|October Treats of the Vine|
|Written by Bill Citara -- BT Contributor|
The trajectory of Halloween from pagan harvest festival to pagan commercial festival is both interesting and instructive.
It began, we’re told, with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a celebration of the end of harvest season and a time when, the ancient Celts believed, the spirits of the dead would rise and torment the living, like Sylvester Stallone continuing to make movies. The wearing of costumes in an attempt to hide from these vengeful spirits is related to this belief, though people wearing disguises to the latest Expendables opus are likely doing so more out of embarrassment than fear.
At some point, pagan festivities took on some of the trappings of the Christian All Saints’ Day (a.k.a. All Hallow’s Eve, a.k.a. Halloween). Among those trappings was the practice of “souling” (a.k.a. “trick-or-treating”), where the poor went door-to-door begging for food, a practice many modern-day Christians are trying to revive by cutting unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Nowadays, however, Halloween is less about ancient festivals than it is about tooth decay (for kids) and an excuse (for adults) to dress up like zombies or pirates or Sarah Palin, and act out their inner whackjob.
What does all this Halloween business have to do with wine?
Tricks and treats, people. Tricks and treats. It has to do with walking into your favorite liquor store (in this case, stores) with no list or plan in mind except to cruise the aisles looking for wines that might be a treat to your palate. You might get a couple of tricks, too (there’s a particularly nasty one here). But it’s all about the element of discovery and surprise, kind of like finding a flaming bag of dogshit on your doorstep.
Let’s get the trick out of the way first. It’s not quite a flaming bag of ... you know. But the 2011 Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé is a truly crappy wine, a fizzy brownish-pink liquid, tasting vaguely of strawberries with pungent notes of lighter fluid. Yummy.
Thankfully, it gets better from here. There’s nothing all that unusual about Chilean Sauvignon Blancs. They make a ton of them. But they’re uniformly inexpensive and well made, hitting the precise midpoint between austere New Zealand and fruity California. And for $6.99? The 2012 Viña Caballero is pretty tough to beat. But hurry! That sale price expires on October 8.
If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a real fan of Chilean wines. Especially Carmenère, the big, earthy, intensely berry-ish wine formerly thought to be Merlot. The 2011 Vista Mar Sepia Reserva Carmenère doubles down on all that, adding an intriguing smoky-tarry quality that gives it a mysterious edge.
Sticking with the big reds brings us to the 2010 Coppola Rosso, a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Petite Syrah. It’s the kind of wine you’d expect from someone given to grand gestures, like Francis Ford -- bold, lush, fruit-driven, like eating a handful of fresh blackberries -- a hearty red-sauce-and-pasta wine.
Sticking with big red blends brings us to the 2010 La Croix de Bila-Haut Cotes Catalanes. This mélange of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan splits the difference between the Carmenère and the Rosso, with the former’s earthy, chocolate, spicy tones and the latter’s bracing black and blue cherry-berry fruit. Soft tannins and a relatively low (13 percent) alcohol help keep it from becoming cloying.
From big reds to lean whites, especially since this month brings the reopening of stone crab season, just about the best reason there is to consume crisp, citrusy white wines that take to seafood like a fish does to…well, water.
One of the most underappreciated (and affordable) fish-friendly wines is Muscadet, made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape in the Loire Valley. Like most Muscadets, the 2011 Domaine de la Chauvinière is no fruit bomb, but rather a wine of some subtlety, with refreshing lemon-lime flavors and a hint of minerals, finishing with a long, lemony tang.
On the richer, fruitier end of the equation is Viognier. While I love the grape’s typical rich, floral-honeysuckle character, what I like about the 2012 Oak Grove Viognier is the balancing green apple-pear-citrus acidity that makes it an exceptionally good food wine. Like the rest of these wines, it really is a treat for your palate.
Volume 12, Issue 7. September 2014
The Smithsonian honors a local documentary photographer
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