Normally, when someone asks me what kind of wine would I like with my meal, I answer, “beer!” Of course, just to show that I know it’s proper etiquette to leave my loincloth and club at the cave door, when in good company, I always ask for a glass. But recently I was introduced to several wines that even the stodgiest malt-based beverage drinker wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen swizzling.
I was visiting my favorite watering hole, The Wine Source, and stumbled upon a free tasting entitled “misfit wines.” At first I thought the sign said, “wines for misfits,” and figuring I was in good company (cue the song from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer“), I jumped right in. I quickly learned, however, that the wines were chosen for the tasting not to suit the idiosyncrasies of the idiot drinker, but because they didn’t quite fit into the confinements of “usual vinous categories.” In other words, these were distinctive wines, requiring extra attention, and designed for pure drinking pleasure. Sounds like wines for a craft-beer lover.
The first offering, a 2007 Ameztoi Txakoli, a fresh, crisp white from the Basque region of Spain, was certainly easier to drink than pronounce. According to the folks at TWS, this wine was labeled a misfit because of its natural effervescence, produced by the addition of CO2 during bottling. But I decided, with its bubbles and bold fruit flavors, like lemon and citrus, this was a wine for beer drinkers. In fact it went down like a German-style kolsch (the Otter Creek Spring Ale comes to mind). It was recommended with seafood, though I would pair it with something light, like scallops. The other white I liked was a 2007 Grand Veneur Cotes-du-Rhone. The Rhone Valley in France is better known for producing complex reds, so I was told, but this light, refreshing white is every bit their equal. It had broad shoulders, like a Samuel Adams Boston Lager, and could be served with grilled chicken.
Next came the reds, and the 2003 Sorin-Coquard Bourgogne Cesar “Cuvee Antique” was a standout. What makes this French wine unique, according to my pourer (apparently, that’s the correct job title), is that few producers in the northern districts of St.-Bris and Irancy are permitted to produce red wine from the rare, “antique” Cesar variety, which supposedly dates back to the Romans. Ancient bloodlines aside, this was a spicy, racy wine that compares to a Pinot Noir in color but was more aromatic, interesting and, well, “chewier.” Not unlike a dry, lively Russian Imperial Stout (Peg Leg Stout, Clipper City). I also enjoyed the 2006 Ringland Shiraz “Three Rings,”from Barossa, Australia. This was, I learned, an inexpensive, dense, spicy little wine with big, expensive Shiraz taste. What it spoke to me was, “unfiltered hefeweizen,” bold enough to go with a summer barbecue (like the Witte, by Brewery Ommegang).
The wine I ended up buying that day, however, and one that I have gone back for more of, actually came in a box — not a surprise, right, for a low-browed beer imbiber? Well, actually, the 2007 Yellow and Blue Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina, represents the newest in “green” technologies. According to TWS, this certified organic Malbec was pressed in Argentina, trucked to Chile in big tanks, shipped to a certified organic “bottler” in Toronto, and delivered to the US in a patented “Tetrapak” — a cardboard container that resembles a fancy, overgrown juice box for adults. Apparently, this method of production reduces the wine’s carbon footprint by about half. Equally important, though, it’s a dark, complex red that is sold by the liter (that’s a third more wine, people) for about $10.
It was so good, in fact, that I might be tempted to pull some beer bottles from the recycling bin, wash them out, fill with the Malbec, and pass them off to my friends as a new type of “craft beer.”