Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wines For The Time of "Hard Choices"

This post is in honor of a sentence from the President's Inaugural speech: "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit..." We know what "hard choices" means. At least for the vast majority of us. Here are some wines to get us through what the District of Columbia courtiers refer to as the ever-popular "shared sacrifice."

Not that we have it in for the entire 1%. Nothing could be further from the truth! A few of them are trying to make wine more economically appealing for the rest of us.

For example: An international trio of wine moguls, Alfeo Martini (Italian), Roger Gabb (English) and Christoph Mack (German), got together in 1991 to form Mondo del Vino, a wine producing group that operates a dozen labels across Italy, from the Piedmont to Sicily. None of the three are winemakers; their backgrounds are in distribution, a business at which all have been independently successful. I'd never heard of them (except for the Ricossa name for Barolo) until I came across this odd Grillo/Pinot Grigio blend.

Mánerra Grillo/Pinot Grigio IGT Sicilia 2010: Someone is growing Pinot Grigio in Sicily? Apparently so. This is a unique blend of  Pinot Grigio (30%) and the Sicilian native Grillo (70%). The Grillo gives some citrus and sweet spice notes, and adds body. Pinot Grigio adds a bit of finesse and some tropical fruit notes. There are peach and apple flavors, and nice snappy acidity. At 13%, there's a touch more alcohol, which makes sense, since Pinot Grigio doubtless gets a lot riper in Sicily than it would in the Alto Adige. Ahough the grapes are grown in Sicily, the wine is actually produced in Priocca, in the Piedmont area, where Mondo del Vino has its headquarters and main production facility. It's clean, tasty, and shows quite a bit more character than similarly priced Pinot Grigio from the north. At $8.99 a bottle, I'd buy cases of the stuff.

I've commented before on the way the wines of the Bierzo region of Spain, where the Mencia grape rules, were presented years ago as the Next Big Thing. It didn't happen, but the wines did not go away, either.

Bodegas Peique 2010 Tinto: This is 100% Bierzo-grown Mencía produced from 45-year-old vines and aged in large barrels—50% French, 40% Russian (!) and 10% American—for two months. On the nose, black cherry/berry and earthy aromas lead into a soft, silky palate of ripe yet savory red and black fruits, with mineralic/earthy/tannic notes at the finish. If I remember correctly, this is priced at about $11, and gives a kind of pleasure similar to that of certain Beaujolais Village wines at $15.

Récoltant-Manipulant producer Michel Collon makes Champagne in the village of Landreville, in the Aube region, which is in the Champagne appellation, although it is more than 90 miles south of Epernay. (If it were a bit further west, it would be part of Chablis.)

Champagne Collon NV: This is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Chardonnay. It opens with some toasty/Brioche-y notes, along with aromas of apple and pear skin; followed by mostly mineralic character on the palate, with a hint of creaminess and apple/pear flavors. I found it lacking in complexity, but it is nonetheless unmistakably from Champagne, and for less that $30, a real value for money.

All three of these are available at the Asheville Wine Market.

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