To better set the table, let’s first spend a few paragraphs discussing another wine category-“trophy” wines. Since many wine lovers are more familiar with this niche, I thought it would be easier.
–2002 Harlan Estate–“trophy”
–1997 Abreu “Madrona Ranch”–“trophy”
–2008 Penfolds Grange–“trophy”
–2003 Guigal “La Mouline”–“trophy”
–1982 Chateau Latour–“trophy”
–1985 Romanee Conti from Domaine de la Romanee Conti–“trophy”
Get the idea? Impact wines….wines for the cellar….TODAY, 96 to 100 point rated wines….”guess what I have”…..”how did you get that?”….only 50 cases produced…..110 year old vines…..1/2 a ton per acre yields….Michel Rolland consultant……Grand Cru.
Nothing wrong with that! If I could afford them, I would certainly look to buy some. AND, if wineries out of this elite circle had the means to produce these kinds of wines & the resulting cult like following, at these high prices, I am sure most would. After all, would you prefer to get $7 for your Tuscan born bottle of red wine OR $150 (pre-paid) for your Sassicaia? For me…NO brainer.
A distinctly different wine category is what I refer to as “country” wines. An example of this style of wine would be that $7 bottle of Tuscan born red listed above. It is a style of regional wines commonly served at cafes & bistros along the Mediterranean basin & those scattered throughout the countryside. At eateries, where one can see workers wearing overalls/jeans, as well as more fashionably dressed business people, these are the wines which develop a following for other reasons.
–regional (yes, that would be great)
–delicious (if we expect our foods to be delicious, then hopefully the wines we wash them down with them are delicious too.)
–lighter bodied (that would be great but not absolutely necessary)
–wonderfully food friendly
–& most importantly gulpable (& therefore NO hard edges)
Here are some examples of what we mean.
Domaine Skouras “Zoe”–this is the handiwork of owner/winemaker Giorgio Skouras. Burgundy trained, Giorgio is part of the new age stars trying to move Greece & its wines into the modern era of the world wine stage. In this case, this wine is produced from 2 indigenious grape varieties–Roditis & Moschofilero, both grown down in the Peloponnese. This wonderfully perfumed, light & crisp white wine is yet another example of what we refer to as “aromatic”, whose fragrant qualities heighten & uplift foods in a similar way that fresh herbs do. Furthermore, you will be amazed how these kinds of wines synergize with fresh herbs & create pairing magic. Lastly, this wine really is tasty, light bodied, food friendly, gulpable AND really affordable!
MY Essential Rose–is one of the wine projects of the brilliant & ingenius Master Sommelier Richard Betts. The first vintages we tasted where from Provence, France. They were as delicious, light, minerally & therefore ethereal as they come. The first clue was how lightly hued the color was…..& whose nose was as pretty as pretty can be with a very captivating, subtle minerality that not only kept things interesting, but also greatly added to perceived buoyancy of the wine. The crazy thing is, though, the price tag!!!! A real deal & a real steal! You will be amazed at how wide a window of foods this wine can work with–rich soups, salads, pizza, sausage, marinated meat, BBQ. I suggest you keep several bottles in the refrigerator. Furthermore, there are many other PINK wines, today, that one can enjoy along these lines too. You should come by VINO & see how many wonderful roses we normally carry–from light & pretty to more masculine. We feel they represent a very important segment of food friendliness.
Domaine de Fontsainte Corbieres–this has been one of our absolute favorite French red “country” wines for a couple of decades. As old timers recall, it wasn’t that long ago that most of southern France was noted for producing a sea of mediocre wines. Yes, quality has changed, partly because of the focus on small, interesting parcels of intriguing soils, altitude & old vines & partly because of better farming & certainly better winemaking. I also believe, however, America, specifically, has also grown to love & therefore embrace indigenious, country, historic & cultural ways of these families whose passion & determination perservere. They’ve proven Fontsainte’s property, for instance, was cleared & farmed by the Romans way back when. The current family took over in the 17th Century. Rather than planting more & more Syrah, or using lots of new oak barrels like many of their neighbors, they’ve instead chosen to make wines like their predecessors have. This bottling, for instance, is mainly Carignane grape based. While Carignane is not showy, flashy or noble, in this case it sure is UBER-delicious AND incredibly food friendly. The Grenache, Syrah & other grape varieties just add nuances & more character to the wine.
Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais–“good” Beaujolais is one the most important sub-categories of food friendly red “country” styled wines for me. The whole secret is finding good ones. It really is not as easy as one would think. Part of the challenge (& not limited to Beaujolais) is that there are a growing number of suped up versions–meaning bigger, more intense, more profound, more dramatic–which is not a bad thing at all for me, it is just moving that particular wine out of the “country” wine zone for me. There now are thankfully quite a few brilliant, provocative, masterful Cru Beaujolais being produced today & kudos to each of them for their hard work, determination & truly fearless passion, but when I am hankering for a delicious, light bodied, food friendly gulper, I look for Dupeuble. This family has been farming their vineyards for 500 years, & today is organic & biodynamic. When you examine their grape growing & winemaking practices, they truly take as natural of an approach to both as they can BUT, most importantly, this wine is absolutely delicious as can be, light on the palate with a very understated minerality which helps to make each glass better than the last. Then, I suggest you consider the price. In my world, it is a Hall of Famer!
Cantine Valpane Freisa “Canone Inverso”–Freisa is a grape variety local to Piemonte, which we see less & less bottled on its own. In this day & age of power, dark colored & showiness being in fashion, I don’t think Freisa fits the desired grape variety list. What caught our eye with this wine, however, was the enticing perfume this grape variety can offer, which makes it a very interesting alternative for the dinner table. Like the “aromatic” white wine I mentioned above, I also believe there is a niche for “aromatic” red wines, in terms of foods, too. Cantine Valpane produces honest, more masculine styled, blue collar wines….nothing fancy…no frills…no fancy packaging. We love their Barbera del Monferrato, but have also become enamored with this bottling. Try this with an herbed pizza or thyme roast chicken & you will see what can be.
Chateau Fontanes “Les Traverses de Fontanes”–so we close with this “country” red from southern France. This cuvee is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon….from 40 year old vines, organically & biodynamically farmed! The vineyard is remote, surrounded by sun baked rocks, wild shrub & herbs & one can readily smell them in the finished wine. Yes, it is a wine which truly is about a sense of place, rather than a grape variety. So…..I ask that you try a glass of this wine, next to a glass of your favorite higher end Napa Valley Cabernet. (Since the Fontanes is surprisingly reasonably priced, just pop a bottle when you are intent on drinking the Napa Cabernet). THEN….I suggest you try the same 2 wines with a pizza or a piece of salami. Hopefully, you will better understand the difference between a “trophy” wine & a “country” wine!!!!!!