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Two Women on Wine: Climbing out of a wine rut

Posted: June 4, 2009 4:51 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2009 6:06 a.m.

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier Two Women on Wine

 
Some years ago, we realized that our wine repertoire consisted solely of the Red Trio Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir - and the Holy Whites - Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Talk about stuck in a rut!

The fear of succumbing to such middle-aged predictability sent us on a mission to expand our wine horizons. Along the way, we discovered some wines with distinctive character and personality. Here are a few of our favorites.

Petite Sirah: There is nothing petite about this varietal wine. It's a big and brawny red and full of fruit and flavor, such as black raspberry and blackberry, with hints of pepper, chocolate and mocha. A native of southern France, Petite Sirah is now produced more successfully in the drier climates of California and Australia.

This is a wine that can stand up to hearty red meats, grilled food and barbecue. Sounds like summer and patio living to us.
But don't confuse Petite Sirah with the more well known Syrah. Yes, they're kissing cousins (it is a cross between Syrah and the old Rhone grape, Peloursin), but Petite Sirah packs a bolder punch in character and alcohol content. It also brings to the table higher tannins and acidity, which means it ages well.

Petite Sirah needs a little mellowing, so open the wine and decant it or let it breathe well before you drink it.

Mourvèdre: We love Mourvèdre's wild earthiness. One of the more important red grapes of France's Rhône Valley, Mourvèdre is also known as Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Portugal.

Like Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre has tannic qualities. This is a "meaty" wine - deeply colored and densely flavored with jammy, smoky, spicy notes. When it comes to food pairing, think hearty, rustic country dishes, such as chicken and dumplings or a savory pork roast.

While Europe has long recognized the importance of Mourvèdre, the wine has a low profile in California. Here's your chance to be a trendsetter!

Tempranillo: Many distinctive red wines come out of Spain, and one of the most famous is Tempranillo. While the Tempranillo grape has been cultivated for more than a century, it's being touted nowadays as one of the hottest "new" wines on the market.

What makes Tempranillo so special? We like the complexity of this fruit-forward grape. Almost black in color, the Tempranillo grape produces a wine redolent of cherry and berry flavors, with hints of licorice and spice. Tempranillo is a passionate, expressive wine that brings out the best in foods like tapas, roasted meats and vegetables, and grilled meats, perfect for summer living!

Viognier: Even before we could pronounce it (Vee-own-YAY), we knew we liked this wine when we got a whiff of its heady perfume - honeysuckle blossoms, fresh melon and peach. A sip of the wine reveals layers of flavors. Ripe fruits like pear and apricot, a bit of citrus, a dash spice, even honey. Yet it's not a sweet wine.

Generally, Viognier does not need much aging, so it can be consumed young, usually within two years of vintage. It goes well with a variety of foods, and is particularly well-paired with seafood and poultry, crab cakes and Mediterranean dishes. We've also had it with roast turkey served with a fruit salsa.

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: Whether you call it by the Italian name Pinot Grigio or the French Pinot Gris, this white wine has exploded in popularity in the United States in recent years. It's a variant of the Pinot Noir grape, and takes its name, which means "gray," from the bluish-gray color of the grape.

Of course, the wine produced from the grape is not gray. Pinot Grigio/Gris should be straw-colored, even golden-hued. It can be a delicate wine, lightly floral on the nose, resembling citrus on the palate. But at its best we like a Pinot Grigio that is round and full-bodied, with a honeysuckle bouquet and tangy, tropical fruit flavors of pineapple and mango on the palate.

This is a good food-friendly wine that can be served with light pasta dishes and creamy sauces, seafood, chicken or veal. Serve it chilled.

If you feel you're stuck in a rut as we did, we hope you go outside your comfort zone and try some of these suggestions. You will not be disappointed. Cheers!

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