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WRO WINE BLOG

Posted by Robert Whitley on July 5, 2017 at 8:57 AM

The Big Chill

There used to be a saying among wine aficionados that "a wine's first obligation is to be red." Indeed, there is a significant body of wine enthusiasts that clings to that mantra and only drinks red wine — as an aperitif before dinner; with dinner, even if fish or shellfish are being served; or after dinner, as a nightcap.


To each his own. But my mantra is that a wine's first obligation is to be delicious. The thought of sipping a heavy tannic red wine served at room temperature on a sultry 90-degree summer day is far from appealing. Bring me something cool and refreshing.

For those whose thirst can only be quenched by a red wine, there is a solution. Several categories of red wine are frequently served with a slight chill, particularly in Mediterranean climates.

The most common red wine often served chilled is Beaujolais. It's light in tannins and easy to drink when young, and it has such a burst of bright fruit that it can even can be lip-smacking delicious served cold. The French sometimes even serve it chilled in the dead of winter.

Italy has its own Beaujolais-style wine in dolcetto, which is made in the northern Italian district of Piemonte. Dolcetto is generally lighter than Beaujolais — at least cru Beaujolais — but it is fruit-forward and delicious and loses nothing when given 10 to 15 minutes on ice before serving.

Spain also has a serious red wine that benefits from chilling in warm weather: Rioja Crianza. The Crianza Riojas are lower in the Rioja hierarchy, well behind Reserva and Gran Reserva. They are younger and usually fruitier with lower levels of tannins. Tapas bars throughout the Rioja region often serve Crianza by the glass with a slight chill.

So, if you're a die-hard red wine lover and the summer heat's getting to you, here's a tip: Chill.

Famille Lafage, Côtes du Roussillon (Roussillon, France) "Tessellae" Old Vines 2014 ($14, European Cellars)
 This is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, which could raise the question, "Why not just buy Côtes du Rhône, which is usually pretty good and always easy to find?"  The answer is that this wine is much better than almost any $14 Côtes du Rhône you can find, and better than most $20 bottles from more glorified southern Rhône villages such as Vacqueyreas.  Moreover, plenty of retailers are selling this for only $12 or even less.  It shows excellent concentration but still seems natural and fresh, with no over-ripeness, no-over extraction, no excessive wood, and no cellar tricks.  The fruit is very expressive, but there are also savory nuances that lend remarkable complexity for a wine at this price level.  Surely one of the best bargains I've tasted during 2017.
92 Michael Franz

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This Issue's Reviews
 
Natural Wine: Really?
Paul Lukacs

There has been a lot of talk lately about 'natural wine.' What does that term mean? There's no official definition, but the following statement on the wine list at Dame, a restaurant in Portland, Oregon that features only natural wines, is as good a description as any I've seen. 'Every wine on this list,' it says, 'is grown organically or biodynamically, free of any chemicals in the vineyard . . . [it] is made without any additives except sulfur, which is naturally occurring in grapes . . . [it] is fermented with its own living, wild yeast . . . [and it] is made in small, or very small, amounts. It's difficult to find fault with any of that.' Well, actually it's not difficult at all.
The 'Cru' of Soave: Another Attempt to Resurrect the Region
Michael Apstein

Soave, one of Italy's great white wines, has an image problem, and, as a result, it gets no respect. Although I'm sure that must be frustrating for the producers, it's a boon for consumers: The wines can be excellent but their prices fail to reflect their quality. If your memory of Soave is bland, watery swill marketed so successfully decades ago by Bolla--consumers have told me that they assumed the name of the region was Bolla Soave--then it's time to try them again. Even Bolla's.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Salmorejo


We've been enjoying lots of gazpacho this season, and we bet you have too, for it seems that every restaurant now offers one version or another of this deliciously refreshing cold soup. Based on tomatoes or even grapes, gazpacho can be red or green, or even white when it is almond-based. Gazpacho may be made smooth or chunky, thin or thick, and served with or without croutons. Salmorejo, Spain's other delicious cold soup, adheres to a stricter code, with ingredients limited to tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, bread, salt, and sherry vinegar, plus a garnish of chopped hard-boiled egg and ham--though the ham is optional.
On My Table
An Aristocrat of Napa Valley Cabernet
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Napa Valley's history of grape-growing dates to 1839, and its first commercial winemaking dates to 1861. The number of wineries grew to 140 by 1889, but the combined setbacks of the first phylloxera scourge and Prohibition brought Napa Valley's burgeoning wine production to its knees in the early twentieth century. In 1966, Robert Mondavi Winery became the first new winery in Napa Valley since Prohibition. One year later, Chappellet Vineyard became the second. The pinnacle of Chappellet's product line is the limited-production Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, currently available in the 2013 vintage. This is a glorious wine, among the finest Napa Valley Cabs I have tasted. It is rich in aroma and flavor and rich in body, but it is also surprisingly nuanced. It is a wine that speaks of its grapes and its vineyard far more than its winemaking, which is a high compliment to longtime Chappellet winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus.