We’ve been a way for a few years, but are planning to return this summer with a new lineup of features and reviews. Our next feature will focus on late summer and sauvignon blanc.
It was a Saturday morning and we we’re settling in to watch a favorite film on Turner Classic Movies. Before it started, however, we were caught by a commercial for the channel’s own wine club. We looked at each other with some skepticism, but as one of the channel’s hosts interviewed a certified Master of Wine about the club and its selections, we became more intrigued. They talked about wines selected for pairing with specific TCM films, for example, a Francis Ford Coppola’s Café Zoetrop Merlot 2014 was suggested for the director’s 1972 classic, “The Godfather.” Yes, a marketing gimmick for sure. But somehow we fell for it. And after having snubbed a good number of similar wine club offerings, we took the leap and joined.
What was intriguing as well was the introductory price $79.99 for 15 bottles of wine. Was this for real? We went online, joined the club, and waited. The wines arrived in short order. What impressed us from the start was how well they were packaged, a thick cardboard box with stiff corrugated dividers. Included as well was a package of tasting notes printed on 2-hole 6” x 5” glossy stock. (A binder for the notes is promised with the next shipment.) So far, so good, I thought.
Over the next couple of months we went through the case and I have to say that all of the wines were quite good and there were definitely some standouts. Below are my reviews of the three wines that impressed me the most.
Cafe Zoetrope Merlot 2014
Le Champ des Etoiles Pinot Noir 2014
A typical Pinot Noir from the Coteaux du Languedoc in the southwest of France, this wine has an alluring berry aroma. On the palate, it’s crisp with good acidity and delivers restrained fruit flavors followed by a good finish. Perfect with grilled lamb chops or salmon.
Principe Strozzi Selvascura 2013
Our favorite from the case, this classic Super Tuscan is a perfectly balanced blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and Merlot from Tuscany’s Maremma region. The wine’s fantasy name, Selvasucra, alludes to the “dark forest” in the opening line’s of Dante’s Divina Commedia. Beautiful violet aromas are followed by rich woodland fruit flavors supported by soft tannins and good acidity. The finish is long and lingering. This wine is crafted by one of Italy’s leading winemaker’s Franco Bernabei.
We were recently notified that our next shipment is due by the end of January. Based on the quality of the first, we are anxiously awaiting it.
This year I decided we’ll have red wine with our Thanksgiving dinner. In the past, I’ve usually opted for whites and, indeed, have recommended them unabashedly to our friends. And if you absolutely need to have whites or if you or any of your guests positively eschew reds (you know those red-wine induced headaches), indulge yourself. Go for a good Riesling or a Pinot Blanc from Alsace, maybe even a more fruity white from the Loire. Or why not just open that bottle of Champagne you’ve been saving for a special occasion. After all, it is Thanksgiving. Just make sure that the whites you choose have enough flavor and acidity to stand up to the food. But for me this year, it’s RED.
I’m opting for red wine this year because I’ve realized that we’re eating more than just turkey. There’s the stuffing with sausage, and herbs, and nuts, and maybe even fruit. (Ms. Stewart has been pushing those dried cherries for years.) There’s the gravy. There’s the sweet yams and sometimes even candied sweet potatoes, and of course, we can’t forget the Brussels sprouts. And what if there’s wine’s most difficult culinary foe: the artichoke? It makes almost any wine bitter.
Now perhaps you see why choosing a red that goes with Thanksgiving dinner takes some thought. First off, we want a wine that will work well with both the dark and the white meat, one that will support the former yet not overwhelm the latter. We also want a wine that will fit in with all those flavorful trimmings. Consequently, it should have sufficient body (alcoholic strength) to stand up to the meal’s many flavors, but not be so full bodied that it declares victory over the palate. It should have adequate fruit so that it complements the meat as well as the side dishes, but not be too fruity or sweet so that any sides like green vegetables taste relatively bitter (or that you think Aunt Betty’s cranberry sauce found its way into the your wine glass). Moreover, it should have mild tannins to support the wine’s fruit and sufficient acidity to cut through the fats. Finally, it should be so well structured that as its flavors linger on the palate, perhaps with a hint of spice, you give thanks for the winemaker.
Although finding an appropriate red wine for this holiday meal may sound like a mission impossible, it really isn’t. It’s just a matter of some time and thought—a small effort compared to what you’re probably already doing to make your guests feel welcome and comfortable around your table.
For this tasting, we selected eight wines and tasted them all, in increasing order of alcoholic strength, first without any food and then again with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green beans.
