Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's Greek to me

Here I am breaking all my rules and it isn’t even the end of the first month of 2008.

First, I don’t do wine reviews, but now I do. Then, I don’t do book reviews, but now I will. This particular book review is a labor of love.

I don’t know Miles Lambert Gócs. I tried to explain to him that I can’t even sell my own books, but Miles sent me a copy of his book anyway, Desert Island Wine, and as soon as I read the first paragraph, I knew that I had discovered a kindred soul. Always in the market for punishing a kindred soul, I sent him a copy of my first book, Garlic, Wine and Olive Oil: Historical Anecdotes and Recipes.

Miles and I emailed each other our impressions of the books. Then, we emailed our general impressions about other matters connected to wine. In the process, we discovered similarities in our upbringing, our life experiences, and our taste in the wine world and in wine.

He sent me another book, Greek Salad; I sent him another one, WINE: The 8,000 Year Old Story of the Wine Trade. If we keep this up, Miles and I will have the largest library of each other’s books! (I do wish my publishers could read his titles—see how short and to the point they are, guys? I fought and lost the title battle for my books each time.)

Miles has written three books: The Wines of Greece, Greek Salad, and Desert Island Wine. In each, Greece plays the major role in his view of wine and who knows, maybe his view of the world is Greek-like. I’ve so far read only the last book and so that’s the one I can comment on right now. But before I go on, have you noticed that the word geek is but a letter away from Greek?

Desert Island Wine is not for the faint of wine geekdom. Assuming that most geeks will even understand half of what Miles wrote, this book skewers geekdom lovingly, and with "gobs of irony," humor in the form of puns, sarcastic historical references, farce, parody, you name it. As I’ve said, this review is a labor of love-I really like the kind of writing that Miles produced.

If I had to pick a favorite chapter it would be Acid Reign. I felt like Miles had read my mind. How did he know that I sucked lemons as a child, and that in my dotage the first thing I consume each morning is fresh squeezed grapefruit juice that I painstakingly work through my manual Hamilton Beach juicer. Acid is KING and QUEEN, too.

My second favorite chapter: Report to Tom. It’s Miles talking to Thomas Jefferson, and I believe just one of them is listening.

Maybe the book is not for everyone; it’s an intelligent read. But if reading it gets a few people off their asses to lift up an encyclopedia, a history or philosophy book, it would be worth more than its listed $14.95 (I got it for free, so there).

I recommend it highly for those looking to have fun reading the thoughts of someone who has some thoughts about the subject of wine. Thoughts that stem from years of imbibing through observation.

Desert Island Wine, by Miles Lambert Gócs: Ambeli Press, Virginia, Dist. by The Wine Appreciation Guild. $15

This entry’s wine:

In keeping with Miles’ Greekolgy, I’m going to talk about a Peloponnesion wine called 14-18h.

Yep, that’s the name of the wine: 14-18h. It refers to the hours (in 24-hour clock time) that the must of the Agiorgitiko grape was in contact with the skins before pressing off and creating this Rosé (sorry, they didn’t put the Greek word for rosé on the label, and I don’t know what it is—maybe Miles will chime in on comments).

At first, I didn’t catch much in the aroma. But after it warmed a little, the wine gave off a pleasant spring like smell, as if strawberry flowers were about to open.

The taste was like a sharp cranberry/strawberry drink with a kick. I liked that, but, a disappointment to me—there was no finish.

In all, a nice wine that held up rather well with a ginger-spiced wok dish of snow peas, red pepper, fennel, leeks, garlic, and pieces of buttermilk-marinated chicken breast over brown Basmati rice with a touch of soy sauce.

My wife asked if it's legal to drink Greek wine with Asian food. Hmm.

2006 Agiorgitiko Rosé, Gaia Estate
Koutsi, Nemea, Greece

12.5 alcohol, $14.00 before volume discount.

Imported by Importers and Distributors LTD, Long Island

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January 2008. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Is it finished?

Maybe I’ve been wrong all along about wine forum sites. Since I find myself in the position of agreeing with a wine critic that I mostly don’t agree with, and since my belief is lambasted, maybe I’m the guy who needs to understand the difference between opinion and fact.

Or maybe, just maybe, there are times when wine geeks should lighten up! I mean, how many obsessions can one hobby support?

