Variety: Zinfandel; Petit Verdot; Cabernet Sauvignon; Petite Sirah; Merlot
Cost: $26 (SRP)
Winemaker’s Notes: Our bourbon barrel aged red wine is fermented in American stainless steel and then aged for 3 months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. This bold blend of Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon provide a deep ruby color with aromas of blackberry compote, leather and dusty dark chocolate. Bourbon barrel aging offers aromas of fire-toasted oak, baking spices, caramel and loose-leaf tobacco.
My Review: I always go into any wine that I feel like is using a gimmick to sell itself with a bit of scepticism. It’s not that all gimmicks are bad – they often turn into trends that change how we sell and consume wine (see: non-glass packaging for wine). That being said, I’ve tried some bourbon barrel-aged wines before and while I certainly enjoy bourbon (like….a lot), and I’ve enjoyed beers aged in the barrels, wine has been a bit hit or miss for me when they try to replicate the process.
So how did the 2016 Exitus measure up? Better than I expected.
In the glass the wine was a deep ruby color with slashes of violet. On the nose I picked up jammy notes of blackberry with just a touch of sweetness that was clearly from the bourbon barrels. On the palate the wine was smooth, with flavors of ripe berries and some cherry and a touch of spice on the finish that definitely came from the bourbon barrels.
What was surprising to me was how smooth the wine was – it sits at 15.9% alc/volume, and whether that’s because of the Zinfandel or the bourbon barrels is hard to say; either way, I had to do a double take to make sure I was reading it right, because the wine doesn’t show hot.
My wife and I paired the wine with grilled NY strips, and it was a nice pairing. The smokiness and richness of the meat helped to cut through the sweeter fruit notes of the wine, providing a nice balance of food and wine. I’d have a hard time pairing the 2016 Exitus with anything that’s not big flavored, since it really needs something to help balance it out. I don’t know that I would call this a sipping wine because of that – it’s definitely one you need with food.
As for the big question – would I buy it? It’s hard for me to say yes. The wine wasn’t bad, I just didn’t love it. The price is good, however, and if you’re curious or looking for something new and different, it’s not a wallet-breaker to try it out. The bourbon barrel gimmick hasn’t quite won me over with wine, though I did like that Exitus styled the bottle to look more like a bourbon bottle than a wine bottle, so I did appreciate them buying all the way into the approach.
Editor’s Note: I received this wine as a free sample for review.