November 2, 2006


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Got milk?

The geography of grapes
Looking for the next hot terroir
By Tim Protzman†

Do you ever feel you were born too late? Or too early?

I would have made a great apprentice cabinet maker, if only I had entered the world in 1684. Yeah, Iíd be long gone now, but my stuff would still show up on Antiques Roadshow. Or if Iíd been a son of baby boomers instead of a boomer. Then Iíd have had a chance to win one of those geographic contests similar to a spelling bee. My sonís friend reaped a bundle of prize dollars by knowing stuff like ďhow many states end with the letter A?Ē They didnít have that stuff when I was in school. But Iím pretty sure I would have won.

Iíve always been good with maps. Maybe itís because Iíve lived in more than 20 places or because Iíve traveled extensively. I have this knack for almost never getting lost. I know where west is at all times.

And it helps with wine too. Almost as important as the wine bottle label is a good map that shows where the grapes were grown.

Jumilla is the newest rage in wine. Itís warm and dry and known for its intense reds. Lately, Iíve had some really good wine at decent prices from Jumilla. But looking at a map it seems nothing special. In fact it looks like a bit of a backwater on the road from Madrid to Cartagena. But the soil and climate are similar to those of Californiaís central coast region, like the Santa Cruz Mountains or the Paso Robles, where the ocean is close enough to create microclimates with cool night and warm days, low moisture and a long growing season.

2004 Juan Gil ($14.99) is an outstanding wine made from 100 percent Monastrell grapes.

Monastrell is known as Mourvedre on the French side of the border, where itís primarily a blending grape in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc & Roussillon. I was initially a little suspicious of wines made from what I consider supporting actor grapes, but the power and finesse of Malbecís from Argentina put me in the mindset to try.

I wasnít disappointed. This wine had absolutely no tannins present on first sip. The finish had a definite structure with dry, youthful tannins that would become striated and moderate with age. There were cherries, plums, oak, chocolate and a faint flavor of tobacco. This wine comes out once a year in the fall and is usually gone by February.

While not worthy of Cru or Cult Cab status this wine was one of the best semi-special occasion wines I tasted this year.

Even with my newfound respect for the ďless than noble grape varietiesĒ it was hard for me to spend $17.99 for a wine made from 100 percent Petit Verdot. But the 2003 Casa De La Ermita was worth the suspense. It was dense with a tiny touch of sweetness and a big fruit flavor that was girdled by a very rigorous tannic border that gave the wine edge, but not too much. These two wines show that medium-sized, family-owned bodegas can put out a dynamite product and avoid the temptation of succumbing to the Spanish Wine Rush that so many other smaller producers are cashing in on by slapping a cutesy label on a bad wine and shipping it to the United States.

If youíve ever turned on the TV or rented a movie you know just how much stuff you donít want to watch is out there. And lately Iíve felt same way about wine. There really is a dearth of mediocre everyday wines. And sometimes itís disheartening to slog your way through the wine trenches. But every now and again, as in the cases of the Juan Gil and Casa De La Ermita, it pays off.

This week I went out on a limb and tried an inexpensive Italian table wine that a store clerk recommended. And even though he nearly queered the deal by saying, ďOpen it an hour before you serve it.Ē I threw caution to the wind and snapped the sucker up.

It was a Rosso Piceno Superiore. This is a type of wine from Italyís Marches region. Again the sea, this time the Adriatic, moderates the climate. The grapes are typical Italian, though, using those time-honored stars, Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

The 2003 Rosso Piceno Superiore Vigna Monteprandone is produced by Saladini Pilastri wines located in the town of Spinetoli in the region of Marches known Ascoli Piceno. Itís 70 percent Montepulciano, 30 percent Sangiovese. It had the fragrance of violets and the taste of fine leather, cognac and elderberries. It was perfect with pizza and salad and the $8.99 price made it not just good, but great.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

10/26/2006 Please continue to hold

10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesnít sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olť! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends ó really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
Whiteís OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wineíll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce

Just because itís healthy doesnít make it a bad mixer