I’m talking about “finish,” that thing at the end of a wine taste that happens to be important to me. I generally dislike the kinds of wines that win most critical acclaim these days, but I happen to like finish in a wine, and on that I agree with the famous critic.

You may have noticed that I mention the finish of the wines I taste—I even give them a count in seconds, my seconds, which goes: one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, and so on.

Apparently, Robert Parker may do this, too, and once in a while, he mentions it in his wine critique. But a Parker count of 45 seconds in the finish of a certain wine caused someone online to take umbrage.

Ok, so the poster didn’t like the idea. The link is below so you can read why. But then, people, some of whose wine knowledge I respect, posted in response. I had no idea that the subject of a wine’s finish could bring out vitriol against Parker, or anyone who, like I, appreciate and evaluate a wine in part by its finish.

In my view, a wine with a short or no finish robs me of the rest of the experience. I like a wine with a powerful finish that speaks to me seconds after I have swallowed the nectar, and I like to stop and think about it, and so I measure the seconds it takes before it really is finished.

French wine pros taught people that the finish is important and, because French products dominated my earliest experiences with wine, I must have learned that lesson from them. But my interest in a wine’s finish is not a belief—it is a preference, which once again brings up the age-old Internet confusion over the difference between objective and subjective.

As far as I know, there is no objective measure to equate a wine’s quality with the length of its finish. Without that objective, scientific, laboratory-reproduced measure, expecting a lengthy finish remains a subjective preference.

Still, those who don’t count the finish as I do (and Parker, I suppose) seem to think that they have a lock on something, which is to say that we are nuts and they are the arbiters. At this point, I could bring up myriad nonsense that wine geeks believe and that I do not, but what would be the point? I don’t feel the need to prove myself or to disprove the belief of others. I strike out when an opinion is presented as if it were a fact and others go blithely around repeating it as fact. I don't think counting the finish in seconds is an opinion as fact.

Being a noisemaker does not make one the arbiter of taste or even of quality, even when I make the noise. It’s one thing to disagree over a subjective issue; it’s quite another to claim the subjective high ground.

As far as I’m concerned, those who can’t swallow a wine and then think further about its slowly vanishing attributes are missing something. But that’s only my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth. To me, it’s worth that extra pleasure I get from a wine that sustains long after I have assigned it a place in my digestive tract!

This entry’s wine:

The first time I tasted Lagrein I was floored. How could a mountainous region like Alto Adige come up with that kind of solid tannin, I wondered? I still wonder. But the best part of Lagrein is its racy acidity. To be sure, that’s a mountainous trait.
The racy acidity of Muri-Geis’ 2003 Lagrein makes it taste like a bag of sour cherry candies without the sugar. But the wine truly got my attention before I tasted it—the aroma was fleshy and meaty; the color was garnet. What a pleasant beginning!

As are most red wines from the region, which buffers Austrians from Italians, but unsuccessfully, this wine had a lean structure and yet, tight tannins that gave me a pucker.
Oh, and the finish was fine. I counted about 13 seconds before the phone rang and I had to stop counting

The wine was a perfect pairing for a rich, fatty dish: cheese ravioli in a sauce of heavy cream and scrambled egg with garlic, chopped sweet red pepper, sage, and parsley.

Sudtiroler Lagrein 2003 (sorry, don’t have the .. that goes over the u).

13% alc. $17/bottle before volume discount

Imported by Polaner selections, NY

45-second finish

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January 2008. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

TV, Drugs, and Wine

Television plays little role in my life—I don’t have enough time for it, and it doesn’t seem to have the right programming for me.

Having said that, it’s from television that I got my inspiration for this blog entry, and that’s saying a lot—I mean, that television can give inspiration at all!

What can be said of certain American paradoxes?

people who claim to be for the right to life but also support the death penalty
leaders whose speeches talk about waging war to promote peace
preaching democracy from a two-party political system
a country that spends on one vacuous election campaign enough money to provide health care to all its citizens
a place where obesity is decried, yet grocery stores give discount coupons to promote the sale of junk food
a country where certain powerful drugs are illegal while others are legal, which takes me back to television

The few things I do watch on TV have to do with the news and other public service programs. I suppose the demographics of news program watchers includes people susceptible to drug messages: those of us who pee a lot, have high cholesterol, can’t sleep, have herpes, have restless legs, and live with perpetual heartburn. In other words, TV drug ads are directed at a mass of people without health care but with a long list of syndromes.

