Friday, December 09, 2011

In Defense of Red Wine

I've been having a hard time with red wine lately. Okay, I never have a problem with mature Burgundy, or mature red wine in general. But when I'm alone and I feel like opening something to drink with dinner, or to just have a glass, I almost always reach for white wine these days. White wine is so much more versatile with food, so much easier to drink on its own. I'm speaking in broad terms, obviously, but I looked through what I've been drinking for the past few months and it's almost always white wine, unless some sort of special mature red is involved.

There could be many reasons for my bias. I did just go to Jerez, and I have been drinking a lot of Sherry. But I think it's more than that. I think that it's about easy drinking - I want to drink wines that clearly say what they are about, where they are from, that do not distract me with excess fruit or tannin, or any kind of excess. Lately, white wine just makes this happen for me far more often than red.

But of course there are red wines that continue to fit the bill. I've noticed that there are a few things that unite the everyday red wines that I reach for lately. They are lighter wines, wines that achieve balance above all else, and also express themselves with finesse and grace. Here are a few current favorites:

2007 Muhr-van de Niepoort Carnuntum Blaufrankisch, $20, Imported by Martine's Wines. This is definitely a wine that showcases ripe dark fruit, but that's only a part of the package. There is an unmistakable white pepper scent (I guess white pepper is more about Austrian soils than it is about Gruner Veltliner), and the nose is entirely graceful and expressive. The wine is perfectly balanced and feels great in the mouth. It satisfies on many levels - there is fruit, soil and mineral, and a pleasant leafy undertone. I must say, I've not been as impressed with a red wine in a while, as far as quality-to-price ratio goes. This is absolutely top notch wine, I bet it would improve with time in the cellar, and it sells for $20 before a mixed case discount. It isn't too hard to find in NYC (Blanc y Rouge in Brooklyn, Chambers Street Wines in Manhattan, among others), but if you're having trouble, try a wine by Moric - more expensive, but also great.

2008 Julien Labet Côtes du Jura, $36, Imported by Fruit of the Vines. Joe Salamone at Crush brings this wine to NYC and it's worth asking about. Objectively speaking, I think that Overnoy/Houillon's is the finest Poulsard out there, but that wine is basically impossible to find and it's gotten quite expensive. Labet's is excellent too. So light and graceful that it seems strange how well structured it is. This wine smacks of dried leaves and blood oranges and herbs and it's completely delicious. But what moves me about it now is how impossibly weightless and light it is, and still how clearly and pungently it expresses itself. If Labet's Poulsard proves to be too hard to find, there are several others out there. They should all be similar in their graceful delivery of Jura-ness.

2010 Clos de Tue-Boeuf Cheverny, $19, Louis/Dressner Selections. Red wines from Cheverny in the Loire Valley can include a variety of grapes. This one is made of Gamay and Pinot Noir. It is a lovely wine - high toned and bright red in fruit, a bit of forest underneath and a genuine crackle of energy that can be mistaken for effervescence - decant or otherwise aerate the wine and the energy is still there. This wine isn't for everyone - it's light and bright and flirts with volatility, and it doesn't offer anything in the way of power. It's not really about fruit either, although there most certainly is fruit. It's a refreshing and light wine that really is an expression of this place and this winemaker. If you try it, aerate the wine before you drink it.

2010 Domaine Guion Bourgueil Cuvée Domaine, $12, Imported by Fruit of the Vines. David Lillie at Chambers Street Wines is responsible for bringing this wine to NYC. This is the lighter of the two Guion Bourgueils, and I prefer it to the Prestige Cuvée, in general. The 2010 is a wine that I really like, although again, it's not for everyone. It is not a fruity wine, except for the first 10 minutes or so after opening. It's only $12 but it is a complete wine - a perfect balance of iron minerals, bloody dark fruit, and acidity, and the structure is firm but doesn't intrude in any way. This is an easy drinking wine that I think faithfully expresses terroir.


Ben said...

I think the overall difference for me in real general terms is the aroma. Inhaling red wine is divine, white only rarely.

Anonymous said...

AMai, so I'm not the only one. Thanks! Don't know all the wines you mention but the Cheverny is fantastic, anytime. Funnily enough I also thinks drinkability is helped by being a little sweet, not overly, need to be balanced but a lot of (natural made) italians can do quite a good job. they do like some food but funnily enough can be very refreshing.

Michael P said...

Love the Guion. Have the Cheverny on deck perhaps for tonight.

Anonymous said...

I second the Clos de Tue-Boeuf Cheverny. I've been thinking lately, as decent Bourgogne hovers around $30/bottle, that Loire and Jura pinots (albeit very different taste profiles than Bourgogne) make more sense. Save the big bucks for serious Burgundies, and drink other regional pinots on weeknights. Great for variation as well as for the budget.

wendy said...

I just don't understand people that think whites or lighter bodied reds aren't serious wines.You are so right, the food friendly aspects are much more versatile. I'm a big fan of Blaufrankisch,love the Clos de Tue-Boeuf and recently discovered another grape Schioppettino that is delish. Great post!

Clotpoll said...

The Tue-Boeuf Cheverny is something I've sold- and drunk- a lot of in the past few months. It seems to me like a wild, off-the-tracks Passetoutgrain. Whatever it is, it's the most captivating red wine I've tasted this year.