Independent: Worthy wines without the blue chip name

In 1947, early in his composing career, Leonard Bernstein wrote a set of songs entitled "La Bonne Cuisine." One of them that I love and easily remember is called "Oxtails," and its first line is: "Are You Too Proud to Serve Your Friends an Oxtail Stew?"
This catchy, quirky opening could easily suggest a sequel entitled:

"Are You Too Proud to Serve Your Friends a Viognier?"

Really, how many of you ever seek out a white wine like viognier or semillon? How about a red such as carmenere or mourvedre? For that matter would you buy, or could you even get excited about, a California pinot grigio or a Washington State syrah? It's so much safer to pick up the nearest chardonnay, cabernet or merlot. So consider the brave winemakers who produce "hard sell" wines that, although often terrific in quality, have two strikes against them in the consumer's mind. I remember trying so hard to sell good riesling back in my retail days. Everyone would sample and love it, even buy it, but then, two weeks later, they had forgotten about it.

To usher in the fall season, it's time for a change in dress and a change in wines. Time for ignored, forgotten or never known wine varieties. They are made with care, dedication and definitely against commercial odds. From a mixed bag of 74 wines tasted, here's a shopping list of alternative, fiercely independent wines. Have no fear of serving these conversation starters. It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(All wines were tasted blindly and, in the larger categories, a "control" wine was thrown in as a benchmark. In other words, one German riesling among examples from elsewhere.)
...

In 1947, early in his composing career, Leonard Bernstein wrote a set of songs entitled "La Bonne Cuisine." One of them that I love and easily remember is called "Oxtails," and its first line is: "Are You Too Proud to Serve Your Friends an Oxtail Stew?"
This catchy, quirky opening could easily suggest a sequel entitled:

"Are You Too Proud to Serve Your Friends a Viognier?"

Really, how many of you ever seek out a white wine like viognier or semillon? How about a red such as carmenere or mourvedre? For that matter would you buy, or could you even get excited about, a California pinot grigio or a Washington State syrah? It's so much safer to pick up the nearest chardonnay, cabernet or merlot. So consider the brave winemakers who produce "hard sell" wines that, although often terrific in quality, have two strikes against them in the consumer's mind. I remember trying so hard to sell good riesling back in my retail days. Everyone would sample and love it, even buy it, but then, two weeks later, they had forgotten about it.

To usher in the fall season, it's time for a change in dress and a change in wines. Time for ignored, forgotten or never known wine varieties. They are made with care, dedication and definitely against commercial odds. From a mixed bag of 74 wines tasted, here's a shopping list of alternative, fiercely independent wines. Have no fear of serving these conversation starters. It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(All wines were tasted blindly and, in the larger categories, a "control" wine was thrown in as a benchmark. In other words, one German riesling among examples from elsewhere.)
...

Pomegranate Semi Sweet Wine, Proshyan Wine Factory (!) $10

Like fragrant, light jam on the nose--but not Smucker's. The unique bouquet carries over to a lightly sweet, fruit-laden flavor. Refreshing and impossible not to like, it's a great way to introduce wine to a novice. Juicy, yes, but absolutely tastes like wine. With all the health benefits attributed to the pomegranate, what a nice concept. (Better than a sample I tasted last year.)

by Arturo Ciompi
Published: 11.9.2005

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