I long for the old days, when lawyers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies lived by a professional standard of high ethical consideration. In the case of pharmaceuticals, you had to have a license to issue prescriptions, so what good would it do to advertise powerful prescription drugs to the general public anyway?

What good does it do indeed, now that the walls have been brought down and we are told to ask our doctor about prescription drugs, even though they might cause us to suffer from a list of side effects that may be as dangerous as the conditions the drugs treat. We can get liver disease, heart attack, stroke, headaches, muscle pains, skewed vision, loss of hearing, and maybe an unhealthy lengthy erection from these prescription drugs, but hey, they are legal. Some of the drugs on television are even habit forming, but since they aren’t illegal, like cocaine, marijuana, and all those other habit-forming drugs, they are ok to advertise.

Am I the only one who notices the odd way many of these drugs are positioned? I particularly mean the drugs singled out by their color: the little purple pill or the orange one. It reminds me of the “red devils” and “yellow jackets” on the street corner in my teenage days.

Ah well, why complain? It’s ok to advertise my drug on television—wine—so long as the advertisement doesn’t show anyone doing what most of us will do with it after we open the bottle: drink it.

I'm either bored or cynical, or something.

This entry’s wines:

I didn’t even know pink wine was produced in Saint Chinian, but now that I do, I’ll look for more.

About 20 villages make up the Saint Chinian Appellation in France’s Languedoc. As in much of this southern part of France, the red grapes grown here include Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The wine I had was produced from Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault in the Haut Languedoc, address Cessenon.

When I was a child, I ate a candy called Red Hots. It was spicy and slightly fiery with a touch of sweetness, of course. The Chateau Viranel Saint Chinian Rosé reminded me of Red Hots without the sugar. Its flaw was in a short finish and a touch more alcohol than necessary, but it was from the 2003 vintage so I gave it some slack.

The wine was a perfect match for my catfish filet dusted with cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, and cayenne, sautéed in olive oil with garlic, and served with fries on the side. Wonderful pairing.

Chateau Viranel
2003 Saint Chinian Rosé
13 % Alcohol, $13/bottle before volume discount

Imported by Ideal Wine and Spirits, Medford, MA.

The next wine was under screwcap, and I had no particular reason to be concerned: Jean Baptiste Adam Riesling Vin D’Alsace.

This is a young wine of course, yet it showed a hint of that Riesling petroleum that I like so much and that comes with age, but is not something I expected. I expect it from Mosel, but not Alsace. But, I'm not complaining.

The wine is nicely dry and tingly on the palate, with a mix of lemon/citrus and slate in the mouthfeel. Its 10-second finish was delightful, too.

It was a perfect partner for my curry/lemon Cornish hen with wild rice.

JB Adam
2006 Riesling
12% Alcohol, $14/bottle before volume discount

Imported by Chaplin Cellars, Springfield, VA.

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January, 2008. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

QPR? Not on your life

One of the problems with making blog entries just a few times a week is that other bloggers will beat me to the story. It’s the price a busy guy must pay.

My task, should I choose to take it, is to cover a story from a unique angle and so, let me try it.

The story of which I speak is the recent one about a study of 21 people that seems to prove that when it comes to wine, price is more important than anything else about the stuff.

After dealing with wine customers for so many years (I don’t any longer) all I can say about the study is: tell me something I hadn’t known!

On some of the self-serving, supposedly savvy wine forum Web sites, I’ve read posts by people who wouldn’t know a QPR from an FBI; that’s because they hardly ever go to quality/price/ratio. To these people, nothing below their arbitrary dollar value is worth tasting—it can’t possibly be any good at that price!

We like to think that those mentioned above are missing a lot, but they really aren’t. As the study showed, it isn’t the wine that’s giving pleasure. A section of our brain stimulates perceptions of pleasure; apparently, for certain people it takes only dollar signs.

To me, the brain reference is a polite way of saying that these people neither think about nor understand their motivations, at least when it comes to the sensory pleasures of wine. This is why evaluating wines blind often turns up surprising results; it forces us to think about the wine, and to think about our sensory preferences instead of our status or insecurities.

