Woop Woop it up
Warm up winter with reds
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
“The best part of winter is that you can keep your beer cold on the widow ledge.”
This trivet of wisdom has been spoken by many a college student. But now, during the discontent of winter, is the time for spicy southern wines and vibrant Mediterranean reds. Isn’t that the beauty of wine? That I can taste the warm plains of Mendoza, the trade wind-scented breezes of Western Australia, the ocean spray of the Cape of Good Hope? In wine, like sex, the most important organ is the brain.
Try this at home. Put a bottle of Woop Woop McLaren Vale Shiraz in a brown paper bag. Open it and let your wine friends taste it. This is called a blind tasting. Ask them to describe the flavor and nuances. I can almost guarantee that none of them will be able to guess it’s a Shiraz, let alone an Australian Shiraz. I can’t.
Now serve the wine without the bag. Ask the same questions. This time the answers will be more romantic. The description will include at least one allusion to eucalyptus. This is the mental power of the label, and the more exotic the vineyard location, the more emotions the wine will uncover. This will engage the wine drinker’s whole experience with Australian wines. It will bring up terms like “spicy and sunny.” Red clay may get a mention, too.
But isn’t that why we drink wine? Isn’t that why we pick up delicious Chianti at Hannaford? Because the location of the vineyard packs a strong psychological punch? Because on a cold New England night we can sip a Vacqueyras and feel the heat rising from the ancient stony vineyard soil 3,700 miles away?
Woop Woop is an Australian slang that’s the equivalent of Podunk.
And the emotions and feelings a wine will bring up are related to the quality. Dave once served two Long Island wines. An atrocious Seyval Blanc, acidy, herbaceous with an unpleasant sugary aftertaste. Then he served a Shinn Estate Vineyards Cabernet Franc ($34.50). The Seyval Blanc brought out disparaging Long Island comments. The Cabernet Franc elicited comments about Gatsby and the Hamptons. A perfect example of the mental and emotional power of wine. And I’ll forever be grateful to Dave for turning me on to the beauty of North American Cabernet Franc.
Here are the wines I enjoyed over the holidays.
• 1999 Chambolle-Musigny from Rene De Lacray — $19.99. It was soft with a touch of slate and Concord grape fruit. I preferred the Aloxe-Corton from the same producer.
• My Captain Ahab-like obsession with the “great white Burgundy” ended with 2002 Louis Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. ($125) The wine was overpriced and presented “a swampy nose,” according to Squiggy. I like the watercress and the lack of oak, but the wine would have underwhelmed me even at $45 a bottle. Goodbye Great Whites.
• 2005 Louis Jadot Savigny-Les- Beaune “La Dominode — $43.99. “La Dominode” denotes a special vineyard area in the southernmost end of the appellation. Dried strawberry, a touch of Smith Brother’s Cherry Eucalyptus Cough Drops and au jus with a baked crabapple. This was one of the better reds I’ve had in a few months.
• 2004 Schramsberg Brut Rose Sparkling Wine — $33.99. Too tight, too closed and too astringent. The money would have been better toward a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Rosé ($45.99).
• 2005 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin — $46.99. A wonderful Burgundy with cherry, elderberry, a touch of cassis and a faint, faint hit of cherry cola on the finish.
• Martini & Rossi Asti DOCG — $13.99. Way too sweet for most champer fans, but this would be great with liver/foie gras. Too overpowering for chocolate (it makes it bitter), but it really works with orange and vanilla. Adam bought this to toast the Dallas Cowboys’ victory, and when that didn’t work out he thought of New Year’s Eve, but he left it home, so we finally opened it after the last fumble and turnover by the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.
• 2004 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — $23.99 I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but Christine said it reaffirmed her snobbery toward Californian wines. Elderberry, leather and a touch of caramel in the finish. I could drink this every day, although the price has stealthily climbed past the $7.99 price it was when I started buying it in 1993.
• 1998 Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Vintage Champagne — $69.99. Pulled the cork at 12:12 a.m. Jan. 1, 2009. It was delicious with lemon and zwieback biscuit tones. Creamy and malty. But it had this musty, old wet basement nose. I suspected it was corked or on its way to being corked ( contaminated with 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole). However the juice was delicious, even with the musty age smell. Was it or wasn’t it? I haven’t thought this much about corking since they caught Sammy Sosa with his doctored baseball bat.
• 2008 George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau — $11.99. Strawberry and pot roast flavors. Had tasted this at an office Christmas party lunch and went out and bought another bottle. The best pop culture wine I’ve tried in a while.