Friday, July 21, 2006
Friday Wines - R&R Edition
It's day 10 of that insidious 10 day in a row shift. I'm gonna disappear from the store for a bit, but rest assured, I'll still be writing about wine here. So don't abandon ship. I'll be back in person on August 1. As for now, you need wine.
White wine under $20
2003 Pierre Sparr One Vin d'Alsace ($13.99)
There's this California wine out there, Conundrum. It's very popular because it's a blend of sharp, acidic, crisp grapes, blended with fat, aromatic, fruity grapes. It's very popular because it makes a soft, rich fruit-driven wine that is also well structured. At 22-25 dollars a bottle, it's also damned expensive.
One shows why French wines can generally be great values compared to California wine. One is a wine from Alsace that blends together 5 grapes - Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.
I know what you're thinking here. Stop. It's not sweet.
No, I'm not psychic. Yes, I know there are German grapes in there. I promise, it's not sweet.
If you like super concentrated fruit, this is your wine. Riesling yields lime and pineapple flavors. Pinot Blanc gives up pear and lemon. Muscat gives peach and apricot flavors with a smidgeon of musk. Gewurztraminer decorates with rose petals, spice and tropical fruit. Pinot Gris garnishes with rich nectarine. This is a bowl of fruit.
This wine is dense and full-bodied but seriously, it's not sweet. You'd think this wine would be overwhelming in its fruit and richness, but luckily, Riesling, Muscat and Pinot Gris are all grapes relatively high in acid. They provide the acidity to balance the superfat fruit offered by Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. It's a paradox - ripe and voluptuous, but still crisp and sharp. Don't ask me, it just works. I love it with sushi.
Two more things make this a lovely wine: it's $8-$10 cheaper than Conundrum and it's better wine.
Red wine under $20
2004 Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Vigneto Rompicollo Maremma Toscana ($15.99)
A blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is all red fruit on the nose. Strawberry, plum and red cherries form the core flavors, with hints of leather, tobacco and coffee dancing around them. On the palate, the red fruit expands, but the wine remains medium bodied with the leather and tobacco blurring toward cocoa. There's acid here, but the wine isn't tart and it ultimately provides balance. Tannins are firm, but keep reading. You'll see how they soften up.
If you've been to anywhere in Europe, you know they never just plunk you down with a glass of wine and nothing to eat with it. There's always food, whether it be a chunk of cheese and some olives, or mustard, salami and bread. Learn something from Italian civilization. It's good stuff, but this wine will shine at the table.
White wine over $20
Non-vintage Kluge Brut New World Sparkling Wine Albemarle County, Virginia ($40.00)
When people think of American wines, a few states generally come up - California, Oregon, Washington. Virginia? Virginia??
I repeat, for emphasis:
Yes, Virginia, there are good wines in Virginia. This is one of them. A true blanc de blancs, made from 100% Chardonnay, it's impossibly light bodied, with sexy, opulent aromas and flavors of lime and mandarin orange. It's held on its lees for 24 months, so has good depth and it finishes with racy acidity. This is as good as many, many genuine grower Champagnes. It might well win a blind tasting of hifalutin Champagnes like Krug, La Grande Dame and Salon. This will be damned hard to find now, but keep your glasses ready.
Red wine over $20
2001 Cyan Vendimia Seleccionada Toro ($38.99)
Tempranillo is a supergrape. You can use it to make simple, elegant, everyday drinkers, bursting with cherry fruit, oak and vanilla. Or, you can make wine like Cyan.
Cyan is packed with sophisticated red fruit, earthy undertones, spicy oak and sweet vanilla. Aromas of cherries rolled in espresso and then oven roasted only hint at the flavors in the wine. On the palate, the wine is surrenders opulent black cherry, raw cocoa and indian spice. There's plenty of tannin but it's silky and polished and holds the wine together. Medium bodied and rich, there's also plenty of oak expressed here but mainly at the back. Spanish winemakers are brilliant at integrating fruit, earth, tannin and oak. Nobody does this better.
I'm not the only one who likes it. That upstart Robert Parker gave it 93 points out of 100.
Since I'll be gone, please feel free to solicit whatever wine questions you have on the tag board. I'll answer them as I get them.
Have a nice weekend!