Back when I must have been desperate, I held down a position as a sales representative for a reasonably major East Coast wine distributor. The company demanded that sales reps attend weekly meetings. At these meetings, our wine suppliers came to us in a revolving door manner—they flew in from wherever, gave us an hour pep talk and a tasting, screamed at our managers for not selling their wines to the exclusion of the hundreds of others in the portfolio, and then flew off to another state to repeat the performance.

Mostly, the visitors were brokers who handled the dirty work of selling wine to distributors. Sometimes, the producer made the visit, especially when a new wine or new marketing direction was on the horizon.

It was at these meetings when my cynicism concerning the wine world was given its boost, especially when a slickly dressed, diamond-studded owner of an up-coming cult wine gave the pep talk.

Mostly, the talk centered on marketing and wine pricing: how the product would be “placed” and backed up with ads or whatever. What the wine tasted like seemed a distant secondary consideration. How the taste and wine quality related to the price wasn’t even on the table to discuss.

I usually got myself into trouble when the time came to taste the new wine. I had this annoying habit—annoying to the recipient—of asking questions in place of issuing oohs, aahs, and platitudes of overwhelming unquestioned enthusiasm for the wine. But if I was going to sell the stuff, I wanted to know more than just its price. Often, I found myself wanting to know why it tasted like a milkshake or a tree forest instead of wine.

After I figured out that the whole charade wasn’t really about wine, especially after a few pointed conversations with the sales manager and the big boss, each asking me to shut up at the meetings, I quit the job.

The marketers behind those wines already knew what the recent study points out. The question is: When will consumers of overpriced wines become secure enough to taste all kinds of wine and trust their palates rather than that little corner of the brain that plays with their perceptions?

After selling to, discussing, and arguing with many wine consumers, I can say without hesitation that I doubt most ever will. Using all your brain cells is a private affair, and a little work, too. Being seen throwing money around is much more impressive.

This entry’s wine:

A few years ago, I spent two weeks in the southeast of France, in an area near the northern ridges of the Pyrenes Mountains. The people there are known as Catalon, a reference to an historical section of the Mediterranean that is shared by southern France and northern Spain.

In Spain, Catalunya is home to ten wine regions, the most famous I suppose are Priorat, Penedes, and Tarragona. Catalunya is also home to Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain.

In 2001, Spanish authorities allowed a wider DO to the overall area known as Catalunya. When that DO is on a wine label, the only way to know the composition of the wine is to gain access from the producer. The Bohigas Crianza 2003 for this entry is likely composed of Cariñena (Carignane), Tempranillo, and Merlot.

Anyone remembering the 2003 European vintage will remember the heat. In Catalunya, I am told that it hardly rained throughout the growing season and harvest was early. This Crianza certainly bore witness to those facts.

The aroma was truly earthy; bramble came to mind, as in a raspberry patch. The smell of cedar must have been from the oak treatment.

On the palate, the wine was gritty, not in a bad way. Instead of drinking this wine, my tendency was to masticate it. After chewing it, came the swallow and a 12 second finish that left me with cottonmouth, plus a massive hit of chocolate—ah, those sunny-days of tannin build up.

At 14% alcohol, the wine gave the lie to a blanket statement that high alcohol is too hot and offensive. The alcohol did not stand out on any level, neither in aroma nor taste. Although the tannins are way over the top right now, I liked the wine.

Unfortunately, the tannins got in the way when I paired the wine with chorizo and yellow rice.

Bohiga 2003 Crianza

$13.50/bottle before volume discount.

Imported by USA Wine West

The study The Study2

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January, 2008. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wine or soap?

My previous blog entry about dry/sweet got me some nice email (which leaves me to wonder why so many don’t comment on the blog instead).

Oddly, a related subject popped up on the Squires/Parker wine forum recently, and it’s one of those pleasant times when a discussion is actually taking place, rather than a free-for-all.

The subject was brought about by a question concerning acidity in wine. But since pH and acidity are closely related, you can’t have a one-sided discussion on the issue.

