March 29, 2007

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Got milk?

Uneasy glass of spring
Seeking a wine for our not-yet-warm weather
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

There comes a time every winter when I long for spring.

For flowers and red-budded maples. For green grass and snowless sidewalks.

On that first spring day when the woods seem light beige with the bright yellow sun, you get out and rake your yard. Then at 5 p.m. you sit down on the patio and in the slowly chilling air, not cold enough to send you back inside but crisp enough to keep you from sweating, you sip your first spring white. Usually, it’s a pinot grigio or a chablis or a sauvignon blanc which mirrors the weather ever so slightly. Crisp, chilly with lots of understated green and common beige. And the next day winter comes back and all the flowers are drowned in snow and you drag that winter log back to the hearth.

Springtime in New England. Two steps forward, one step back. The timeless rhythm.

Since this time of year you can’t be sure whether you’ll be having a heavy winter stew or a delicate dandelion green salad, it’s best to stock both red and white wines. Then if a nor’easter howls or if you get a perfect spring day, you’ll be safe. And sometimes you throw caution to the wind and say, “It’s 28 degrees outside, but I’m sipping a refreshingly crisp summer-weight wine.”

Last Saturday I headed to New York for the annual spring rollout from my favorite importer. They’re from Miami and they have a springtime attitude year round. Yes, they get hurricanes, but not as often as we get drenched by the snowplow-driven slush on Bridge Street.

This year I made it to the end of my block. My plan was to catch the bus to the train station and head into Manhattan. But the gales of winter were blowing sleet into my face ,stinging it red and reminding me of the time we stole Ole Man Cases’ apples and got peppered with rock salt. It was a different time back then and one could fire a shotgun at teenagers with impunity, as long as it was loaded with rock salt. So I went home. No 10:57 a.m. Bloody Mary in the bar car. No elegant tapas served by surly wait people whose last wish is to smear that gallo pinto right in your face.

Instead I got into my car and drove to the wine shop. I was determined to find a great bottle. Something great, like I would have tasted at the expo. Something springy and seasonal like a pair of white sandals. I almost bought a cheap Bourgogne. An inexpensive pinot noir, from France.

“Will I like this?” I asked the clerk.

“I liked it,” he said. “It was light and fruity and flavorful.”

“Is it as good as this Volnay?”

“Of course not! The Bourgogne lacks the finesse and structure. It’s only eight dollars and the Volnay … well, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

So like that naïve, hungry young trout on opening day or old hungry big mouth bass that’s gotten sloppy under that winter ice (this time of year I can’t decide on spring or winter analogies) I was hooked. I bought the Volnay out of spite. I snatched up a Pouilly- Fuisse with wanton abandon. I grabbed a Chateauneuf-du-Pape with greed. And I learned the answer. There’s as much bad wine that’s expensive as there is cheap wine that’s bad. Only the more expensive wines seem, well, less bad.

Louis Jadot 2004 Pouilly Fuisse ($19.99) Somewhat watery with faint asparagus flavors and a whisper of tart apple. This one I would drink again, but I wouldn’t buy it or cellar it. Nice for a spring hike halfway up Monadnock, because while this wine deserves to get out, it’s not worth lugging up the whole mountain.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape ($42.99) A tough chateauneuf du pape, which, while it has the pedigree, chose the dark side much like John Wilkes Booth or the Menendez brothers. Old cedar, stale tobacco smoke and oxidized chocolate flavors make this approachable. Definitely not a Bedford Village Inn wine. More like something you’d take to a BYOB joint, but only when most of your friends were in Bermuda on spring break.

Louis Jadot Volnay 1996 1st Cru “Clos de la Barre” ($47.59) This wine reminds me of one of those old fading resorts in the mountains. Looks great from a distance but up close it’s musty, the paint’s peeling and the drapes are tattered. But it’s a true example of a bad, expensive wine that seems less bad. The fruit was faded and tannic. It had long ago given up any pretense of sweetness. The wine had layers, but like that fussy aunt, the layers are for the most part unpleasant.

2003 Stag’s Leap 2002 Merlot ($29.99) A fun wine with complexity and fruit, flavor and structure. The best of this week’s tasting but still only a “B” grade wine. Cinnamon, dry leather, grape and raisin fruit and a backbone that wears its gown loosely but attractively. Would buy this one again but only on sale and not in a restaurant because of the price.

Domaine Vincent Sangouard 2003 Saint-Veran “Les Trois Bouquet” ($11.99) And a child shall lead them. This was a kicky little white that had fruit, flavor, a small amount of structure with a crisp finish and a honeysuckle and caramel bouquet. Would buy again.

Chateau Saintongey 2005 Bordeaux ($7.99) Dry, dry, dry and tannic with structure and a bit of a fruit explosion after the first sip. It was nice and simplistic with plum and currant fruit and a healthy dose of grassy, tobacco overtones.


3/22/2007 Chateau de blech

3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
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, doesn’t 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
Gin
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
Mondovino
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
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — 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
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce