Monday, December 8, 2008

Good Times, Bad Times...

In an unhealthy economic climate such as ours, it may seem like a good idea to consume more than one glass of wine per day or sitting. It certainly has a way of softening the daily grind. And while wine in moderation can be very good for you, the sticker price of consumption can rise a lot faster than your cholesterol levels can fall. Wine is after all what I like to refer to as "Vitamin W". Though scaling down on the quantity or quality of wine you consume may be the quickest and most obvious solution to the amount you spend, it is not necessarily the best one. 

Wine by artisan standards today, versus ten or fifteen years ago are in a much better place. With more financial investment, better education, and state of the art equipment, wine is being produced in moderate yields with an emphasis on quality. Don't get me wrong, there is definitely a romance behind drinking the local jug wine while enjoying your stay in Burgundy or Tuscany but here in New York, I don't recommend it.

Here are a few regions that I look towards for enjoying an outstanding bottle of wine without the sticker shock!

Italy, Yes Italy!
Boasting more indigenous grape varieties than any other wine producing country, Italy is making a slow but steady movement towards regionality and wines that express it. Because Italy has often times been referred to as one giant vineyard, it is important to have a savvy retailer who can help you navigate through their offerings.

-Aglianico del Vulture, RE: Manfredi, 2004, Basilicata, Italy $Price N/A
Big yet balanced version of aglianico with finessed notes of chocolate and black cherry that undoubtedly will improve with slight aging.

Argentina and Chile.
Having just traveled to South America this year, I was delighted with the obvious direction in which both countries are heading. Argentina and their respective darling Malbec, has suffered over the past due to forced higher yields and less focus on quality. There is a big trend moving forward to correct this in many artisan wineries that care not to make wine just for the sake of turning a profit. Chile on the other hand has been playing on a global stage for a much longer period of time with stylistic versions of Carmenere and Merlot (often times confused with one another).

-Malbec, Catena, 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, $15.99 Retail
Aromas of mocha and violets on the nose followed by a sumptuous array of dark fruits to follow. 

-Carmenere, Vina Chocolan, 2006, Maipo Valley, Chile, $12.99 Retail
Drinks right out of the gate with elegant soft black fruits and balanced tannins.

Has anybody ever seen a yellow kangaroo jumping around the country? No? Really? Me neither, they don't exist. In jest, I had to ask a few of the locals and made a few good mates while laughing over it.
My advice to anyone looking to experience value oriented wines that don't carry a profit driven branding scheme is to look for wines from more specified regions and delimited vineyard sites from reputable producers.

-Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre, Langmeil, "Three Gardens", 2006, Barossa Valley, Australia $12.98 Retail
Blueberries, cedar and tobacco offer up in this user friendly blend, a sure crowd pleaser.

Though Spain is a region long known to produce value wines and sometimes of great quality, it is bitter sweet to say that the quality of wines produced in Spain have risen dramatically but along with that, the prices have followed suit. All is not lost however. There are still many good buys to be had, but not for long!

-Txakolina, Bodegas Berroia, 2006, Basque, Spain $12.99 Retail
Look forward to this dry high acid style white wine to give rose a run for its money over the warmer months. Best known for its slight sparkle and citrus refreshment that will inevitably keep you longing for another sip.

Good Times...

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