I’ve talked about how acidity is, to me, the backbone of wine. It’s what makes my palate respond happily. Acidity also seems to highlight the fruity and mineral qualities that we often get from wines. It is the thing that helps me match food with wine.

pH is a measure of acidity/alkalinity. On the scale that measures pH, a 7 is considered neutral (that would be plain water at 25 degrees Celsius). Anything above 7 is alkaline; anything below 7 is acidic. Generally, a high acid wine delivers low pH.

The optimum wine pH is in the range 3.2 to 3.8. As pH rises, wine loses its backbone and snap. Above 3.8, it begins to lose its microbial stability and probably its aging longevity, too.

You know that malo-lactic fermentation you hear so much about—just about every red wine goes through it, and only a few whites. Malo-lactic fermentation takes one of wine’s acids—malic—and converts it to the softer lactic acid of dairy products. You want to do that to red wines because their tannic acid structure makes it possible to soften the total acidity yet keep a backbone albeit, a backbone with a different focus.

Because they are not fermented on the skins, white wines are lower in tannic acids, so a malo-lactic fermentation on them can remove their backbone—think creamy, fatty, buttery Chardonnay. (I only think it—I never drink it.)

Not only is a tart acid reduced during malo-latic fermentation, the pH is increased, and that contributes to the softening mouth feel of the wine. In some finished red wines, the pH is allowed to get so high that on my palate they come off as soapy, almost peroxide like (soap is an alkaline with a high pH).

I bring all this up only to say that, for me, pairing wine with food is a joy in contrasts: the acidity of wine cutting through the fats of foods, or the fruitiness of wine, matching with spices in food. In that regard, high pH can make wine and food pairing a lot more challenging than wines of high acidity and low pH.

The fact that high pH makes wine unstable and likely shorter lived isn’t much of a selling point, either.

One more thing: winemakers can mess around and create wines with low acid and low pH; it has to do with adding buffer chemicals, but I am ill-equipped as well as disinclined to go into that subject.

Wines For This Entry:

Colli Orientali del Friuli may sound like something from the Italian part of Asia, but it isn’t. “Orientali” refers to the east of Northern Italian hillsides, “Colli.” “Friuli” refers to the region.

Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is the region’s proper name, and I do love this place, for its wines, its locale along the border with Slovenia, and for its low American tourist count—that the great city of Trieste is in the region is a major plus.

Here, wines are generally referred on the labels as varietals with place names secondary. In a mix of Italian, French, and even a few American grapes, they grow a number of different grape varieties, one of them is Cabernet Franc.

Petrucco is a family winery outside the region’s capital city, Udine. Its 2004 Cabernet Franc is a perfect example of that region’s style for this variety.

On first sniff, came a green pepper aroma, but after a few minutes in the glass, the wine smelled like a blend of black pepper and Pertussin (sp) cough syrup, which I happen to like, the smell not the syrup. It’s a dark cherry/coal tar aroma.

The taste delivered an earthy density and also a cough syrup quality. In the end, however, during the 15-second finish, I distinctly got the tannins—chocolate and cherry pits. The alcohol, at 13%, was in complete balance. I loved the wine.

I was not in a cooking mood, so I mixed some ground bison meat with plain breadcrumbs, soy sauce, crushed garlic and crushed white pepper and made some burgers. I topped the burgers with grilled shitake mushrooms and sweet onions. It all went well with the wine.

Petrucco 2004 Cabernet Franc
Colli Orientali del Friuli

Imported by USA Imports, New York—$17.50/bottle before volume discount.

The next wine is the first of 2008 that I did not like. It was from the Cotes de Thongue in France’s vast Languedoc wine region.

In fairness to this particular wine, I have yet to like the style of the wines I have tasted from this region. Here’s what I got.

A fairly advanced oxidized nose with a touch of a smell I can only describe as the Live Saver candy. On the palate, the wine started with a decent, tingly mouth feel, even a touch of fruit, but the oxidation took over and the fruit tasted like it had been dried to petrified. To top it off, this chilled white wine was hot: 14 % alcohol.

My wife didn’t know any better; she picked out a white wine from the south of France produced from grapes that were harvested in one of the hottest vintages on record.

I tried to pair this wine with buttermilk marinated chicken breast dipped in egg, wrapped in sage, and breaded, then sautéed in garlic infused olive oil, and served with thin-sliced Portuguese-style fried potatoes. The wine nearly ruined the food.

