Monday, June 26, 2017

Rose (circa 2017)

Ever notice how trendiness is kind of a merry-go-round you can jump on at any point of the loop.  It doesn't even have to be a conscious jumping-on.  You can just saunter into the bar, er, wine shop, and order a rose just for the heck of it, just to say to yourself you tried it.  It doesn't matter that your friends are all into roses.  The time was just right for you.  The wine industry is ideal for just this sort of ad hoc endeavor.

Make no mistake though, the trend du jour is clearly rose wine.  To say they are hot is to risk understating things.  And roses aren't just the perfunctory pink wine category anymore either.  Within that category wine lovers are discerning wine styles that click with them just as they have found with reds and whites.  It's interesting to see the process unfold, to say the least.

So, ground zero in the trendy rose loop has to be Provence.  That fresh, aromatic, light-bodied, pale pink wine really sums it up for a lot of us rose lovers.  Why go any further down the road when this stop is so satisfying?  Well, because there are darker roses which use some oak, there are less dry roses that cuddle up in that way, and there are the spritzy-to-bubbly ones that seem to be more of a tonic than a sedative.  And I'm just skimming the surface!

Akakies is a Greek Rose (maybe the best in the store) that counterintuitively sources its fruit from hillside vineyards!  Testamento is Argentine Rose of Pinot Noir.  It's the find of the year at this store and exemplary of that grape type's potential in the category.  If you grab a Portuguese pink don't be surprised to get some fine bubbliness (seafood, ya know) and if you get a darker Spanish rose you may discern some oakiness.  And if you buy Bordeaux rose, expect the Cabernet/Merlot structure emblematic of that blend.

Is there a clear cut style winner?  Yes!  Everyone around the world is trying to duplicate that refreshing Provencal style.  But roses are so much fun across the board, who's going to doubt the outliers!

This Thursday June 29th at 5pm Brian Espanol leads us in a tasting of Austalia's Two Hands Angel Share Shiraz, Napa's Markham Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Rutherford Hill Merlot, and the Wairau River New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Please join us

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Pitch for Lighter Reds

It's summer now and I feel obligated to throw a monkey wrench into the wine-loving habits of backyard grillers everywhere. With the next three months expected to be on the somewhat toasty side, let's see what culinary fun we could have if we lighten up the red wines a bit.

First of all if you're in a temperature-controlled indoor environment with a big fat juicy steak on your plate I see no reason not to enjoy that monumental monster Napa Cab that's been calling out your name.  But if you're there in your friendly confines but the sliding door is open half the time as your crew is going in and out from activities in the backyard and you, yourself, are part of that in and out traffic maybe, just maybe, a lighter red may work better for your purposes.  And if beads of sweat are at times appearing somewhere on your brow from all of that in and out, well then, maybe going lighter makes sense.  After all, who wants to feel bloated?

A nice new world light red alternative can be Argentine Malbec.  I say "can be" because Malbec can be all over the map stylistically which unfortunately works against the plans of thoughtful customers who reasonably want to know what the wine is before purchasing it.  In this store we sort them out by the heft of the wine.  You want a lighter red?  You got it!

Spanish wines have now arrived as a conscious alternative to the big new world reds of California. They have the same dark fruit flavors of the big California reds but are lighter in body.  Some have the new world forward fruit but most are balanced with the longer winey flavors Europe is known for.

Italy makes some of the nicest light winey reds on the planet and if sales here reflect generalities then a whole lot of people are enjoying them.  Aside from a lighter body, what's the attraction?  Like most Europeans, they're food friendly, meaning they have a higher acidity.  That higher acidity is a digestive aid any time but in the summer heat, it's downright refreshing.  And if served slightly chilled (fifty degrees or so) it's even more so!

So just to recap: Lighter reds are, well, lighter (no bloating); refreshingly acidic when served somewhat chilled; and food friendly with longer and winier flavors.

This Thursday, June 22nd between 5 and 7pm, Chuck Crouse offers us a tasting of Spanish and Italian reds and whites.  Most noteworthy should be the Coto de Hayas Campo de Borgia Centenaria, a red Garnacha made from the fruit of one hundred year old vines!  Please join us.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Familiarity Breeds Contentment

Familiarity breeds contentment.  So says Matt Kramer in a Wine Spectator article entitled "The Hardest Part" from the November 15, 2014 edition of the magazine.  Kramer maintains the hardest part of his job is trying to get people to try new wines.  I can relate.

In the November 26-27, 2015 issue of the Wall Street Journal Lettie Teague writes similarly that "Loyalty is not a virtue when applied to wine.  It leads to an unnecessary narrowing of options."

Interestingly both writers are dealing with the same problem - how to introduce new wines to people who are hooked on the tried and true.  And the problem, of course, wouldn't exist if the subject matter wasn't so intimidating.  In an effort to de-mystify the subject here in the store I like to tell people, "On the list of important things in life, wine shouldn't be too high."  (Hopefully that takes the edge off the transaction, you know.)

If the truth be known, the hardest part of being in the wine business is selling the stuff.  We on the selling side know what it is or what it's supposed to be but we usually don't know the customer so we ask questions about the purpose of the purchase (dinner or cocktail) or what the customer's history with wine is (California, Europe, or elsewhere).  We try to nail down any information that will help to provide the best wine for their tastes.  After all, we do want them to come back.

In fact whenever any of us sits down to enjoy a new bottle of wine, if we are experienced we may know what it's supposed to taste like but if it is a new wine then we may be surprised by something about the wine that is unexpected.  And that is good.  As the man once said to me, "That's why they make more than one kind of wine."

Kramer's article leads him to conclude that consumers could save a lot of money by trying some of the great wines from places other than California.  Teague acknowledges that California has nailed the comfort zone for the American palate.  It's up to the sommeliers and wine merchants of America to ease wine lovers into an expansion of that zone.

Please join us next Thursday the 8th of June at 5pm for a tasting of whites from sommelier-owned Mouton Noir of Oregon and reds from environmentally conscious Ventisquero of Chile.  David Hobbs presides over this one.