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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sign of the times.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 5:51 PM

click to enlarge Sign of the times

When it rains it pours. And when it dries’s a drought.. The US is in a recession. Something big is happening, or is NOT happening and Congress just voted down a bill that no one understands but that felt a lot like the rich stayed rich and the taxpayer suffered the burden. The Fed is, quite literally, printing money to get us out of this mess and is throwing hundreds of billions of dollars into emergency lending programs and foreign central banks. Whew. What a mess.

Handy, then, that on Wednesday I picked up a book in the wine department of Whole Foods on Magazine Street called The Wine Trials by Robin Goldstein. It is an interesting book before you even get into the 100 wines under $15 that, in blind tastings of over 500 people, outscored $50 to $150 bottles.

On Thursday the New York Times Dining Section wine writer, Eric Asimov’s weekly article was entitled “Modest Luxuries for Lean Times” in which he recommended 10 French wines available for under $20.


Friday morning, Wine Spectator Magazine arrived with the word “VALUES” splayed across the front of the magazine and inside showcased more than 200 recommended European wines available for $15 or less.

Now if two is a coincidence and three is a trend, I am pretty sure I have spotted something here. A $5,000 bottle of Screaming Eagle and ordering wine by the right side of the menu is passé. To be really hip – you need to be drinking good, solid inexpensive wines.   What follows are four of those wines. These wines are generally easy to find and  if your local wine store does not carry them, ask them to order them for you.   I have added food-pairing advice…because even in the leanest of times, this IS New Orleans!


click to enlarge Yalumba Y Series Viognier
Yalumba Y Series Viognier (2006 or 2007). $11 Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned vineyard. They produce really nice Shiraz wines at $100 and more. They also produce lovely less expensive whites including an unwooded chardonnay (helpfully called “Yalumba Y Series Unwooded Chardonnay) and this Viognier. This one is a bit lighter and fresher than some Viognier and it makes a nice alternative if you want to try something other than Chardonnay. This particular wine is full of tropical fruit aromas and flavors and would pair nicely with spicy Asian foods, especially a coconut Thai curry.

Parducci Sustainable White (2007) $11 Get tipsy and feel good before you even start drinking. Parducci sustainable White comes from the Mendocino Wine Company and ranked #1 of 50 in the category of New World whites under $15 in The Wine Trials. The wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Tokai and Viognier grapes and is bright and crisp with aromas of peach and melon. It is also available exclusively thru Whole Foods until December of 2008. (sorry, no picture)


click to enlarge Red Truck Petite Sirah
Red Truck Petite Sirah California $11

Petite Sirah is not the same thing as Shiraz (or Syrah) though it is a cousin with its lineage deep in the Rhone Valley of France. This is a lovely complex wine full of dark cherries, chocolate, black pepper, spice and deep lush black fruits. This is a great wine to get friendly with as the temperature starts to drop (any day now, right?) It will pair with wintry beef stews, sausages or grilled leg of lamb. If you need further persuasion, Red Truck is made with organic grapes, certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers.

click to enlarge Marques de Caceres Rioja
Marqués Cáceres Rioja Crianza 2004 $14

Rioja (pronounced Ree-O-ha or Ree-O-kah) is technically a wine region in Spain that includes three sub-regions (Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa) and produces red, white and rose wines. They are generally aged in oak with the higher end wines spending more time in oak than the less expensive, more accessible wines. The main grape you will find there is Tempranillo but will frequently be blended with Garnacha (aka Grenache) and the lesser known Graciano.  MdC Rioja is a great, inexpensive Spanish wine that pairs incredibly well with foods from the region as well as other hearty, meaty foods. This could also pair well with Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie or a rich Crawfish Etouffee. Your best bet is to open it, pour it into wine glasses and give it a while to air out before drinking. If you do this, you’ll be well rewarded with a wine that is fresh and smooth with ripe red fruits, spices, tobacco and vanilla.  If you drink it right away, you may be less impressed.

Finally, an anecdote: We rented a house in Pensacola this weekend (another sign of the times, we waited until mid September to take advantage of less expensive rentals) and friends opened a bottle of wine to enjoy as the afternoon melted away.   I walked out late to four recently filled glasses and a few crooked smiles. What’s going on, I asked?  Our friend beamed, “This wine cost $4!”



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