Magellan 2003 Ponant
Cotes de Thongue

Imported by DS Trading Company, Virginia Beach—$11.00/bottle before volume discount.

Acid/pH Discussion

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January, 2008. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I do wish that the words dry and sweet to describe wines would go away—far away, or at least be explained properly.

Neither word does much in the way of identification. I’ve come across many people who think a wine with 2% residual sugar is too dry, but an equal number of people that consider it sweet.

A lot of us tell people that no wine is completely dry—there’s residual sugar in every wine. But some wines are so low in residual sugar that it makes the argument weak. Plus, most humans (there are always exceptions) cannot detect sugar in wine if the residual is .4x % or less by volume.

The problem is not with identifying how much sugar is or isn’t in a dry wine, but whether the word dry should be used as a reference to the opposite of sweet.

Put simply, the word dry in wine is misapplied. Most think it refers to a lack of sugar. But the lack of sugar in dry wine is coincidental and not necessarily why a wine seems dry. If you don’t believe me, try measuring the residual sugar in a Brut Champagne.

When I started to make wine and then to sell it, I quickly realized two things: acidity plays a major role in how we perceive sweetness or lack of it, and it’s what the wine does to our palate that makes it seem dry—the palate, not the wine.

When you think dry, think tannin and tartaric—separate or apart, the two can make you pucker.

Tartaric acid has the advantage of stimulating saliva production to counteract the tartness, which is where we get the idea of a wine being mouth-watering (I suppose, depending on one’s perspective, this could be a disadvantage). On the other hand, tannins produce that cotton mouth feeling or sandpaper effect.

Wines can be high in tartaric or in tannin whether or not they contain residual sugar. But sugar has a way of masking or subduing the effect of those pucker producers. As the sugar rises, the severity of the dryness on our palate recedes. It takes a lot of sugar to do this, and if you don’t believe that, think Sauternes, Late Harvest Riesling, or Ice Wines. Some of these wines are as sweet as honey yet they deliver an acidic bite that can pucker, if only a little.

I’ve held this belief that the word dry is misapplied for a long time, and every time I’ve had a conversation about the subject with a consumer or a wine geek, I get in return incredulity, if not scorn. I particularly remember the scorn I received from a wine geek with a chemistry background, someone I would have thought should know better. I proved nothing to him, but he proved to me the power of myth.

Today, I typed in the following words into Google: dry wine etymology of.

Below is a link to what I found. Read the whole thing. There’s an interesting discussion about medieval times and how dry may have originally been meant not to describe the wine, but to describe what it does on the palate.

Wine of Today:

On the label, this wine calls itself Dry White Wine.

It’s from the Greek Island of Rhodes along the Athiri mountain slopes, which happens to be the name of the wine:

Athiri Mountain Slopes 2006 Rhodes.

My first taste of wine from Rhodes was when I was 29 and traveling in Greece. My wife and I sat at an outdoor restaurant one evening on the island and ordered a bottle of Rhodos white with two lobster dinners. The lobster was so good—and cheap—we ordered seconds, this time with a bottle of Lindhos, also a wine from Rhodes. Each wine was crisp and bright, and perfect for the shellfish. But that was long ago, and it is all I remembered of the wines.

This 2006 Athiri brought me back to Rhodes.

Its nose was of nutmeg and spice, plus a hint of ocean air. Its mouth feel was earthy, with a touch of lemony minerals, if there are such things.

I counted the seconds—the wine’s finish lasted about 22.

Overall, I liked the wine. Its only flaw was a slight intrusion of 13% alcohol. But then, I consumed it with a typical Mediterranean dish—calamari.

I fixed the dish the way I had it on the Greek island of Samos during that same trip. Lightly breaded squid tubes sautéed in garlic-infused lemon-olive oil paired with chopped potatoes and shallots in garlic butter and a touch of chicken stock, with paprika .

The dish subdued both Athiri’s alcohol and its crispness. Things seemed a lot less dry on my palate!

In the end, however, I discovered the true purpose of the wine.

You know the old saw: you can't pair wine with salad dressing. I topped a salad plate of arugula and fresh Swiss chard with Moroccan oil cured black olives and sprinkled some fig balsamic vinegar over it.

With the olives and vinegar, Athiri became a fully rounded, integrated white wine that knew its place. My palate was not dry at all, only completely satisfied.

