February 8, 2010
So…we’re all in luck because our Blue Jean Sommelier, Anders, is back just in time for Valentine’s Day! If like so many folks, you’re trying to save money by cooking at home instead of going out, here are a few tips for picking the right bottle of wine to go with your gustatory tryst. Check back Friday for a killer brownie recipe sure to woo any sweetheart. Come to think of it, who says you need a date to enjoy either? Wine + brownies for all! xoxo, Nishta
1. Decide if you want your cuisine to highlight a special wine or a decent but basic wine to highlight a more intricate dinner. For instance, if I had a Bordeaux from 1982 I would select a menu with delicious but simple flavors to frame the complexity of the aged French wine – filet mignon with baked potatoes and grilled vegetables would work well. If your focus is the food, think mainly about the structure of the wine for the pairing.
2. Plan your wine choice with your meal according to the basics; wine needs to be sweeter than the food, tannin helps cut through fats and proteins, alcohol accentuates spice (go for low alc content with hot foods) and acidity balances acidity.
3. If possible go to a local wine specialty shop that offers a range of values and has a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Present them with your desired price and a basic idea of what you are looking for (red vs. white, structured vs. smooth, earthy vs. fruity, oak-aged vs. stainless etc).
4. If looking for an inexpensive bottle, try varietals that typically can be made with lower overhead costs (i.e. does well in stainless tanks/neutral barrels), is inexpensive because it relative low demand vs supply or is created where labor is less expensive; Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontes, Syrah, Merlot, Albarino, Vino Verde, Riesling, Unoaked Chardonnay, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais Cru, Aligote, Negroamaro and Valpolicella are all good options.
5. Finally, if you are in a rush here are a few wines I have always found to have good value for price point: Columbia Crest Grand Estates and H3 wines, Ravenswood Vintners Blend, Catena, Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc, Argiolas, Layer Cake and Porcupine Ridge.
For this blog I put myself to the test with five minutes to select three wines at a small corner market in the Mission district of San Francisco. Here’s what I came up with:
2008 Alamos Torrontes- Argentina – (~$9.99)
Torrontes is an aromatic white grape that originated in Spain but now is grown almost exclusively in Argentina. This bottling by Alamos boast decently intricate aromatics with unabashed lime, passion fruit and floral notes. The palate is balanced with good acidity, a creamy mouthfeel and overt mineral-lime flavors. . A great choice to accompany salads, cheese and crackers and or a fish/seafood entrée.
Anders’ Rating: Class for the Coin
2007 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Merlot – California – (~$11.99 )
Ravenswood is one of the biggest names in Sonoma wine country and although it’s now owned by the corporate wine juggernaut Constellation Brands, its founder and winemaker Joel Peterson purportedly still has considerable control over the wines. The Vintners Blend wines are actually composed of wine that Joel purchases from across the state of California and then blends together as he sees fit, they are therefore what is known as negociant wines (a tradition that has been common in France for centuries). This wine has a beguiling, rich nose of spice and fruit. The palate is a little light but very flavorful. I get bright plum and black cherry. While this a very smooth and soft wine, it is not going to improve with age and doesn’t have the tannin to stand to heavy meats, All in all, quite tasty.
Anders’ Rating: Class for the Coin
2006 AR Guentota Old Vine Malbec – Argentina – (~$20.99 )
The AR Guentota was the only wine I couldn’t identify at the market and has price that typically indicates higher quality production methods with Argentinean Malbecs. However, this bottle disappointed me. It had ample tannins but the palate was a little bitter and the fruit came across as overripe. Still a good price point for malbecs, but I prefer the Catena for about the same amount of money.
My Rating: Maybe Next Year