April 19, 2007

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Got milk?

More ‘Mas’
An alphabetical hunt for wines
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me “I had a great wine last night!” I’d be rich.

But who wants all those dollar bills? If you try to pay for something big with singles people look at you like you’re an exotic dancer. And if there’s any line at the checkout counter forget it. People get testy.

Last week I was buying some white tube socks and underwear and it came to around $17 and I whipped out a fistful of singles. It held up the line. I overheard one guy whisper to his girlfriend, “He looks too old for a paper route.”

There were more exasperated looks as the checkout person unfolded the crumpled bills, turned them all the same way and counted and recounted. Finally she handed me my change, one shiny new penny. Which disgusted most of my line mates as I took even more time to wait for my change.

No, instead of those dollars I’d rather have $5 for every time I had a dialogue like this:

“I had the best wine last night!”

“What was it?” I ask. This opens the door for some standard replies.

The ex-hippie: “Oh wow, man, what was the name of that?”

The college student: “I dunno. It was our third bottle and we were fixing our FaceBook profile.”

The housewife: “I can’t remember, the kids filled the empty bottle with grape juice and had a pretend art opening.”

And the CIA type: “If I tell you, I have to kill you.”

I mention this because I had my own forgetful moment with wine this week. And it was unusual because I had a second bottle of the same thing later in the week — Something I rarely do, as my credo is “Try to Drink as Many Different Wines as Possible.”

Without notes or the bottle I tried to remember the name. I can remember many little snips of trivia. Phone numbers, bank accounts, people’s children’s names, birthdays, train schedules and my library card number because I have to use it online. Sometimes I use mnemonic tricks like for my parents’ phone number. Dad worked in the aircraft industry so his phone number, 767-1707, gets the mnemonic of Boeing, because they made the 707 and 767.

All I could remember of this wine was the word “Mas,” which got the mnemonic of Roberto Duran for his famous mid-bout utterance, “No Mas!” during the 1980 Sugar Ray Leonard middle weight match up.

So I typed “Mas” into the New Hampshire Liquor Commission Web site. It didn’t help me find my wine, but it brought up a huge list of wines with the word “Mas” in the name.

And like that turn-of-the-century (not last one but the one before) farmer making his wish list from the Sears Roebuck catalogue, I turned it into a wish list.

Am I on to something? Would it be possible to explore wine alphabetically? Say, start with the Portuguese alvarinho grape and work your way the Austrian zweigelt?

I had a seventh grade teacher who used to do roll call different every day. Start with Z and work to A. Start with L and work backward to A and then jump to Z and end with M.

He knew that Amy Adams sometimes got sick of being first and Gary Zaccor hate being at the end. So I start my wine-abet with Mas.

Five wines from Mas Champart in St. Chinian. St. Chinian is in southern France between Marseille and the Spanish border. It’s sunny and warm and the soil is stony and yellow. Bold spicy wines are the hallmark of the region, using syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault and carignan grapes. The food they complement is Mediterranean. They taste of the hot afternoon sun.

• Mas Champart Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc ($20.99) made from Grenache and white roussanne grapes.
• Mas Champart St Chinain Causse Bousquet ($20.99) from a vineyard set on a limestone hill. It’s syrah (65 percent), grenache (20%), and mourvèdre (15 percent).
• Mas Champart St Chinian Clos Simonette ($27.99). Big, inky and dark with heavy fruit and good tannin.
• Mas Champart also make a rosé for $14 and a slightly sweet white blend for $16.

Two wines from a little family-owned winery called Mas de Daumas Gassac. The Web site has a picture of winemaker Grandpa and his big, beautiful, rollicking family. Makes you want to drop in for Sunday dinner and catch up on all the gossip.

Their white wine, Mas de Daumas Gassac Vin De Pays L’Herault Blanc ($15.99), has 18 different grape varieties in it, although the four main ones make up 90 percent.

Their red Mas de Daumas Gassac Vin De Pays L’Herault Rouge ($15.99) is a cabernet-based blend, which is rare in Southern France.

• Mas de L’Abundancia Monstant ($39.99) A big blockbuster from the Monsant region of Spain. A little tannic, but will age well and soften.
• And Mas de Guiot ($9.99) a cabernet-based steal from another southern French producer. This wine was big, but very food-friendly.


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