Happy New Year! So I’m a little late. It’s the thought that counts. And since I have so few thoughts, this one should really count.
One of the hoary old New Year traditions is the futile act of making resolutions. Promises such as “I will lose 25 pounds before June 1.” Or “I will stop smoking cold turkey on Jan. 2.” (Note: It’s hard to keep cold turkey lit.)
All together now: “Riigghht!”
After consultation with The Bride a few weeks before Christmas I did put together a brief list of resolutions that I truly plan to observe during 2019.
Wine of the Month
Ventisquero Grey 2017
The wine: Full-bodied red table wine.
The grapes: Rhone-style blend of Garnacha, Carinena and Mataro.
The source: Apalta area of Chile’s Colchagua Valley.
The verdict: This may sound like a paradox but this wine is an elegant bruiser. It is so different from the usual red suspects from Chile — carmenere, merlot and cabernet sauvignon — I had to re-read the label to make sure I got the origin right. In France’s Rhone Valley the blend is called GCM. This wine represents creative blending by Ventisquero’s chief winemaker, Felipe Tosso. He worked with grapes that ripened early in 2017’s hot season, gave them lots of hands-on care during fermentation and wrapped them in French oak. The Grey is a bruiser because it’s full of not-so-subtle — but pleasing — aromas and flavors. It’s elegant because, although ready to drink now, it shows promise for at least another five years.The price: Around $24.
I resolve to drink more Champagne and sparkling wines. Why? Well, just because. I’m fond of them and enjoy the artistry of good — not necessarily expensive — sparkling wine from the Champagne region or elsewhere. The crisp, toasty flavors of good bubbly enhance virtually any kind of food: white meat and seafood, red meat, veggie dishes, hearty and spicy fare. If you wish to join me in this observation keep some basic rules in mind: Get the bottle icy cold — 8-10 hours minimum in the fridge, or two hours in an ice water bath with salt added. And do not agitate the bottle!
Now, you ask, what’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine? Simple — the address. According to European Union law, and centuries of French tradition, only the sparkling wines produced in the carefully defined French region of Champagne, north and east of Paris, can bear the name Champagne. Anything else is sparkling wine.
I resolve to pay more attention to local wineries. We are not Napa Valley. But we are blessed to have a number of really good wine producers within 35-40 miles of Gainesville. I have been a booster of Northeast Georgia wines and will continue to be. However, I will be more critical of the trend among local wineries to inflate prices — of bottled wines and the tasting room experience — beyond what seems acceptable.
For example: Last year I inquired of a Cleveland-area winery about the charge for bringing students from my Brenau University wine education class for a tasting and tour. I was quoted a per person charge of $35, including tasting five wines and a glass to take home. Two years ago I visited one of Sonoma County’s fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers whose wines are widely lauded and cost upwards of $75. I was charged $35 … and tasted six wines. No glass, however.
I resolve to drink — and share — more of the great wines I have hoarded away in my wine vault. I have problems with folks who collect wines either just to have them or to sell them again at a profit. A good bottle of wine is a work of art. But it is the only art that needs to be destroyed to be enjoyed.
I’m going to pull some of those well-aged Bordeaux, Burgundies, Super Tuscans and California cabernet sauvignons out of the vault, pop the corks, decant them and pass them along to friends over a fine meal. Life can be good that way.
I resolve to do more to practice what I preach; specifically about the serving temperatures of table wines — wines made to be served with food. We drink our white wines too cold and our red wines too warm. Pull your whites out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you serve them. Put your reds into the fridge about 20 minutes before you serve them.
If you want to know why, try sampling from two bottles of the same red or white wine. For one white pop the cork immediately upon out of the fridge, and for the other give it that 20-minute respite from the cold. And for the red, open one bottle at room temperature, and the other one after some fridge time. You will notice the difference.
I resolve to be more flexible with the old rule about serving white wine with white meat (is possum a white meat?) and seafood, and red wine with red meat. Why? Because I have, over the years, come to the conclusion that folks should drink what they like with their food. If a glass of moscato is the perfect pairing for you with chili, have at it. And if you enjoy washing down your lemon-butter cod with a merlot, just do it.
But understand there are reasons rooted in chemistry why that old rule makes sense. Try a New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a New York strip steak. Or pour a fine barolo from Italy’s Piedmont region with Dover sole. Chemically those pairings work about as well as the Atlanta Falcons.
So there you have it, friends and neighbors. I wish you the best for this fresh new year. Enjoy your wine, enjoy your food — and enjoy life.