VALUES ON THE VINE
THE fall season is upon us and the keiki are back in their classrooms. It is a good time for a little education. Broaden your horizons with a taste of some unusual wine varietals offered by our panelists.
Treat your palate to
Richard FieldOwner of R. Field Wine Co.
One of the most famous wines of Europe comes from Portugal. Made from the Alvarinho grape, the white Vinho Verde wine is unusual not only in taste and in how it's made but also in how these grapes are grown. Partly because of land shortage in the Minho in northern Portugal, the vines are grown high up trees and on pergolas around fields of beans and vegetables. The grapes are picked young and fermented briefly to make a fresh tasting wine with a low alcohol content. It undergoes a secondary fermentation to convert excess malic acid to softer lactic acid and the resulting wine has a scintillating bubbliness. It is so easy to drink that the Portuguese gulp this wine like beer on a hot day. ($7.14)
One of the most ancient wine types, dating back more than 3000 years, is Retsina. It was assumed that the reason the Greeks added resin to their wines was to preserve the wines, which would otherwise quickly oxidize. It turns out resin does nothing to help wine age. The real reason is traditional Greek wine is greatly improved by the fresh, sappy flavor of pine resin added during fermentation. Made mainly from the Savatiano grape, Retsina, while unusual, has been around longer than nearly any other wine. ($8.44)
Lyle FujiokaOwner of Fujioka's Wine Merchants
1998 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo, $15.95: Italy's Campania region gifts us with two "sisters in the vineyard" white varietals -- Fiano di Avelino and Greco di Tufo. The 98' Greco is showing especially well right now. With an aromatic expression of fruit, honeycomb and hints of almond, this clean white pairs superbly with seafood and light pasta dishes. A glass of Greco will expand your palate beyond Pinot Grigio.
1998 Domaine du Mage Tannat & Merlot, France, $7.95: Looking for an old-world style red wine that's intensely flavorful with a long drying tannic finish? This "packed" little package from France's southwest region delivers. Tannat adds sturdy character to this blend, while Merlot provides cushion. Earthy flavors of wild blackberries, minerals and spice will compel you to take another satisfying sip.
Chuck FuruyaPresident of Fine Wine Imports
It is fun to experiment, but a major hurdle is making sure you find "good" wine to experiment with. Here are two:
1999 Storrs Gewurztraminer "Viento Vineyard," $16.86: Most books, magazines and "experts" say drink Gewurztraminer with Asian foods. I often wonder where that came from because in many cases there are far better options. Gewurztraminer can be bitter, or too syrupy (low in palate-cleansing acidity) or too alcoholic. Here is an exception to the case. Grown in the cool Monterey climate on a wind-swept terrace and fashioned by Pam & Stephen Storrs, this is a deliciously off-dry, wonderfully exotic and fruit driven wine that is ideal for spicy or salty Asian-inspired preparations.
1996 Marques de Moral Tempranillo "Crianza," $10.99: Don't know this one? Tempranillo is the grape. Back in 1986, while studying for the master sommelier exam, Tempranillo was a grape I had to learn about in a hurry. I love the surprisingly toned berry qualities of this Tempranillo (actually grown in Valdepenas) and the restrained use of oak. A pretty red wine, well worth trying. Serve it cool and serve it often.
Jay KamPresident of Vintage Wine Cellar
1997 Karly Marsanne 375ml, $8.99: When you think of wines from the Rhone Valley of France, Syrah, Grenache and perhaps Viognier come to mind. Marsanne is a white grape varietal usually blended with other varietals to make white Chateau Neuf de Pape. Karly, from Amador, Calif. has a unique clone of Marsanne that makes one of the best Marsannes out there. Although different from Chardonnay, Marsanne has Chardonnay's robust stature. It is a wine that can be aged. It has the delicacy, finesse and acid to accompany scallops and catfish, and the power to go along with pork and veal.
1998 Masi Mondello delle Venezie, $9.99: Nowhere else has as big a treasure trove of unknown varietals as Italy. This wine from Masi, a pioneer in wines from Veneto, Italy, is a blend of Corvina and Rovosso grapes. Along the same lines as Super Tuscan wines, this is a Super Veronese wine. Super nice red cherry fruit. Smooth, ripe tannins makes this wine accessible now. It goes well with roast chicken, filet mignon, rabbit and pheasant.
WildcardsFor September we have two wildcard contributors, both of whom have written for Values on the Vine in the past. Nathan Yuen is owner of J n J Food and Beverage Store in Aiea. Roberto Viernes is wine and spirits specialist with Neiman Marcus in Ala Moana.
Nathan YuenJ n J Food and Beverage
There are many different grapes that can be made into wine. My varietal of choice this week is called Elbling. Commonly known in Germany, it is used to make inexpensive sparkling wines. Dr. Baron Von Hobe-Gelting is one producer that has taken advantage of Elbling's other qualities. Schloss Thorn Elbling Kabinett and Schloss Thorn Elbling Trocken are two wines that one can experiment with by themselves or with food. The Kabinett ($16.19) is a fresh, crisp white wine that has a light fruity bouquet and a sweetness that will go well with our spicy Asian foods, but not too sweet to drink alone. The Trocken ($12.39) shows another side to this grape. Crisp in the mouth with a dry, delicate fruitiness that will pair well with seafood dishes. Use it as an aperitif or try it with grilled ahi over a red or yellow bell pepper sauce for a winning combination.
Roberto ViernesNeiman Marcus
If you like hearty reds with character, you'll enjoy this bottle of Clos La Coutale Cahors ($16). Cahors is a small appellation in southern France whose wine was known as the "black wine" because of its inky color. It is primarily made with Malbec blended with several other varieties, including Merlot. The aromas remind me of violets and blackberries with mulberry spices. The palate is full of cooked berries with a hint of sandalwood on the long finish. It's a wonderful match for hearty meat dishes. Have you had anything from Lebanon? The famed Chateau Musar blanc ($22) is a blend of two indigenous grapes Merwah and Obaideh. This white has an exotic, minerally citrus aroma with a full-bodied palate rich and exotic fruit flavors. Try this with any Mediterranean fare, including red meats.
If wine gets better with age, this may be the best in the world. On the other hand, after 900 years, it may not even be wine anymore.
Sea yields ancient wine
On Friday, Italian scientists uncorked a 900-year-old wine amphora recovered last week from a shipwreck in the Tyrrhenian Sea. They won't know until tests results are complete exactly what to call the liquid they found inside.
"What's surprising is that the cork seems to have sealed the amphora, leaving its contents apparently intact," said Marcello Rocca, the director of IAS, the diving institute searching the wreck.
Scientists think the wine in the 3-quart terra-cotta jar was a red wine, produced either in Africa or Sicily. Rocca said there are no holes in the cork, but seawater may have gotten inside the terra cotta.
The amphora is the latest in a series of artifacts recovered from the ship since its 1992 discovery off the coast of Sicily, about 16 miles north of Trapani.
Values on the Vine is published on the last Wednesday of each month. To submit a Wildcard recommendation, email skendrick@ starbulletin.com or call Stephanie Kendrick at 525-8667.
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