Eighteen years ago this month, TableWine posted its inaugural feature, Perfect Wines for Pizza. We chose the topic because pizza seemed to epitomize everyday fare and we wanted to make it clear, from the outset, that our focus would be on affordable wines for everyday drinking. We published quite successfully until 2003, at which point I began working in the wine industry and thought it best to give up the site to avoid any conflicts of interest. After retiring last July, however, I thought it was time to bring TableWine back as a blog.
Back then in ’96, it seemed that most wine websites and newsgroups were targeting the connoisseur or the oenophile. Readers exchanged views and tasting notes on old Bordeaux and Burgundy or regaled one another about their latest coups in securing 90-point California Cabernets. But, I thought, how many people (even those who can afford them) actually drink First Growths or Grand Crus on a daily basis? Far more, I was sure, sit down to a weekday meal with a bottle that was on special at their favorite wine store, or with a glass of their own house red or white that they pick up every week at the supermarket. That’s our audience, I thought, and so began TableWine.com and focused on wines that were $20 or under.
But before I wax overly nostalgic, let’s turn to the subject of this month’s feature: pizza wines. A good bottle can pick up even the most mundane pie. Choosing a wine for pizza can depend a lot on what you like about this Italian staple. If you’re a crust fancier, you’ll want a wine that tones down the sauce and toppings and brings out the baked flavor of the crust. If you’re a toppings nibbler (we’ll limit our discussion to cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms—no gourmet fare), select a wine with enough acidity to stand up to the sauce and just enough flavor to complement your topping. But if, like many of us, you think the whole pizza is greater than the sum of its parts, you want a wine that will counterpoint the blend of bread, tomato, and topping.
For this tasting, we visited a couple of local wine stores and chose wines that have a wide distribution and that we thought would go well with pizza.
The pizzas were from a local pizzeria; no gourmet specialty fare, just three large pies, one with cheese, one with mushrooms, and one with pepperoni.
As is our custom, we first tasted the wines on their own without any food and then with the food. The wines are listed in the order in which they were tasted, which was determined by their alcohol level.
Please suggest your favorite wines for pizzas as comments to this post.
|N.V Lini 910 “In Correggio” Lambrusco Scuro, Emilia $17.99
Deep purple in color, this frizzante dry Lambrusco has an earthy nose, with berry and black-fruit notes. Medium-bodied, it’s packed with blackberry flavors that culminate with a lingering fruit finish. Its effervescence makes it a refreshing accompaniment for pizza. “Gulpable,” commented one taster. It went best with the pepperoni pizza.
|2011 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC $9.99
This classic Montepulciano is opaque purple in color. With aromas of earth and mushrooms, it’s medium bodied and offers chewy, black-plum flavors. Well structured, there’s a nice balance of fruit and acidity and a long finish. As one taster remarked, “It’s simpatico with the pizza.”
|2009 Monte Antico, Toscana IGT $10.99
This Tuscan blend of Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (10%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) reflects Sangiovese’s characteristic pale ruby color with garnet hues. The nose is characterized by earth and leather. It has good body, with balanced acidity. It finishes with mineral chalk notes. An austere Tuscan blend. Although adequate with the pizza, we all thought this wine would pair better with meat.
|Francis Ford Coppola Presents Rosso, California $7.99
This California blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah is deep ruby in color. On the nose, there are hints of cinnamon, red berries, and earth. Medium bodied, the wine’s bright cherry flavors are complemented on its long finish by tart-berry notes. This wine was outstanding with the pizza and we considered it the “star” of this tasting.
|2011 Bogle Vineyards Petite Syrah, California $11.99
Deep ruby-red in color, this wine has a an alluring nose of burnt sugar and black fruit. Light to medium bodied, it offers cherry-candy, though not cloying, flavors. It’s well structured with lingering cherry notes on the finish. This wine went better with the mushroom pizza than with the others.
|2011 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Reserve $8.99
Dark ruby in color, with aromas of leather, smoke, and black pepper, this French classic is medium bodied and structured with supple tannins and good acidity. It offers spice and mineral flavors reminiscent of white pepper and chalk along with hints of tart fruit. It has good length and some caramel notes on the finish. This is definitely a food wine and it went well with the pizzas, especially with the pepperoni.
|2012 Cline Zinfandel, Lodi $9.99
Dark maroon in color, this California zin is more about spice than fruit. The nose is spicy and earthy. On the palate, it’s full bodied with a silky mouthfeel and delivers dark-fruit and licorice flavors. It has a lingering finish with notes of blackberry and pepper. Although quite good on its own, we thought it overpowered the Margherita and mushroom pizzas.