July 6, 2006

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Got milk?

Scoring goals with booze
You can celebrate soccer with the right beverage
By Tim Protzman†tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Iím going out on limb here and saying that, due to World Cup play, the wines of the 2006 vintage will be a little neglected. Iím not talking about the Southern hemisphere wines of 2006 ó theyíre already in the cask ó but about Europe where three top wine-producing countries are already in the quarterfinals. Germany, Italy, Portugal and either Spain or France, who are playing as I write (1-to-1 tie in the second half). This has got to be distracting to the vineyard workers. Instead of pruning and removing leaves Iím thinking many of the workers will head into the cool cellar and listen on their iPods. Perhaps their wine-making passion will be diminished a little and theyíll say things like, ďMon Dieu, theyíre just grapes, we donít have to watch over them every minute. Footballís on.Ē

And who blames them? World Cup happens once every four years and once you know the rules itís fun to watch. Itís extra fun for me because most of the countries are wine countries. Sometimes I pick up a bottle for each team and take a swig when that team scores a goal. Iím looking forward to the Argentina vs. Germany match-up. And this time Iíll be rooting for Argentina. The last time I was cheering on Mexico, but Argentina won. I couldnít find any Mexican wine. Here in the Northeast itís available at selected wine shops and Mexican restaurants and even then only sporadically. So I sampled five Mexican beers:

Tecate: Similar to Anheuser Busch products with a malty finish and a tad of bitterness.

Dos Equis: Smooth with less bitterness but still a bit monotonous at the bottom of the bottle.

Negra Modelo: Didnít like this one, had a rustic sourness to it.

Corona: Nice commercials and the beer is good. Corona is owned by Modelo and it has a mass-produced character and flavor.

Pacifico: Better than its brothers Negra Modelo and Corona. Had a sizzle-ly feel on the tongue and a sharp, clean, refreshing finish with spice, hops and lemon hints.

I had to change the rules and take a sip whenever Mexico missed a goal. And even though the Argentines won, the wine I sampled when they scored a goal was flawed.

It was a malbec, the great red hope of Argentina. It was one of the most interesting wines Iíve tried this year. Hugely perfumey. Scented with vanilla and cinnamon. Cherry hints wafted through my sinuses. The first sip was like a lion roaring outside my tent. Richly deep with cassis, grape, watermelon and cherry fruit. An impossibly tannic finish. This wine showed me everything Argentina has. The promise, the skill and the disappointment. (France just scored their 2nd goal and the yellowcards as flying out.) This malbec by Elsa Bianchi from Mendoza, Argentina, had all the right stuff. A pedigreed, knowledgeable winemaker. Great climate and soil. Nice price, $8.99. But it just didnít make the quarterfinals. Maybe there was a soccer match during the blending phase or maybe the Argentines wanted to make a nice approachable wine that would do well in the US market. But I wanted more. This wine had all the components: taste, aroma, structure and most of all an exotically different flavor. But after its amazing run down the field it doesnít even take a shot on the goal. It just turns tannic with a cottony alcoholic after flavor. I would have gladly paid double ($17.99) if it had lived up to its initial promise. But wine is a lot like soccer. You pay big money to see Manchester United (the Yankees of soccer) play and they get beat by the Glasgow Rangers. In wine that would mean your $47 dollar bottle of St-Estephe tasted weak, watery and wane next to a spicy jug of Torbreck Woodcutterís Red Shiraz from Australiaís Barossa Valley ($16.99). But stranger things have happened. Thatís why the Chicago White Sox won the World Series.

So on Friday night Iíll be watching the replay of the game on Univision and sipping a JJ Prum 2004 Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett, a fresh zippy little riesling from Germany, as the German team goes up against Argentina. And Iíll give another malbec a try. But Iíll spend a bit more and find one that finishes the equation and layers the fruit, the structure and the finish just right. France just beat Spain 1-3 so I wonít be drinking anything from Penedes this World Cup. And I donít have to spring for a big Rhone wine with syrah and Grenache or a sharp-angled Bordeaux. For France Iíll have a light little Beaujolais and have just one or two sips, because theyíre playing soccer powerhouse Brazil, who won the 2002 World Cup, and the French will probably lose. Oh well, at least theyíll pay more attention to their vineyards.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at tprotzman@sbcglobal.net.


Comments?†Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com


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