Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Mule-ish Thanksgiving

The remark “Drink what you like; like what you drink” is, I think, Robert Mondavi's greatest contribution to the world of wine. I mean, the world would have gone on turning without Opus One, you know? It is a fitting motto for Thanksgiving Day. Living as I do in The Chef's parallel universe, I was somewhat startled to learn that there is a standard menu that includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean and onion casserole (I know what this is, but never imagined it was standard), cranberry relish/jelly, and pumpkin pie. And some other elaborate dish involving vegetables and pork products brought by a relative. [I'm not making this up!]

People who write Thanksgiving wine columns for a living have learned to begin with the Mondavi position, but then go ahead and produce a Top 10 list reflecting either their own prejudices or, more likely, commercial necessity. Thus Adam Morganstern in the Huffington Post calling the whole thing hopeless, followed by a slide show of West Coast product placements.

Being a lazy sort, I'm going to do the same thing, except without the pretty pictures and without any mercenary considerations (someday I'm going to figure out how to cash in on this). The model here is that you open the cheap stuff first and hide the expensive stuff so Uncle Billy and his corkscrew (see the Morganstern story) won't get at them, at least not immediately. As we always say, YMMV:

Inexpensive red for all-purpose gulping: Montepulicano D'Abruzzo. Masciarelli is a good maker, but there are many. Look also at garnachas from Spain imported by Eric Solomon. Evodia is a favorite, as is Herencia Altes (they spell the grape name "garnatxa").

Inexpensive white for all-purpose glugging: Tariquet classique, from Gascony. Still only $9.99 and my favorite all-purpose white. Next best: Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Some really good ones come in big (1 liter) bottles: Der Pollerhof, Hugl, and Paul Direder are examples.

Red with dinner: Domaine Paire Beaujolais or similar. Try to find an organic producer. Stay away from  Deboueuf, Jadot, Drouhin! There is also something called "Raisins Gaulois" from M. Lapierre which is terrific and relatively inexpensive. And you'll love the label. If you feel compelled to have a Cabernet or Merlot, get one from Chile. Montes, Santa Ema, Vina Errazuriz are all good and reasonably priced.

White with dinner: Salomon Gruner Veltliner, $14.99; or, pretty much any Alsace pinot blanc, or, if you can find one, an Edelzwicker (field blend--Meyer-Fonne makes a really nice one for $12.99). If you really have to have some chardonnay, look for one from the Haute Vallee de l'Aude (yes, it's a mouthful, but the wines are very good, and good values). I like Domaine d'Antugnac, also Novellum.

Dessert wine: The only wine I ever liked with pumpkin pie was Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese, which runs $40+ a bottle, depending on vintage. If that seems a bit steep to you for a bottle that will be opened at the point when everyone at the table is already comatose from stuffing themselves (this is the point of the whole exercise, right?) then we are in agreement: Skip it. If people still want more alcohol at that point, break out the Bailey's Irish Cream. You may be tempted to bring out Moscato d'Asti. Don't do it. I have nothing against a nice Moscato, but it really doesn't pair with pumpkin pie.

This is the quintessential American Holiday! Why don't you have any American wines?
1. The good ones are too expensive.
2. The cheap ones are awful.
3. Go read the Morganstern story. Or Steve Heimoff. They're loyal Americans.

One more time: Drink what you like, like what you drink. Salud! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Conde Villar Rosé Vinho Verde: Mineralic Fizzy Goodness

Quinta de Villar is one of the three properties in the Vinho Verde appellation owned by Quinta das Arcas. Located in the municipality of Penafiel, just east of the city of Porto, the property consists of 74 acres of vineyards planted mostly to Vinhão and Espadeiro grapes on granitic soil.

The latter grape is used to make the Conde Villar Rosé. Espadeiro (Jancis Robinson spells it “Espadeira”) is also known as Tinta Amarella in the Douro and Trincadeira Preta in southern Portugal. In the Quinta de Villar vineyards, grapes are hand-picked, followed as quickly as possible by fermentation. This encourages the production of fresh aromas in the finished wine. The tech sheet says the grapes are destemmed followed by carbonic maceration; it must be quite a trick to keep the berries intact.

Conde Villar  Rosé Vinho Verde 2011: Aromas of fresh red berries are followed by a mouthful of mineralic fizzy goodness. It is amusing to think that a port grape like Espadeiro can also produce this light (11.5% alcohol) fizzy beverage. Yes, this is definitely an ideal warm-weather drink, but it tastes just fine in November, too. (Here's a link to a column by Eric Asimov on the unfortunate marketing of rosé wine as a “summer accessory.”)

Conde Villar  Rosé is still available at Table Wine; I think it's $9.99/bottle.