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Dancing Troupe

Merlot and Wings

chicken%20wings.jpgOne of the wine pleasures of living in Oregon is the weekly wine column in The Oregonian by the excellent wine writer Matt Kramer. Matt is constantly championing wine by small, terroir-driven producers who have little clout in the market, but make wines that are wonderful to drink and great values besides. Inexplicably, Matt also works for The Wine Spectator, which of course promotes exactly the opposite style of wine as the champion of the big, power-marketing side of the wine business.

In a recent column in The Oregonian, Matt points out an amazing statistic, that is that red wine consumption has overtaken white as the national wine drink. Matt cites Nielsen statistics putting red wine sales at 52.9 % of all wine sales in the first 16 weeks of this year. This is amazing because not so many years ago this was the land of chablis and brie.

This is a big problem for winemakers and helps explain the state of red wine in America today. The fact of the matter is that most wine consumption in America, unlike Europe,  is not as a part of a meal, but as a cocktail. A quick visual survey of any popular upscale restaurant will confirm this. First of all most consumers don’t have any wine with their lunch, so that meal is out. Then stop by the bar after work and you’ll see glass after glass of red wine, grasped by the bowl like a beer, being gulped without a bite of food in sight. American’s drink a lot, if not most, wine as a cocktail and that means that big brand winemakers don’t make their wines to taste good with any food beyond bar food. It means they make it to taste good by itself. It  means wines that are fruity, a little sweet and most of all not complex. Complexity is a confusing distraction to bar conversation and must be avoided.

Because red wine has become a cocktail instead of compliment to a meal in America, you will be hard pressed to find many inexpensive red wines produced here worth drinking. They are all bland, sweet and indistinguishable from each other with variety being irrelevant. The same goes for most reds from Australia. For good red wine values you must look to Europe, where they still make wine to go with food.

In just a few years we’ve gone from the land of chablis and brie to the land of merlot and wings. That’s progress?

Dancing Troupe - September 2006

dancers.jpgI believe in wines that dance across the palate. “Dancers” I call them as they are wines that are alive. Wines that don’t dominate the palate, but invite you as the taster to share in their energy - not stand back as an awed spectator. These real food wines are wines that don’t short you on complexity, in fact, they offer more to the attentive taster. Yet, despite their complexity they float across the palate, not deaden it, and make the matching of food and wine a glorious experience.

So on a monthly basis I will offer my Dancing Troupe of the month, a selection of wines that have made my meals and my life better - wines that dance across my palate. I suppose they are my “Zen” experiences with wine and food, which I choose not to separate as an experience.

My September 2006 Dancers are:

Muscadet, Climat, Château de la Fessardièe, Alex Sauvion, 2004  A svelte, compelling Muscadet. 

Sparkling Wine, Argyle, Knudsen Vineyard Brut, Willamette Valley Oregon, 1998 A great sparkling wine - on par with the world’s best.

Bourgueil, Trinch!, Catherine & Pierre Breton, 2004 Perhaps one of the best everyday wines ever.

Cour Cheverny, Le Petit Chambord, Domaine Francois Cazin, 2002 One of the best dry white wines you’ve never heard of.

Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc, Saint Peyre, 2005 What a BARGAIN!! 

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie, Domaine de l’Ecu, Expression de Granite, Domaine Guy Boussard, 2001 Very simply a great white wine. 

Pian del Ciampolo, Sangioveto e Canaiolo, Montevertine, Radda in Chianti, 2002  A pure experience in what should be great about Tuscan red wine.

Régnié, Cuvée des Braves, Cuvée des Braves, Domaine Jöel Rochette, Vielles Vignes, 2004  A wonderfully pure Beaujolais. 

Touraine, Clos Roche Blanche, Cuvee Pif, 2004 Does anyone create more reliably delicious wines than Clos Roche Blanche - I don’t think so.

Marsannay, Les Longeroies, Domaine Charles Audoin, 2002 Real Burgundy, real character without a big price tag.