Jun 28, 201209:26 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
Summer Drinking. Summer Reading. Some Are Not.
Image Courtsey of forwardcom, stock.xchng, 2007
Let’s get the apology out of the way first. I’m sorry for the terrible rift in the headline. But I could not resist. When warm weather and uncomfortable dew points set in, I just get bored and ready for a little mischief, even taking to childish jokes, which, by the way, still crack me up. So much for the state of my maturity, or lack thereof.
Anyway, I’ve had quite a few decent inexpensive wines of late, and looked over some new book releases that make for great “beach reads.” I’m happy to toss them both out in this scholarly forum for your edification. Or just for the hell of it.
Since we are in a sunny, semi-tropical climate, let’s consider something from another sunny place, but not what we normally think about, unless you read the Business Section of the newspaper or The Wall Street Journal. Kyklos Moschofilero is a refreshing straw-colored white wine from Greece, nothing terribly complicated, but with enchanting melon, white rose and citrus flavors. The finish is a bit zingy, so your vegetable tray or cheese platter won’t overwhelm the delicacy of the wine. It goes for less than $9.
M.F.K. Fisher was one of the last century’s greatest food writers and commentators on the wine scene. Anne Zimmerman, a biographer, has pulled together some of his stories and essays and placed them into a new volume, Musings on Wine and Other Libations, Sterling Epicure, New York, $18.95 hardcover, 288 pages.
You will never be bored with the tales of Long Ago in France; Once a Tramp, Always; Vines and Men; and Pleasures on Tap, among many others. Most stories are shorter than 20 pages so you can take the entire volume in small doses and never worry about forgotten plot points.
To the burning question that is on everyone’s mind, whatever happened to gruner veltliner, well, here’s a reasonable answer: not much. The wine from Austria that caused such a ruckus just a few years ago has fallen off the minds and the palates of most wine drinkers. But this one, Pratsch Gruner Veltliner, 2011, made with organic grapes, may bring it all back to you.
The classic herbal, citrus notes are here, and there is still the light and crisp feeling, uncomplicated, but not in a cotton-candy way. Less than $12, and quite the bargain.
For those of you that fancy yourself budding winemakers, or who have a deeper interest in the field of winemaking than just tasting some fermented grape juice out of a barrel (and there’s nothing wrong with that), two books that are “heavier” in approach are The Vintner’s Apprentice, by Eric Miller, Quarry Books, 2011, 207 pages; and The Advanced Oenophile, by Denman Moody, self-published by committee, 2012, 266 pages.
Miller is all over reporting, disclosing and explaining the entire process from the vineyard to the bottle. Quite technical but quite thorough. Moody’s approach is geography-based and personal, visiting major wine-producing regions around the world and relating stories and insights about people he knows and what they do.
Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir, 2010, California, provides interesting shades of cola, coffee, soft cherry and smoked bacon. Seems like it would be great for breakfast. Gentle tannins punctuate its full body, and the wood tones enhance rather than detract from its approachability. About $12.
Pallas Tempranillo, 2010, by Jorge Ordonez, Spain, brings that saddle-leather aspect of this grape to the fore. Big cherries come into play with dark fruit and spices providing background music. This wine was made for barbecues and smoky Spanish meats, like chorizo. One of the interesting things about this wine is the price, about $7. Don’t shy away just for that reason, but you have to be a lover of Tempranillo to “get” it.
Two volumes that will transport you to a place, and then fill in all the holes of your knowledge, arrived together and both are new mainstays of my library.
Rioja, Ana Fabiano, Sterling Epicure, 2012, 239 pages, dares you to resist visiting this great wine region. Here is the wine reference book that makes sense on your living room coffee table. Gorgeous photography and in-depth production stories brought together by a person so well-versed in Spain and its culture and history that there has to be other books awaiting publication.
You will wonder why you have not included this area in your past itineraries to the wine capitals of Europe, and you will not make that mistake again. Great traditions of many generations are respected alongside modern architecture that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Ms. Fabiano places it all in your hands and on your mind.
One of my favorite wine authors of all time is Oz Clarke. His books never fail to entertain and educate. His newest, Bordeaux, Sterling Epicure, 2012, 319 pages, continues a literary tradition from a man who clearly passionately loves what he writes about. First published in 2006, this revised and updated edition not only intimately delves into this most-famous wine area, but it personalizes it in a way that even the Bordelaise cannot accomplish.
Let me conclude a few summer wine recommendations with something you may not pick up without a little encouragement. Tormaresca Neprica, 2010, from the Puglia region of Italy, consists of grapes that are not natural partners. Negroamaro, 40 percent; primitivo, 30 percent; and cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent are brought together in the play-yard, but the dust never really settles down. Black raspberry, pepper, ripe red fruits sometimes feeling a bit disjointed. But toss in a classic olive tapenade or pepper steak and then appreciate why a great wine producing country is also a great culinary producing country. About $11.
My thanks to Whole Food Company, which has all the wines mentioned here, for allowing me to taste these, and more, along with selections from their cheese department.
And for all of you reading this, take a break. Have some wine. Read a good book. Relax. Get out of the sun. Spend the afternoon thinking about all those things you did not get done today, but will absolutely get done tomorrow. No, really. They will be done tomorrow. Promise.
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