Athiri 2006 Rhodes is produced by Emery Wines and imported into New York by Athene Importers of Long Island.

The price was $17 a bottle, before the 20% volume discount.


Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January, 2008. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kick off 2008

So, here it is, the third day in January 2008 and I already have things to worry over for the year. My first worry has also given me my one and only resolution for 2008—I don’t often make resolutions; my view is that one should never mess with imperfection!

Speaking of imperfections, a decade plus has passed, yet the Internet continues to prove its imperfections almost daily. Its major flaw, in my humble opinion, is that while it is a place to retrieve information, it is also a place to retrieve a lot of garbage.

I’m told that when television came on the scene its hucksters told the world about the new communication age and how the medium will be a potent learning tool as well as an instrument to bring people together. Does that sound familiar to anyone on the Internet?

A few days before Christmas, I wrote a blog entry describing some of the wine forum sites that I have frequented. I attempted to capture the flavor of the sites as well as their pluses and minuses. At the same time, I had decided to reduce the amount of time I spend on those sites, mainly because I don’t think I am cut out for what goes on among wine geeks. I’m deeply a wine person, but I am nowhere near what wine geeks seem to be all about, and I’ll stay away from descriptions, lest I wind up on someone’s hacker list.

A few days after Christmas, one of the sites I mentioned was taken down. Accusations have been made as to how it happened and who did it, but the truth about the situation is as likely to rise as a soufflé with a knife stuck in it.

My one and only resolution for 2008 is that I am through posting on wine forum sites. I think I can make better use of my time, even when I don’t make better use of it.

To top off that madness, my New Year began with wine disappointments.

You might remember that I promised to mention specific wines in my 2008 blog entries? Here are two of them.

My home is within walking distance to the winery that started the vinifera wine revolution in the Finger Lakes. So, when a few visitors spent three days with my wife and me, a visit to that winery (and others) was in order.

We tasted the Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars wines and liked a number of them—always do. The 2006 Dry Riesling is exactly what I seek for that grape variety; blogger Lyle must try this wine!

Anyway, one of the wines under the Chateau Frank label, the one that produces only sparkling wine, was a 2000 Blanc de Noirs. My notes, and the comments by my wife and one of our visitors, made reference to a yeasty, toasty nose and a baked bread quality to the wine that was ever so pleasing. I bought a bottle for us to bring in the New Year.

When we opened the sparkler we could not believe our noses. Where went the yeast and toast? Then we tasted it. It’s fine, but it’s also squeaky clean—no baked bread.

As I said, the wine is fine, and crisply refreshing, but the bottle we opened bore no relationship to the wine we tasted in the tasting room.

I understand that sparklers produced in the Champagne method are prone to bottle variation, but this was no simple variation—this bottle was completely different. I’m going to take a walk over there soon to find out what gives.

The Chateau Frank 2000 Blanc de Noirs (which the winery labels as a Finger Lakes Champagne, and I wish they wouldn’t do that) sells for about $32.

Next wine.

Ten locales in the Beaujolais region make up the Crus du Beaujolais wines. When right, they hold their own against a few well-regarded Pinot Noir-based wines. Unlike the Beaujolais Villages or the lowly Nouveau, these wines are elegant and age-worthy, but not the Georges DuBoeuf 2005 Juliénas that I opened.

I’m not sure what the technical problem is with this wine, but it’s surely flawed. I detected a touch of volatile acidity, but that’s about all I detected that was in any way connected to wine. It did not suffer from TCA in the nose or on the cork, but it had no fruit, no balance, no life, just as if it were infected with TCA. Oddly, the 13% alcohol on the label doesn’t even shine through this wine.

The wine comes from the 2005 vintage, which, by all accounts, was supposed to be a textbook example of the way it’s supposed to be in Burgundy and Beaujolais. But a textbook Juliénas should offer juicy berries and a touch of spice. This wine proves that you can’t just go by the vintage; someone can make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse, and apparently, someone has.

The wine was only a $12 loss, but annoying nonetheless, as it was scheduled to match a certain breast of duck, which, I might add, did quite well against a Gewurztraminer that I’ll talk about some other time.

Lyle Dr Frank's Crus du Beauj



Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
January 2008. All rights reserved.