Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breaking out of the rut

Wine drinkers, wine buyers, we all get into ruts. Johnny Bayside (AKA Bronx - he just moved) wants the Merlot from Argentina. Samba wants cheap and cheerful. I liked the Niepoort Douro Twisted and think it's a good off-beat choice for those in search of a robust red. The boss wants a red from the Loire. This is the flip side of knowing what you want - your taste narrows, and you become like Madame Chard du Chene, someone who needs serious intervention to avoid drinking the same thing for the rest of your life.

One of my friends, the hedge funder who hasn't lost his frugal streak, came up with a clever way to solve this problem. Rather than ask for German riesling with a touch of residual sugar, he asked me to get him wines that "tasted like honey dripped on slate." He did end up with two German rieslings, but he also got two Loire whites, a muscadet from Clos de Briods and Chidaine's entry level sauvignon blanc; a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon from Bordeaux; and a pinot gris from Alsace, a grape once known as the Tokay d'Alsace until the Hungarians complained to the European Union, which required the Alsatians to change the name. (Tokai is the grape from which a famous sweet wine is made and is even mentioned in the Hungarian national anthem: "O God, let nectar’s silver rain ripen grapes of Tokay soon.") The hedge funder liked the Rieslings and thought the white Bordeaux was OK; the other three remain unconsumed.

Another approach is to go to tastings and buy what you like. A few weeks ago, I very much enjoyed a Grignolino from Tavijn, a producer in the Asti Province of Piedmont. The wine was light with a pleasant nose, nice acidity and an earthiness reminiscent of Cabernet franc, which made me recommend it the boss, who perked up his ears at the Oxford Wine Dictionary's comparison of Grignolino to Dolcetto. Italian immigrants to California brought Grignolino with them, and the famous California producer Heitz makes a wine from the varietal that's currently on the list at Annisa in the West Village and can be had for $20 a bottle at Astor St. Wines. Heitz also makes a Grignolino rose. Having associates Heitz with expensive cabs, I was pleased to learn that they offer lighter, cheaper wines from a grape that they proudly note on their website is often called "the little strawberry" in Italy and recalls an era of California winemaking that's almost lost today. How's that for breaking out of a rut?           

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