Thursday, August 7, 2008


It's August and I'm tired of scrawny, sour white wines being canonized as "refreshing", "light", "crisp", "pure", etc. by sniveling Parker-bashers who hate America(n wines) on principle and think oak is a four-letter word.

Deep breath.

Spain is responsible for lots of these insipid enamel solvents, with Italy and Portugal trailing at spitting distance. These countries also make some good or great whites (Spain and Italy at least--that anyone seriously enjoys Vinho Verde blows my mind), but if the distribution in stores and on wine lists is to be believed, they trade primarily in nasty juice. Even Alice Feiring, an enemy of the state on multiple levels, recently called out Albarino for being a waste of yeast.

I wasn't drinking when the buttery, low-acid, pineapple-and-cream style of New World Chardonnay was at its apogee and I imagine it got pretty frustrating, as did the gauche attempts to beef up Sauvignon Blanc with barriques. But as is the wont of backlashes, the "ABC" movement outlasted its usefulness.

Not every white has to be thick and rich, but it seems that being the opposite is an automatic virtue nowadays--especially once May rolls around and columnists herald the arrival of Summer Wine Season, when locusts play Chopin and everyone with a dribble of taste is epoxied to their deck (because they all have decks) quaffing buoyant goblets of helium-light grapeade.

Look, just because the trees have leaves doesn't mean that indulgent Chardonnays, Viogniers, and reds have to be in hibernation until Election Day. (Likewise, woe unto anyone who's never slurped a snow-chilled bottle of Gavi fireside with Pecorino and almonds.) Using summer as a selling point for horrid wine shouldn't be as easy as it apparently is. When the mercury surges, there is no shortage of beers and cocktails that do a much more flavorful and heartburn-free job of cooling the soul than (virtually) any $8 Muscadet or white Rioja Crianza.

Or just try this: drink 2-4 generous glasses of Albarino, Txakoli, Pinot Grigio, Fiano di Avellino, or whatever else the cognoscenti are touting as this year's "perfect summer refresher". Pass out, then wake up and chew a big handful of Tostitos. While the nerves under your molars re-enact Marathon Man, ponder whether or not the romantic ideal of summer is really Hondarrabi grapes trembling as they await their destiny beneath a leathery Basque foot.

Recent notables:
  • Trimbach Riesling "Cuvee Frederic Emile" 2002 - Fermented bone-dry to 12.5%, this silky, massive-bodied wookie from Alsace is starting to deepen in color to a dark gold and develop tantalizing rubber and petrol aromas. A snap of acidity without sugar to balance makes pairing this with typical Riesling foils tricky, but oh man is it worth it.
  • Chateau Brisson 2005 - Against my contrarian will, I'm getting very excited about BDX '05, particularly since stunners like this are available for under $20. Amazing grip and typical but ultra-pure and delicious cassis, cedar, and mineral notes.
  • Guitian Godello "Sobre Lias" 2006 - Sweet stone fruit perfume continues on the palate as peach, lemon, and cinnamon(?) flavors. Good structure and just a suggestion of tannin. Great Spanish white.
  • Rustenberg "John X. Merriman" 2005 - A curious South African Bordeaux-5 blend lent exceptional gravitas by 13% divided amongst Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and Malbec. A year or two might soften some rough edges, but there's good stuff here now.
  • Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition NV - Arrestingly deep brass color forecasts the full, nutty body. A pleasant sour raspberry flavor (likely from the 75% Pinot Noir) duets (duels?) with yeast notes aplenty. Substantial.

Ed. Note 8/13: Eric Asimov is a fine columnist and an even better blogger. But his 8/13 column: ugh!

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