What’s in My Glass
“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”
With weather as changeable as we’ve had here in Maine, it’s hard to know what you’ll want to eat or drink one day to the next. We may be grilling that lamb under a hot sun one day and huddling around the fire inside the next with an Irish stew on the stove. This list provides for both extremes, with a bias towards warm weather wines. When the sun does come out, chances are you’ll likely be thinking more on the lighter side, and not just roses and whites but even reds lighter in body, color, and alcohol. This is also a time of year to throw orthodoxy to the winds and to discover not only new wines, but new ways of drinking them.
A few notes: on chardonnays: these days, one finds in general three styles of this much-abused white grape on the market—the sweetish, oaky Californians, the bone dry, mineraly Chablis and white Bordeaux, and then those from New Zealand and Australia which can remind you of a tropical fruit drink rather than a wine. The Californians have gone so far that now the counterrevolution is here, seen in those bottles proudly proclaiming “Unoaked” right on the front label. Do try them, particularly alongside their French cousins, to get a taste of what this wine might have tasted like in your grandfather’s time.
On rosés: because these are usually delicate creatures, always buy them young, not more than two years old at most. You can tell when a rose has been either poorly made or poorly stored (or is just too old) because it will have a slight orange tinge to it, signaling that it has become oxidized and is already falling apart. Also, roses should not be heavy in alcohol, 13° a rarity, and usually from very hot regions like the Rhone.
2004 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay
13° alc. A good introduction to the more austere, drier French style, from a reliable producer at a reasonable price. $11.
2004 Lalande Chardonnnay, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne
12° alc. This unoaked southwestern French chard runs a middle ground between two extremes, lots of fruit but with a dry finish and a complexity lending itself to many simpler summer fish and chicken dishes. $11.
2005 Casal Garcia Vinho Verde “Branco”
9.5°-10.5° alc. Vinho Verde is slightly effervescent, very light on the tongue and palate, a Portuguese sipping wine to which you can add a slice of lemon or lime, dilute with fruit juice, even drink very cold over ice. It’s a good aperitif, but too light to stand up to most food except, perhaps, fruit soups or desserts. $5-$6.
2005 La Ferme St. Pierre, Cotes de Ventoux Cuvee Juliette.
Crisp and light and with nothing of sweet fruit about it, this is perfect for fish and shellfish with citrus and other uncomplicated seasonings, $11.
2004 Muga Rose from Rioja in Spain
13.5° alc. A heavier, balanced, and very well made wine with enough character to stand up to spicy meat and fish or grilled sardines with mustard sauce. $12.
2004 Chateau d’Aqueria Rosé
13.5° alc. From Tavel, just west of the southern Rhone’s Chateauneuf-du-Papes and made from the same grapes (mostly Grenache, with mourvedre, cinsault, and carignan in smaller proportions), this is a wine for nobler dishes, seared tuna or swordfish, lamb chops, lobster. Compare this to the St. Pierre to see what complexity in a rose can be, here an intensity of flavors which linger in the mouth and none of which screams out “Strawberry!” or “Melon!”. $15.
2004 La Vieille Ferme Cotes de Ventoux,
13.5° alc. Made of Rhone grapes (mostly Grenache and syrah), this is great for grilled meats, especially those with rubs and marinades of strong flavors like garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano. $9-$11.
2003 Chateau le Cedre Heritage, Cahors AOC
13.5° alc. Nearly three-quarters malbec (with some merlot and tannat), Le Cedre is consistently one of the finer examples of a grape most of us know better in its South American identity. Here you find a big wine, but not a fruit bomb all flash and no finish. Instead, it evolves in the glass and over the palate, red fruits and plum, yes, but with a very pleasing earthier side, too, that makes it a perfect companion for duck, red meat, and very strongly flavored dishes. $14.
10 Year Old Mas Amiel Maury, AOC, Roussillon
?° alc. There are very few dessert wines that marry well with chocolate, and even fewer are red. This is both, unusual in its means of production – left in glass containers under the hot Mediterranean sun for a year then finished in oak to give it an almost port-like edge of burnt caramel and an intensity to match. $20.