This week we rang in the new year with our wine loving friends at a ‘Roaring 2020’s’ themed dinner party. I found our wine for the evening by accident on the end cap of our local liquor store. As has been the case of recent…it was a great deal! It was on closeout, and there were only nine bottles left. I snatched up all nine, and was browsing the rest of the store when I ran into a colleague who noticed I had stocked up on this one bottle. He asked why and what it was, and when I revealed I was buying the $26 bottle of wine for $6.49, I had to share a bottle with him to enjoy as well. So I came home with eight bottles…plenty for our new year’s eve evening!
I should clarify…we did not drink all eight bottles on Tuesday night!
So what was it?
2016 SIMI Rebel Cask Red Blend is marketed as a “Prohibition Style” red wine aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels. A Prohibition style wine seemed perfect for a 20s themed party, though in doing a little research, it wasn’t immediately clear what it meant for a wine to be “prohibition style.” In fact, I’m still not 100% sure what it means, so if you happen to know, please share! I did learn quite a bit about wine making during prohibition in the process, and thus came up with the following theories about what it could mean…
- While many wineries folded during prohibition, individuals were still allowed to make up to 200 gallons of wine a year for personal consumption. This prompted A LOT of home wine making, and because it wasn’t a perfect science fermenting wine in your basement or kitchen, it was often much stronger than mass marketed wine. At 14.5% alcohol, SIMI Rebel Cask Red Blend is on the higher end of ABV.
- Because many wineries tore up their vines to plant other fruits and repurpose the land, most wine that was made needed to be a red blend of whatever grape varietals were available. Some varietals were fragile and didn’t store or ship well, but some industrious farmers created “wine blocks” made mainly from Alicante grapes that could be freight shipped around the country for people to use at home. SIMI Rebel Cask is a red blend, and include the Alicante grape along with Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignane.
- Rye Whiskey had it’s hay day in the early 1900s, but then almost completely disappeared after prohibition. During prohibition many distilleries tried to get around the legalities of alcohol sales by marketing their spirits as “medicinal.” However, many were forced to close down, and while Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey made an easy resurgence post 18th amendment, rye whiskey struggled to gain a foothold in the market again. Recently, however, it’s begun to enjoy a renaissance, particularly among the craft cocktail Milennial crowd. Perhaps that SIMI’s “Rebel Casks” are rye whiskey casks makes this “Prohibition style.”
While there wasn’t a clear consensus on what Prohibition style wine is, there are other wines that are marketed as Prohibition style, and they seem to share common tasting notes with SIMI Rebel Cask Red Blend. They are full bodied reds, with a deep burgundy color, notes of blackberry and plum, a smooth spiciness like cinnamon or cardamon, and a little smokiness. SIMI’s tasting notes include this line, “It’s like a glass of Manhattan spilled into your red wine.” And really, because a Manhattan is also a Prohibition era cocktail, maybe that’s what influenced the style?
In any case, SIMI Rebel Cask Red Blend, was a winner on the evening. We decanted the wine about 20 minutes before serving, but then opened a second bottle and drank it immediately and there wasn’t a huge, discernable difference. It’s pretty smooth right from the get go. We paired it with hearty seafood linguine which was not an obvious choice. The Chenin Blanc that I cooked the mussels in was likely the more obvious pairing. However, it worked with the meatiness of the mussels and the richness of the shrimp and herb flavors.
Another bottle went with us to Josh’s sister’s house for Christmas dinner where we paired it with steak and potatoes. That’s probably it’s more true, natural calling!
Nevertheless, I’m not sad that we continue to sit on five bottles. It feels like a nice change up from our go to Zinfandels and Cabernets, and I’ll gladly serve it again to company, or enjoy a glass on it’s own should the quiet occasion arise. SIMI Rebel Cask Red Blend gets 4 1/2 stars.