rhone valley. A vineyard in Ojai agreed to let him make and store wine there. He sent his first bottle to wine critic Robert Parker and sold out of the 120 bottles produced almost immediately after the review was published.
Since then, Robert Parker has dished out several 100 scores for SQN wines but the lack of sophistication and subtlety of this acclaimed winery earn it a backlash of criticism, polarising the wine community. I can acknowledge that for some it may be over-rich, over-ripe and over-alcoholed, but I personally have adored each drop of this dense liquid nectar that has coated my tongue and hope to have more.
I recently tried a white SQN, which in the same vein as the reds was rich, bold and ripe. We bought it from Hedonism, a shop in London with a small room decorated with colourful hands coming out of the walls holding bottles of SQN. A blend of chardonnay, roussanne, petit manseng and viognier, it was viscous like honey, with notes of caramelised peaches, flowers and a hint of spice. Delicious on its own but this proved to be a harder pairing for food; too sweet to go with chicken or fish but too buttery and floral to be a dessert wine. I’ll happily keep trying!