Sometimes you can learn a lot about a wine from a back label. Let's take the Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede for instance. This single-vineyard gem is not only thirst-slaking, palate-cleansing, and party-starting, but the good folks at Bisol are kind enough to let you know the vintage of the bottle in your hand. Even better, you can tell when it was bottled by deciphering the lot number. No Rosetta stone necessary: L10082 means it was bottled on the 82nd day of 2010. With most Proseccos, and sparkling wines in general, there is no way to discern freshness based on what you see on the label. (And here is where I must say that we sell oceans of bubbles at Esquin; nothing that we love sits around for any extended period of time.)
This is a practice I would like to see more sparkling wine producers undertake, beyond their vintage-dated offerings. For non-vintage wines that do not go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, why not stamp the date it was bottled on the back label? If it's good enough for Budweiser, it's good enough for all your quality sparkling wines that peak in their youth.
Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede: $20
Yup, it's that time of the year. Roll out the Thanksgiving picks! Though I will be detailing numerous selections from near and far, I'd like to point out that there is no correct or, better yet, no incorrect wine to serve during this holiday meal. Whether you're having turkey with all the traditional fixings, a standing rib roast, a vegetarian feast, or take-out Chinese, here's the best wine to drink: The one you like.
Having said that, it is my duty to point out the wines that make me happiest around a large table of contentious, loud, and sometimes embarrassing (mostly me) family members. Naturally sparkling wines come to the forefront. Not only are they seriously underrated food wines, what's more festive than popping a few corks and knockin' down some bubbly while you watch football (if you're lucky) or get pressed into kitchen duty (if you're not so lucky)? My first two picks: Prosecco from Italy and Cremant from France. The Adami is a perfect way to start your day and the Antech is a gorgeous rose at a give-away price. And if your feeling a bit celebratory, the Voirin-Jumel Champagne is my new go-to. It's an all Grand Cru fruit, grower Champagne (the people who own the vineyards make the wine), and a Blanc de Blancs. I like the style of Blanc de Blancs: all Chardonnay and they always seem to be a bit livelier and crisper than their red grape-blended counterparts.
I have a real fondness for the white wines of Northern Italy and the above are three perennial favorites. All are very dry, elegant, and fantastic with everything from seafood to poultry and vegetables. And, with my well-documented penchant for the obscure, I like drinking wines made from the Kerner, Arneis, and Cortese grapes, respectively.
Though we just hit the Beaujolais Nouveau season, I'd like you to turn your attention to Cru Beaujolais, especially from the justifiably-hyped 2009 vintage. These two from Dominique Piron are gems; I'd proabaly choose these Gamays over any Pinot Noir in the same price range. A slam-dunk!
For the last three years I've had these two wines from South Africa's Mulderbosch on the table. Love the Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé and the dry Chenin Blanc. Great labels, screw caps; I like how they look on the table. It's not often you have a rosé made from Cabernet that is this pale and light; really nice stuff. The Chenin is lovely; has wonderful ginger notes and a little bit of weight and richness for fall cuisine. And even though we're pushing December, rosés are a great food wine year-round and are probably the only wine that can hang with the cranberry sauce.
Finally, lest you think I am an unrepentant foreign wine snob, here are a couple picks from one of my favorite Washington wineries, Syncline. Tiny production Rhone-style wines (and some Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Noir to boot), they have wonderful balance and are not overdone with sweet oak and pumped-up alcohol levels.
So what will you be drinking on Thanksgiving?
It's not often that you get to cross a dream wine off your tasting wish list. It's even less often that you get to cross off three in one night. And it's the rarest of rare occasions that all the wines are from the same producer. That night was Wednesday and winery was the incomparable Dal Forno Romano.
Hailing from the Veneto in Italy, Dal Forno Romano wines demand that you totally recalibrate your perception of Valpolicella. The wines are painstakingly made through minuscule yields and a perfectionist's mindset. Massively rich, concentrated, and yet somehow not over-the-top, these Valpolicellas will cellar for many, many years. If you are going to drink them now, I would say two hours in the decanter would be a minimum. (And I wouldn't blame you if you drank them now; they are extremely difficult to resist.)
If it wasn't enough to try two vintages of the Valpolicella, we were treated to the 2003 Dal Forno Romano Amarone. Whoa. What a wine! A little richer and denser that the Valpolicella, it had some of those lovely dried fruit characteristics that are the hallmark of Amarone. And like the Valpolicella, the Amarone is remarkable for its balance, especially considering the concentration and alcohol content. This wine doesn't just strive for perfection, it's knocking on the door.
Just when I thought I would run out of superlatives, the wine of the night (for me) arrived: The 2003 Dal Forno Passito Vigna Sere. Like the Amarone, it's made with dried grapes, but it's sweet. To call it the finest sweet wine I've had doesn't seem to quite do it justice. I have to put it among the finest wines I've ever had, period. Having some blue cheese with it takes it into the stratosphere. I am loath to use words like "awesome" or "amazing" to describe anything because both words are so epidemically overused to be meaningless. ("That taco was awesome!" Awesome? Really? It inspired awe?) But if last night I heard any or all of these wines being described using either of those words, you'd probably notice me nodding my head in agreement and thinking, "Yes. Yes they are."
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Chris Zimmerman from Vias, the company that imports Dal Forno Romano and many other excellent Italian wines. Chris led us through a "Visions of the Veneto" seminar that proved his knowledge of Italian wines is only matched by his passion for them. And I'd be truly remiss if I didn't mention the lineup of wines before the Dal Forno Romano, which were very impressive. We started with two Suavia Soaves, the unoaked 2008 Montecarbonare and the barrel-aged 2006 Le Rive. Fans of Chablis and White Burgundy, respectively, need to get a hold of these gems. And the Le Salette Amarones that followed were outstanding; made in a very refined style appropriate for the dinner table.
So what wines are on your wish list or which ones have you crossed off?